A Novel Concept

A Novel Concept -- Or, Perhaps, One From the Sagas:

The proposed law:

22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
Section 2. That § 22-16-35 be amended to read as follows:
22-16-35. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.
Discuss. Points to consider:

1) "Master, mistress or servant"?

2) Usually homicide is justified on one of two grounds: because it is self-defense, which is a natural right; or because it entails defense of an innocent from suffering grievous bodily harm or death at the hands of a felon.

This law is interesting because it locates justifiable homicide in a different natural right: the right to protect one's offspring or blood-kin from harm.

Further, it brackets 'defense of an innocent from suffering grievous bodily harm and death' -- but not at the hands of a felon. The person you are justified in killing may be doing something perfectly legal.

That's new, and not only in American law. Even in the ancient laws on which our system is based -- Anglo-Saxon or Norse laws -- removal of legal protections against homicide was based on some offense against the law itself. Those systems recognized something like a legal right to kill in defense of your family (or to avenge a member of your family); but they also recognized your victim's legal status and the right of his family to pursue legal remedies. Removing the protection of the law entirely -- outlawry -- was reserved for cases where the law itself had been defied.

The harmony here is that the legal remedies available in the ancient system were more akin to our civil than criminal law: that is, you can still sue the killer of an abortion doctor for removing his family's income support. In that sense, this is something like an honest rendition of the ancient Icelandic code (which we discussed at length during the Book Club discussion of Njal's Saga). All that is being removed here is criminal law: the family of the slain abortion doctor would still be able to sue for monetary damages, akin to the 'weregild' (blood price) as in Anglo-Saxon or Norse courts.

So, with all that said: what do you think?

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