Mid-July, DFW has been closely following the trial of Timothy Simkins. Simpkins stands accused of three counts of attempted capital murder amongst other charges such as aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Simpkins’ attorneys chose to use the affirmative defense of self-defense, which the judge rejected.
Here are some interesting points on whether self-defense was the right choice of argument or not.
Self-defense must be done in reaction to an attack upon oneself or a third party. It must be in proportional force: fist to fist, or gun to gun, and the victim must have no other means of action or escape readily available. It also must be an active threat. Sometimes the judge will have the jury consider whether the person acting in self-defense had the ability to retreat to safety, depending on the circumstance.
Simpkins’ defense was that due to the level of beating that the victim was unleashing upon Simpkins, it amounted to deadly force, thusly justifying Simpkins’ in using his gun as defense. Personally, I believe it is unlikely that a fight within a classroom would ever amount to deadly force when there are teachers and other professionals there to intervene, but an attorney could easily argue otherwise. The boys did have two teachers intervene and they were fully separated, and the fight stopped completely.
Once the fight had been completely stopped, Simpkins then drew his weapon, stalked down the crawling victim and then shooting the victim. When he began shooting, he was no longer in any immediate danger and theoretically the fight had ended when Simpkins entered a place of safety within the teacher’s grasp.
With the fight no longer being active, this ended causal chain for self-defense.
When the teachers had them fully separated, this ended the causal chain for self-defense.
When the victim was trying to flee the scene, this ended the causal chain for self-defense.
Each of these scenarios by itself ends the ability to protect yourself in self-defense because the danger is over. With all three combined, there is no way to justify Simkins breaking out of the teacher’s arms with a gun and chasing the victim down as self-defense.
Once the judge instructed that he would not use self-defense, Simpkins was essentially left high and dry with the attorney’s plan of action completely failing and being left with the option of either being guilty or not guilty.
At that point it comes down to the usefulness of the self-defense argument when in the punishment phase of the argument; how sympathetic did the self-defense argument make Simpkins to the jury. Is it enough that there was a situation where Simpkins was in danger of serious bodily harm? Or is it enough to show that the victim had established a pattern of harming Simpkins for quite some time? It very well could mean the difference between 10 years and 90 years. Would duress or necessity been a better use to build his character in the punishment phase rather than self-defense? It’s impossible to know now but will likely be points Simpkins will consider if he decides to appeal.