Use of Force Standard Revision Bill Gets Final Approval | New
State House on Tuesday gave its final approval to legislation revising the standard under which the use of force, whether fatal or non-fatal, is justified under Delaware law.
Under current law, the use of lethal force by a police officer or other person is justified if the person considers it necessary to protect himself or others from death, grievous bodily harm, rape or kidnapping.
The bill approved on Tuesday requires such a belief to be “reasonable.”
Supporters of the bill said Delaware is one of only three states, along with Tennessee and Arizona, in which the law allows police officers to use lethal force whenever they believe it is. justified, whether or not such a belief is reasonable.
“Today Delaware is poised to correct one of the weakest use of force laws in the United States, period,” Democratic Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement after the vote. Tuesday.
“If anything is to be objective and reasonable, it should be the line that allows one person to take the life of another. The words ‘I thought’ should not be an automatic jail release card for anyone. what an accused, ”Jennings added.
The bill sets standards of reasonableness for civilians and police. It defines reasonable belief as a belief that is reasonable from the point of view of a “reasonable person” or “reasonable law enforcement officer” “in the defendant’s position in the circumstances”.
The Democratic-controlled House approved the measure primarily on the basis of political parties after overwhelmingly rejecting an amendment stating that reasonableness should take into account the position of an accused “in all of the facts and circumstances of the case. the case”.
Supporters of the amendment said the additional wording was necessary to ensure that factors such as mental health, intellectual functioning and previous victimization of an accused, such as in the case of a battered spouse, can be admitted. in evidence.
Kevin O’Connell, who heads the Delaware Office of Defense Services, which includes public defenders, said many states have adopted the objective standard for the use of force, and case law states that testimony regarding personal characteristics are not admissible.
“He only sees the accused as a reasonable person, not a reasonable person who is a victim of domestic violence, not a reasonably cognitively disabled person, not a reasonable person who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. -he declares.
Mark Denney, a former homicides attorney who now heads the Civil Rights and Public Trust Division within the state attorney general’s office, said the bill does not prevent such factors from being taken into account in court.
Denney said the amendment, proposed by Democratic Representative Sean Lynn, a Dover lawyer, could create “exploitable loopholes,” such as psychiatric evidence presented in cases where it is not appropriate.
Denney also noted that prosecutors will always have the burden of proving that the use of force by a defendant in self-defense is not justified.
In addition to the use of force bill, House members voted in favor of the party to definitively approve a companion bill that allows the Attorney General’s office to review incidents of the use of force by police that result in serious bodily injury. Under the current law, the Attorney General’s office is authorized to review only incidents of lethal force.
The law also requires that any public report of use of force incidents reviewed by the Attorney General’s office include the race of the police officer, the race of the person against whom the force was used, and a statement as to whether it was. established that race is a relevant or motivating factor in the use of force.