Kentucky's self defense laws are complicated - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Kentucky's self defense laws are complicated

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Anthony Allen (left) as a female juvenile threw a punch on board the TARC bus. Anthony Allen (left) as a female juvenile threw a punch on board the TARC bus.
Defense Attorney Bart Adams Defense Attorney Bart Adams
Anthony R. Allen appeared in jail court with a black eye following his March 16 arrest. Anthony R. Allen appeared in jail court with a black eye following his March 16 arrest.
Me'Quale Offutt (Source: Family photo) Me'Quale Offutt (Source: Family photo)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When a grand jury decided not to indict a man originally arrested for assault and tampering with physical evidence, whose charges were later upgraded to murder after stabbing that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old on a TARC bus, it was due to Kentucky's laws regarding self defense. It's not the first time the law has been used in a high-profile murder case, but that doesn't make them any less complicated.

"Self defense applies when the individual who is attacked is in imminent fear -- immediate fear -- that he is going to suffer from serious physical injury," explained Defense Attorney Bart Adams.

In Anthony Allen's case, the video shows he was definitely argumentative on March 16, yelling at first the bus driver and then the group of teens who boarded the bus after him.

Then, you see a girl throw a punch and the group of teens advance on Allen.

"A 13-year-old by himself hitting you in the eye, or by herself hitting you in the eye with a closed fist wouldn't justify, but if you attacked by a group -- three, four or five teenagers -- then certainly you can feel justifiably that your life is in danger," Adams said.

Also key, Adams said, is Allen clearly asking the bus driver to get off the bus.

"Certainly shows that he was not the initial aggressor and that's important because if you're the initial aggressor, you're not entitled to claim self defense," he said.

Adams said Kentucky's self-defense laws are complicated because decisions made in split seconds have to be analyzed by juries months later. "They do happen in split seconds and I think it's tremendously difficult for juries to do the kind of mental gymnastics that are required by Kentucky law," he said.

At the same time, he doesn't see the laws changing any time soon.

Adams said the grand jury had the option to consider if Allen truly should have been in fear for his life or if he was wanton or reckless in making that decision. Had they decided that, he could have faced lesser charges in Me'Quale Offut's death. However, the prosecution said they gave the grand jury that option and it decided not to charge Allen at all.   

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.  

SIDEBAR: TARC, OFFUTT stories

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