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Criminal defense of self-defense can protect suspect from arrest

The New Hampshire State Police and the Derry Police Department seem to be doing what they are supposed to do when they investigate some shooting deaths. They are taking their time and making a thorough investigation before they charge anyone in the June 20 death of a 17-year-old male on a quiet street in Derry.  It is unclear at this point whether the shooter will have to present a criminal defense to formal charges.

Law enforcement sources indicate that it is good procedure to get all of the facts unraveled before going ahead with a flawed prosecution. In this case, there seems to be some real questions of a criminal defense of self-defense. As early as June 22, the county district attorney stated that all of the parties involved had been identified. He stated that the matter was under active investigation and that there was a possibility of a self-defense claim.

One professor of criminal law at the University of New Hampshire called it "good police practice" as opposed to listening to one side and then committing to one version for the rest of the case without checking the facts deeply enough. It is reported that the victim was trying to get marijuana from a dealer when he was shot. The police, however, have not identified the players or the scenario of events that led up to the killing.

New Hampshire law says that someone has the right to use deadly force to defend themselves from an attack that occurs wherever the victim has a right to be. The authorities have also assured the public that there is no continuing danger to the public despite the lack of an arrest. That approach seems to strongly hint that the victim or his associates were using force and/or making an attack on someone when he was shot. This fact may place the blame ultimately on the victim, making it unnecessary for the suspect to present a criminal defense.

Source:, "Derry probe into killing could last months without arrests, answers", Kiera Blessing, July 31, 2016

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