Jeffrey Sumpter, Duty To Retreat And Stand Your Ground.

Jeffery Sumpter is a 21 year old resident of Connecticut who was sentenced to 18 months in jail for attacking three people that attacked him while working in a Dunkin’ Donuts.

Here’s how the Connecticut Post described the verdict:

Victim of Norwalk assault gets 18 months for not retreating

STAMFORD — A Bridgeport man who was assaulted by three juveniles while he was at work in Norwalk will have to spend 18 months in jail for stabbing one of the attackers.

“I was defending myself,” Jeffrey Sumpter, 21, told Judge John Blawie on Monday morning at the Stamford courthouse when he was sentenced for stabbing one of the males in the leg last October. Blawie told Sumpter that he understood and believed his version of events, but he said he had to follow the letter of the law.

Sumpter, dressed in a white prison jumpsuit with short sleeves, did not reply. His public defender Howard Ehring said unlike a state like Florida, which has a law allowing its residents to stand their ground, Connecticut law requires Sumpter to retreat from the beating he was given at the Dunkin’ Donuts where he worked. After being assaulted inside the coffee shop, Sumpter ran outside and stabbed one of the men.

FoxNews reported essentially the same thing:

Connecticut assault victim gets 18 months in jail for stabbing attacker

A Connecticut man who was assaulted by three juveniles while at work has been sentenced to prison for stabbing one of the attackers.

Seems like the world turned upside down, doesn’t it? Why was the victim charged with assault much less convicted?

The Connecticut Post makes it seem like Sumpter was convicted because he did not retreat from the assault. Unlike Florida Connecticut does not have a “Stand Your Ground Law.”

As with everything, details matter.

Sumpter did not stab his assailants while he was being attacked. Instead, after the three thugs left the store, Sumpter grabbed a knife and chased them.

This means that Sumpter was no longer defending himself. He was not “standing his ground” even under Florida law.

Once the initial fight ended and the thugs left, Sumpter initiated a new fight for which he was charged with assault.

We’ll let attorney Andrew Branca explain:

Was Failure to Retreat the Defect?

As a quick refresher, there are five elements to a claim of self-defense—innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance, and reasonableness—and the issue of retreat falls under the element of avoidance. Avoidance has to do with whether there’s a legal duty to retreat, if safely possible, before using force in self-defense.

The large majority of states, about 36, have Stand-Your-Ground laws and do not impose the element of avoidance absent aggravating circumstances. In these states, there is no legal duty to retreat before defending oneself.

It’s true that Connecticut, where these events took place, is one of the few 14 or so remaining “duty-to-retreat” states. So, was the problem with Sumpter’s claim of self-defense that he had a safe avenue of retreat, but failed to take advantage of it before he stabbed one of his attackers? That’s certainly what the headline “Victim of assault gets 18 months for not retreating” would suggest, right?

Well, as you might have guessed, the answer is “no,” the failure of Sumpter’s claim of self-defense had nothing to do with him failing to take advantage of a safe avenue of retreat, and thus nothing to do with the element of avoidance.

Self-Defense Fails If Defender Becomes Aggressor

The failure of Sumpter’s claim of self-defense is found in the element of innocence. How can that be, you might ask, given that it’s uncontested that the three aggressors attacked HIM. Because, as the media itself reports: “After being assaulted inside the coffee shop, Sumpter ran outside and stabbed one of the men.”

That is a problem. In the eyes of the law what we have here is not a single fight in which Sumpter defended himself against the attack of the three aggressors. That fight did happen, but it also ended, when the aggressors left the coffee shop.

When Sumpter then pursued them and stabbed them, he became the aggressor in a second fight. As the aggressor in this second fight he lost the element of innocence, and thus lost self-defense as a justification for his stabbing one of the aggressors.
Self-Defense, Yes; Vengeance, No

The law of self-defense allows for the use of defensive force to resist an imminent unlawful use of force against you. It does not allow you to engage in acts of retribution or vengeance.

Remember folks: When you go to the fight instead of the fight coming to you, it very rarely looks like self-defense to anybody.

Some people have stated that the sentence seems terribly harsh. Once again, the devil is in the details as Sumpter is not a first time offender of assault:

According to court records, Sumpter pleaded guilty on Feb. 10 to third-degree assault and carrying a dangerous weapon following a December arrest in Bridgeport. He also has a pending violation of probation charge.

If you think something like this couldn’t happen in Florida because of the “Stand Your Ground” laws, you’d be wrong.

In 2010, a single mother by the name of Marissa Alexander was arrested, charged and later convicted for something similar:

According to a sworn deposition taken in November 2010, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, 36, said that on August 1, 2010, he and Alexander began fighting after he found text messages to Alexander’s first husband on her phone. The two were already estranged – according to her father, Alexander had been living at her mother’s since the birth of the couple’s daughter nine days earlier, and Gray, a long-haul trucker, said he spent the night before in his tractor-trailer. Gray began calling her names, saying “If I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” and blocking her from exiting the bathroom.

Alexander pushed past Gray and went into the garage where she got her gun from her car’s glove compartment.

Gray told prosecutors in the deposition that Alexander came back into the house holding the weapon and told him to leave. He refused, and what happened next is somewhat unclear. In his deposition, Gray said “she shot in the air one time,” prompting him and the children to run out the front door. But when Gray called 911 the day of the incident, he said “she aimed the gun at us and she shot.”

The jury found that once Alexander left the initial fight, went to the garage, got a gun and returned into the house, she was no longer the victim, but the aggressor.

In this case, a judge rejected a claim of “stand your ground” because Alexander had left the fight and then returned:

In August 2011, a judge rejected a motion by Alexander’s attorney to grant her immunity under the “stand your ground” law. According to the judge’s order, “there is insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself,” and that the fact that she came back into the home, instead of leaving out the front or back door “is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life.”

There are a couple of lessons to be learned here.

First, the media does not always report the truth.

Secondly, once you have disengaged from a fight, don’t re-engage. Stay safe and don’t risk being labeled as the aggressor.

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