Every action taken during a violent encounter will be judged through the lens of a fictitious “reasonable person.” This lens is held up by the prosecutor at every opportunity as the defender’s actions against the threat are questioned.
“Wouldn’t a reasonable person have run away?”
“Would a reasonable person use a gun when they also had pepper spray?”
“Would a reasonable person use more deadly hollow point ammunition?”
Reasonableness will be applied to each of the use of force criteria. Not only do defenders have to make sure they do not breach any of the legal bounds but also the bounds of a reasonable person.
This fictitious reasonable person is based upon the perceptions of the jury. These perceptions are the result of their life experiences and the picture painted by the prosecutor’s line of questioning.
For example, if a search of the defender’s home exposes multiple boxes of ammunition, the prosecutor can paint the picture that the defender had enough ammunition in his home to start a war. A juror who is not an experienced shooter may be disturbed by someone having that much ammunition. An experienced shooter may look at the claim for what it is, an attempt to scare people into believing the defender is dangerous and a threat to the public.
Responding to someone who punched you in the face with a ball bat not only violates the proportionality aspect of the use of force it can be deemed unreasonable. Likewise, using a firearm when you had pepper spray may be deemed unreasonable.
Your defense team will offer counter arguments to move the jury’s perceptions of your actions from unreasonable to reasonable and necessary.
There are other, less obvious. Considerations. If the attacker has a known tendency for violent behavior or threatening the defender, actions that might have been considered unreasonable otherwise can be justifiable.
Your knowledge at the time of the event can lead to reactions that someone without that knowledge may think is unreasonable. Following the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri there was a frenzy of police criticism. When officers shot and killed a mentally deranged man with a knife the criticism went up exponentially. After all, the man was mentally ill, only had a knife and was 15 feet from the officers. What the public and media didn’t know was the Tueller drill. The officers knew that the man with the knife could closed the distance quicker than they could react if he started moving towards them, which he did. Prior knowledge of the Tueller drill kept them from being injured or killed.
In Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense Principles he shares some training he got from Massad Ayoob. The students in the class were instructed to put a copy of their notes in an envelope mail it to themselves. This documented the time and training they received. If they were in an incident and had to defend what they knew at the time, the sealed envelope could be opened in court. This would prove they acted based upon what they knew prior to the event.
It can also be considered reasonable to react based upon what was believed to be true at the time of the event. An example of this is the many times police have shot someone who had a toy firearm or something in their hands that looked like a firearm. It is reasonable for them to react based upon them believing they were being threatened with an actual firearm.
Likewise, not being aware of an escape route because it was hidden behind a large vehicle does not mean a defender violated the no means of escape principle. The prosecutor will show images that clearly show the escape route to prove the defender had means to escape but chose to shoot and kill the attacker. The defense will present the reality of what was happening at the time by showing an image of the large vehicle blocking the view of the escape route proving that the defender was acting reasonably.