Do Criminals Forfeit the Right to Self-Defense?

By Krey, Patrick | The New American, July 20, 2020 | Go to article overview

Do Criminals Forfeit the Right to Self-Defense?


Krey, Patrick, The New American


The South Bend Tribune reported out of Indiana on May 17 about an interesting case that tests a unique exception to Indiana's self-defense laws. The underlying details involved a 19-year-old by the name of Kyle Doroszko, who used a gun in self-defense against another teen who was robbing him. What makes Doroszko's case something other than simply justified use of force is that Doroszko was allegedly selling marijuana to the deceased suspect at the time of the attempted burglary.

Detectives say that on the night of April 28, 2019, Doroszko and a friend met with Traychon Taylor and some of Taylor's friends in the parking lot of a South Bend bar. Court documents show that the meeting was set up by Taylor under the guise of buying drugs from Doroszko, but shortly after his arrival, Taylor and his gang attempted to rob Doroszko.

Once Doroszko arrived, Taylor climbed into the back seat of Doroszko's car and pulled a handgun on him. One of Taylor's co-conspirators ran up alongside the vehicle and pointed a gun at the car. Doroszko immediately realized that it was a setup and tried fleeing the scene by speeding away, but Taylor was still in his back seat and a struggle ensued. Doroszko fired two shots into the backseat, which hit Taylor and mortally wounded him. Taylor fell from the vehicle as one of his associates, a man named Alantis Branch, fired at Doroszko's car as it sped away. 911 was called, and responding officers found Taylor's body at the scene, where he was later pronounced dead.

Prosecutors later charged Doroszko with murder because, they argue, under Indiana state law, a suspect does not have the right to use force for self-defense if that person is committing a crime, even if the crime is fairly low-level or even a nonviolent offense. The South Bend Tribune explained that this law has been the subject of many other state court decisions in the past and that the court has always struggled to define the line where criminals' actions make them forfeit their right to self-defense.

Joel Schumm, an appellate attorney and professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, told the South Bend Tribune that the "problem is the self-defense statute has language that if you're committing a crime, you can't use self-defense.... If you take the statute literally, someone using marijuana or playing in an illegal card game cannot use self-defense no matter what someone does to them. …

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