Heckling the Victim: A Common Right-Wing Tactic

(families of Sandy Hook (Reuters)

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page,

“I am appalled by MSNBC’s reporting morals, for editing the news with the purpose of sensationalizing the polarizing topic of gun control for their own agenda, and misleading people about what really happened during a hearing about gun control in Hartford, Conn. . .
There was no ‘heckling’. A question was asked by Neil Heslin, the father of six year old Jesse Lewis who sadly perished in the tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting. There was no response to this open question directed toward the audience during his heartfelt testimony. Complete silence. After this respectful silence, Mr. Heslin stated that ‘not one person can answer that question’. It was then that people with opposing views spoke up with their answers.

No matter which topic a news outlet is reporting about, the whole story should be told. It is tragic that some news agencies feel the need to create news rather than report it. The fact that MSNBC chose this tragedy to showcase their sensationalistic agenda is unconscionable. Shame on MSNBC. I don’t subscribe to television service, but if I did, I sure would not trust anything reported by MSNBC.”

It wasn’t just MSNBC that was being criticized for using the word “heckled” when characterizing the interruption of Mr. Heslin’s congressional testimony. The Huffington Post and several liberal/progressive websites also used the word “heckle” to describe the event.

Media opinion blogger Erik Wemple of the Washington Post agrees with my friend and has spilled a half gallon of ink on his blog explaining why he thinks MSNBC and Piers Morgan of CNN were wrong to label the event heckling. Wemple has called Morgan’s use of the word, “Misleading, at the very best: Heslin, as explained here, actually invited members of the audience at a meeting in Hartford to rebut his testimony.

Here’s the relevant transcript:

Heslin: “I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. It’s not a good feeling; not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”

Crowd/Alleged Hecklers: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”

Public official: “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”

Wemple goes on to point out, “MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell votes in favor of the “heckling” interpretation. He said on last night’s show, “Heckling’s when you say something stupid from the audience. And when a speaker rhetorically or directly asks an audience why you need 30-round magazines and assault weapons, and you yell a response which is basically ‘I think the Second Amendment says I can have them,’ you have not answered the question about why you need them.’

Clever thing that O’Donnell has done here — redefine the term “heckling” to apply narrowly to what happened in that hearing room. In doing so, he bypasses a more common definition, one that doesn’t help his case quite as much.” The more common definition Wemple provides by Merriam-Webster states, “Heckle: to harass and try to disconcert with questions, challenges, or gibes”

Wemple goes on to point out the audience showed great restraint throughout the majority of the testimony and therefore the disruptive comments were not intended to heckle Mr. Heslin. However, the crowd (two or more in the audience) was disconcerting and challenged Mr Heslin. Let’s also keep in mind comments were not permitted from the peanut gallery. Wemple’s argument that the audience showed great restraint prior to the outburst doesn’t hold a lot of weight given the fact that they were required to and had they not they would have been thrown out .

Whether it was fair to call the inappropriate outbursts heckling or not is really more about a media personalities working to improve their ratings, sell papers, or get clicks on their articles than any real scandal or breach in media ethics. It’s simply a game of semantics played out by media elites in order to create news out of a non-news grammatically technical sidebar. Much to do about nothing.

Victim heckling, the most sickening of all heckling, has been all too common amongst the right-wing. Certainly both the political left and right are guilty of heckling. In fact, some organizations, like the liberal anti-war group Code Pink, make heckling their trademark. It is one thing to heckle a politician or authority figure. However, it is entirely a different thing to heckle a victim. Unfortunately, this type of victim heckling has become all too common a tactic coming from the right-wing.

While many may take issue with whether Mr. Heslin was actually heckled while giving testimony, there is no doubt that many of the family members of those that lost their loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary have been heckled and harassed by a vicious group of right-wing zealots.

One of the many articles on the conspiracy theories circulated by the right-wing that has resulted with the harassment of the Sandy Hook families can be found in a recent article by Salon. One egregious examples of this harassment would be the attacks on the Parker family. The parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, have received dozens of threatening phone calls and letters from the Christian right-wing accusing them of faking their own child’s death. Here is how Salon explains the Emily Parker conspiracy attacks:

“The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.

There are dozens of websites, blog posts and YouTube videos extolling the Emilie Parker hoax theory. If you Google her name, the very first result is a post mocking her father for crying at a press conference after the shooting…”

Because victim heckling has become such a common tactic for the right-wing, it should come as no surprise that liberal leaning media elites were quick to use the word heckling in the inappropriate interruption of Mr. Heslin’s testimony.

As I’ve pointed out, this victim heckling is now part of the right-wing’s playbook. Remember when the Affordable Health Care Act was being proposed and Teabaggers verbally attacked the uninsured, terminally ill, and disabled? If you don’t, here is a video that might help jog your memory. All over the country the right-wing heckled victims. It’s becoming a common practice. For more examples of right-wing victim heckling and harassment check out this article I published in back April of 2010.

In response to the criticism, MSNBC has reviewed the use of the word heckle in their programs and determined, “Our team reviewed the unedited clip and determined that it was heckling. The distinction was made because the shouts did not directly address the question being posed and were disruptive.

I agree. But whether my friend and I or for that matter the media wordsmith intelligentsia agree or not on the definition of heckling really means squat. What matters is how we treat one another. Whether we learn to listen and respect opposing opinions or we descend into believing it is right to attack the victims of ill fortune to promote an agenda remains to be seen. The real story here is not whether MSBNC breached journalistic ethics by choosing to use the word heckle to describe the event. The real story that should come out of this is if it ever right to attack the victims of hardship just because you disagree with their perspective or personal ideology.

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25 Comments

Filed under Essays, Interviews and News Articles

25 responses to “Heckling the Victim: A Common Right-Wing Tactic

  1. What a great article Dean. Victim blaming and heckling are not anything new, but they are unconscionable in a civilized society. Well said.

  2. lwk2431

    Demeaning and personal attack are hallmarks of the left.

    lwk

    Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

    • Why haven’t you provided links to the left personally attacking victims like I have provided with the right-wings personally attacks on victims? Nonetheless, I appreciate the comment.

  3. lwk2431

    The man asked a valid question:

    “I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”

    That is a question. If you ask a question, even if you intended it to be rhetorical, does not give you the right to _not_ get an answer.

    The man gave one valid “answer” – the 2nd Amendment. If the time and opportunity existed a lot more detailed answer could be given.

    It wasn’t heckling. Only on the left is answering a question called “heckling.”

    The way a lot of people on the left think, _anything_ someone says that they disagree with is “heckling.”

    There is ample justification for owning an AR-15 and 30 round magazines.

    Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

    lwk

    • Nope, as the Chairman pointed out, “No comments while Mr Heslin is speaking,” were the instructed. The man could ask a dozen rhetorical questions while giving his testimony and any answers shouted out would have been inappropriate, as we duly pointed out. Second, the answer “the 2nd Amendment…” is a nonsensical response. First, the 2nd Amendment does answer why anyone would “need” a assault rifle. Second, the 2nd Amendment clearly points out that firearms must be “well-regulated”. Finally, I read your article about why you believe you need an assault rifle in your house and you seem to think you will need to defend yourself from an invading army, not a robber. Either you are a really bad shot or a serious drug pusher like Scarface. Otherwise, your rational doesn’t hold water.

      • It also should be noted that many of the Sandy Hook families are being accused by the right-wing of faking their own children’s death. If that is not harassment than I don’t know what is.

      • lwk2431

        deanwalker wrote:

        “It also should be noted that many of the Sandy Hook families are being accused by the right-wing of faking their own children’s death.”

        This is not true. Yes, it is true there are a tiny minority of conspiracy crazed individuals, but they do not represent the “right-wing” by any means whatsoever. There are crazies on the left, but even I understand they don’t necessarily represent the left as a whole.

        It is simply not true to accuse the collective “right-wing” of the acts of a few highly deluded individuals.

        lwk
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com

      • Lwk, Had you read the article and clicked on the Salon article I provided a link to, you would see there have been hundreds of thousands of right-wingers promoting the “Sandy Hook is a hoax” my and attacking the victims. This is a tactic the right-wing has been openly orchestrating. Sandy Hook is just the latest event. The Westbro Baptist Church is a right-wing organization that’s been attacking the families for years. In addition, memo were circulated by Teabagging organizations that planned for the disruption and shouting down of those with opposing opinions at town hall meetings during the Affordable Health Care Act debates. As the article correctly points out, this is growing tactic used by the right-wing. The left-wing has not been attacking the victims like they did back in the 60’s and 70’s with Veterans. That approach backfired on them and they made a global shift in tactics in the 80’s and 90’s, opting for non-violence. All the while, the right-wing has become more and more aggressive and violent. FBI and Homeland Security studies along with organizations like ADL and SPLC have documented this fact.

      • lwk2431

        deanwalker wrote:

        > Nope, as the Chairman pointed out, “No comments while
        > Mr Heslin is speaking,” were the instructed.

        Mr. Heslin spoke, asked a question, and paused while pretending there were no logical answers.

        There was a logical answer and the man who spoke up gave it.

        As to the chairman and his instructions, I don’t care what he said. People have a right to speak up and defend truth.

        lwk
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com

      • Lwk writes, “As to the chairman and his instructions, I don’t care what he said. People have a right to speak up and defend truth.”

        This statement shows lwk has not respect for the rule of law. People do not have a “right” to interrupt someone when they give testimony (even when the speakers is asking a rhetorical question. The lawbreakers could have been arrested.

        Lwk’s comments shows he has no real understanding of the neither the English language or First or the Second Amendment.

        Mr. Heslin rhetorically asks, “Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”

        The hecklers respond: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”

        This is clearly a nonsensical response. Let’s change the weapon in this question and see if the outburst makes any sense.

        Q: “Why anyone in this rooms NEEDS to have a nuclear weapon?”
        A: “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed?”

        What the hell kind of answer is that? Had the inappropriate outburst been “To protect our homes from a robber”, at least that would be an answer to the question. Kind of a silly answer, since a handgun would prove just a lethal and frightening to a robber. But at least the response would have made sense.

        The Second Amendment clearly states that weapons are meant to be “well-regulated” by the government. Why someone would need an assault riffle or a nuclear bomb is an entirely different question than say, “Why anyone in this room would object to the outlawing all guns?” Then, a response like “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed” might make sense. But of course, Mr Heslin did not ask that question and no one in office is proposing such an act. So, the response was both illegal and nonsensical.

        Let’s all remember, there is no right that is absolute. Even our most sacred rights, like the right to vote or free speech has it’s limitations. You can’t falsely shout fire in a crowded theater nor can you vote in you are a minor (or a felon in some states). There is no reason why guns should also not be regulated. In fact, as I’ve said before, the Second Amendment REQUIRES firearms to be “Well-Regulated”.

      • lwk2431

        You wrote:

        “… the Salon article I provided a link to, you would see there have been hundreds of thousands of right-wingers promoting the ‘Sandy Hook is a hoax’ my and attacking the victims.”

        There are some folks who are suspicous of some of the details as reported in the media, but only a small fraction think the deaths were faked.

        For example, I saw the original reporting on the first day and my recollection is that we were repeatedly told that the killer only used handguns, and the Bushmaster was left in the car. Then the story was changed. So some people wondered if maybe there were political motivations in perhaps changing the story from “handgun” to “assault weapon.” There were mainstream media reports purporting to show a 2nd gunman possibly, and a man in police custody. Then that all disappeared. So some of the less trusting of course see some conspiracy here.

        Some things are definitely odd. But the people who think some of the more extreme conspiracy ideas are definitely a very small minority. A lot of people may look at a youtube because they were promised some earthshaking info, but come away unconvinced. It is a fact, and I know this for a fact, most people never watch a youtube video all the way through.

        There are all sorts of equally weird left wingers who have all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories too. Used to hear them on Air America a lot. Some of them were pretty funny. I am no big fan of G.W. Bush, but some of the things they thought he was involved in was hilarious.

        And wrote:

        “This is a tactic the right-wing has been openly orchestrating.”

        I think that is a little paranoid itself, sort of like Hilary and her “vast right wing conspiracy.”

        And wrote:

        “The Westbro Baptist Church is a right-wing organization that’s been attacking the families for years.”

        Most of the people whom I know and you might characterize as “right wing” or “conservative” absolutely despise those people. They are certainly not any part of the “vast right wing conspiracy.” They are their own brand of absolute stupidity.

        And wrote:

        “In addition, memo were circulated by Teabagging organizations …”

        And you feel compelled to insult the Tea Party by using the homosexual expression “tea bagging,” which refers to the act of taking someone’s testicles in one’s mouth. But you are a nice, reasonable person when you do that, right?

        And wrote:

        “…organizations like ADL and SPLC have documented this fact.”

        The Southern Poverty Law Center is just about as despicable the Westboro folks in my view. I have seen some of their bigotry in the past. They were in the “business” of fighting racism years ago, but have branched out a new financing opportunities have become available to them.

        Here is what I think. You would do a lot better if you tried to understand some of the real motivations of Tea Party supporters as opposed to the utter crap the mainstream media puts out as “news.”

        Most Tea Party people I know are motivated for a desire for a smaller, less intrusive government, free enterprise, and equal opportunity (but not gifts) for all.

        lwk

        Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

      • Lwk, I don’t read or watch the mainstream media. And, as I said, there is a right-wing tactic of attacking the victim that has been openly used, by hundreds of thousands of right-wing activists. Yes, it is not the majority of right-wing thinkers, but is the most vocal of the right-wingers and this is a disgusting tactic that needs to be called out. That is the whole purpose of this article.

      • lwk2431

        Hurricane Dean wrote:

        “This statement shows lwk has not respect for the rule of law. People do not have a “right” to interrupt someone when they give testimony (even when the speakers is asking a rhetorical question. The lawbreakers could have been arrested.”

        Yes, just like “lawbreakers” were arrested in Selma, Alabama for speaking truth to power. A little civil disobedience is ok if for the right cause, but not for something you don’t like.

        And wrote:

        “The Second Amendment clearly states that weapons are meant to be “well-regulated” by the government.”

        District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

        The Supreme Court held:

        (1) The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heller_case

        For years people debated about what the 2nd Amendment means. The above court case settled that it was an individual right “unconnected with service in a militia.”

        And wrote:

        “Let’s all remember, there is no right that is absolute.”

        The right to self defense is absolute. We may argue about the details of what is appropriate to use for self defense, but the right to effective means of self defense is absolute.

        And wrote:

        “You can’t falsely shout fire in a crowded theater…”

        So, do you know the actual source of that statement? It was used to _justify_ putting people in prison for protesting America’s involvement in WWI. People were put in jail for exercising their 1st Amendment rights and it was justifed by that expression.

        And wrote:

        “… nor can you vote in you are a minor (or a felon in some states).”

        Unless you are a Democrat. 🙂

        lwk

        Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

      • lwk2431

        Hurricane Dean wrote:

        A: “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed?”

        What the hell kind of answer is that? Had the inappropriate outburst been “To protect our homes from a robber”, at least that would be an answer to the question. Kind of a silly answer, since a handgun would prove just a lethal and frightening to a robber. But at least the response would have made sense.”

        (end quote)

        The 2nd Amendment is sort of a “package deal” kind of concept. It encapsulates the idea that free men have a right to self defense, a right to protect themself – even against illegitimate government, and that having a right to be armed is the very essence of being free. It is not macho (although no doubt some from diverse political spectrums think it is). It is about freedom and responsibility. It is about everyone being an “authority” over their own life, and not _subject_ as the British are, to “authorities” who know better than they, and can dictate to them.

        It encapsulates a lot about what Americans have always thought freedom is about.

        As to a handgun, if you will read fully my article below:

        Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

        It explains technically why the AR-15 is so superior to any kind of handgun for the majority of people (other than absolute masters of the handgun which are few and far between, even in the military or police).

        lwk
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/

      • lwk2431

        Hurricane Dean wrote:

        “Accept that you haven’t provided links and example of where the left-wing are currently attacking the victims?”

        Life is too short to chase down all the kooks. I fully admit that some of the examples you gave were absolute kooks. I do not however believe that either side has a monopoly. There is an ebb and tide on both sides on “kookiness” that I have had over 60 years to observe. Hell I argued with some real kooks back in the 1960s on college campuses (before I went to Vietnam). Some probably went on to be Weatherman like Bill Ayers who should probably be in jail for murder, not a retired professor and writer.

        And wrote:

        “… there are enough real conspiracies to focus our attention on.”

        Personally I think you are largely wasting your time on these people. Focus on the broad and truly important principles. Should government be small? Should government be large? Should government mostly stay out of your affairs, or should government protect you from yourself?

        Those are important concepts. Kooks are not.

        lwk
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/

      • I don’t care about the size of government, only how effective it is. That is the real question.

        There are both real and fabricated conspiracies by government, religious, corporate, political, and other actors. I’m interested in writing about the real ones. After all, I write about the things my mother told me nice people don’t talk about in public, Religion, Politics, and Sex. That is what I focus on and that is the purpose of this article.

        If you can’t back up-your comments with proofs, via links and authoritative, non-partisan quotes, you are just blowing smoke on my blogsite to promote your own misguided beliefs.

    • lwk2431

      deanwalker wrote:

      “I don’t read or watch the mainstream media. And, as I said, there is a right-wing tactic of attacking the victim that has been openly used, by hundreds of thousands of right-wing activists. Yes, it is not the majority of right-wing thinkers, but is the most vocal of the right-wingers and this is a disgusting tactic that needs to be called out. That is the whole purpose of this article.”

      Again, I could say many similar things about the extreme left wing. Can I make a suggestion? Why don’t we both agree that there are majorities on both sides that are not represented by some of these extreme cases? Can we agree to focus or arguments on the mainstream of each side without trying to make that mainstream responsible for the fringe kooks?

      Wouldn’t that make a lot more sense?

      And please, no more “teabagging” comments ok?

      lwk

      • Accept that you haven’t provided links and example of where the left-wing are currently attacking the victims?

        I do agree that both the fringe left and the fringe right get caught up in conspiracy theories that make them look like loons. In fact, I interned under Dr. Peter Phillips of Project Censored for two semesters and often tell him, “the left don’t need to make-up conspiracy theories “like the 9/11 Truthers” because there are enough real conspiracies to focus our attention on.

        Nonetheless, you can’t create false equivalences. Either there is a growing faction of left-wingers “attacking the victims” and becoming apologists to similar shameful and sometimes even violent behavior, or not. You haven’t made a case for that yet. As I have pointed out, the FBI/Homeland Security studies do not make that case. Nor do groups like the ADL and SPLC.

    • lwk2431

      deanwalker wrote:

      “I don’t care about the size of government, only how effective it is. That is the real question.”

      Effective for what? I am guessing that answers my earlier question though. You think the purpose of government is to do things for people. As a Tea Party/Libertarian sort of guy I think government should be more about providing a liberal framework for people to work out their own destinies. When I say “liberal” I mean it in the old classic liberal sense that has little to do with the way the term is used today.

      There is one saying from the 1960s though that I really love. It is great. It goes this way:

      “Question authority!”

      And wrote:

      “There are both real and fabricated conspiracies by government, religious, corporate, political, and other actors. I’m interested in writing about the real ones.”

      Ok, you are trying to make a living writing about this. How about keeping an open mind and an open eye and look for conspiracies at both sides of the rainbow?

      And wrote:

      “After all, I write about the things my mother told me nice people don’t talk about in public, Religion, Politics, and Sex. That is what I focus on and that is the purpose of this article.”

      Personally I find those subjects interesting.

      And finally wrote:

      “If you can’t back up-your comments with proofs, via links and authoritative, non-partisan quotes, you are just blowing smoke on my blogsite to promote your own misguided beliefs.”

      If you want to see it that way that is ok. I have my own agenda too.

      You know what, as a spiritual and rational exercise I sometimes force myself to attend groups/meetings/churches that have very different views than I hold. I try to see good in people that as far as I can tell hold silly beliefs. Sometimes I have found out those people were not always silly.

      Try to see the spirit of God in all. It is there.

      lwk
      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/

      • Why do you think it is ok to make vast assumptions about me, tell me what you think I think, and falsely state I don’t have an open mind to, ” look for conspiracies at both sides of the rainbow” after I just wrote that I have criticized the left-wing for making up conspiracies?

  4. Lwk, Nonetheless, I like your writing and some of your articles. Although I completely disagree with them. Are you interested in publishing a few of them at ExpatsPost.com?

  5. Lwk quotes me and then states: And wrote:

    “Let’s all remember, there is no right that is absolute.”

    The right to self defense is absolute. We may argue about the details of what is appropriate to use for self defense, but the right to effective means of self defense is absolute.”

    No criminals can’t argue the right to self-defense as a reason for killing all the witnesses (knowing he will get the death penalty if they didn’t). No, not even the right to self-defense is absolute. Sorry, nice try.

    • lwk2431

      deanwalker writes:

      “No criminals can’t argue the right to self-defense as a reason for killing all the witnesses (knowing he will get the death penalty if they didn’t).”

      In law self defense always involves defense against force that one did not initiate. A criminal is a person who has initiated the use of force against others, either directly, or indirectly.

      So for example, in many cases if one even invites the use of force, for example by using “fighting words,” that may diminsh or even remove one’s claim of self defense. Legally self defense involves a defense against the use of force and specifically excludes from that definition using force simply because one sees it as being in one’s self interest, which is essentially how you are trying to re-define self defense.

      Self defense which is an absolute right under any rational code of law always involves using force agains those who initiate the use of force. It is not a synonym for killing people simply because it is convenient for one’s perceived interests.

      lwk

      • So, if someone’s family is attacked, by say a U.S. drone, and it looks like the U.S. is still going after him with deadly force, would it be Right and justified for that family member to use deadly force, and say attack the police or military, in the name of self-defense? And, isn’t it true that many folks that try to use the self-defense argument up loosing in court? Which means, the legal meaning and real-world defense of the self-defense is actually subjective and often left up to judges who often hold opposing opinions? Most debate end up focusing on what was “reasonable” or not. Therefore, like all other so called “rights”, including the right to life, self-defense is not actually an absolute right. And if you are on the loosing side of what was just self-defense you would come to realize the fact that there really is no right that is absolute and reasonable men will disagree even on what is reasonable. Just ask some of the guys, or their lawyers, awaiting trial in Guantanamo Bay. Self-defense may be an absolute right for some, but not everyone standing trial on U.S. soil.

        “A person claiming self-defense must prove at trial that the self-defense was justified. Generally a person may use reasonable force when it appears reasonably necessary to prevent an impending injury.”
        http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Self-Defense

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