Law Prof.: Claim Of Self-Defense In Deadly Road Rage Fight Appears Justified

Police say on Monday evening, 28-year-old Johnathan Darling got into an argument with a man who rear-ended Darling on the feeder road of the Gulf Freeway near Monroe.

Darling told police the other man, whose name hasn't been released, verbally threatened him.  Darling says he was walking back to his SUV to ask his wife to call police when the other man hit him in the back of the head.

Darling says the other man kept hitting him after he fell on the ground.  According to authorities, Darling got the other man in a headlock, with the intent of restraining him until police arrived.  The man later died at a nearby hospital.

Geoffrey Corn is a professor at South Texas College of Law.   He says Darling's self-defense claim hinges on Darling trying to retreat when the other man threw the first punch.

"So now he's been the victim of an unlawful act of aggression.  He then has a right, under the law, to take proportional, responsive measures — if he believes they are immediately necessary to protect himself."

Corn says the word "proportional" is key in this situation, with Darling meeting the other man's aggression with non-lethal force.

"He doesn't seem to have intended to have caused the death of this guy.  He responded with 'restraining' force, which, I think, is going to be viewed by the prosecutors or, if it ever gets to a grand jury, as reasonable, under the circumstances."

Corn says Darling's attempt to walk away from the man and get the police involved will likely work in his favor. 

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