It is generally accepted that we Americans are inundated with thousands and thousands of images of violent death on TV and movie screens, more of them by simulated gunfire than by any other mechanism. More often than not, Actor A fires a single blank, and Actor B obligingly swoons to the floor, or perhaps goes flying backward as if struck by a giant, invisible fist. This can leave the general public—which, after all, constitutes the jury pool—with the impression that one shot is probably all you need to take another person out of the fight. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to the argument that if you shot him more than once, or had to “shoot him a lot,” you did so out of indefensible malice instead of justifiable self-defense.

Substance Fueled
Sometimes violent attackers are stopped by a single shot. But sometimes they aren’t. The human body is an incredibly durable machine, all the more so when its adrenal system is running full bore in a state of rage. Adding booze or drugs to the mix, as is commonly the case with violent criminals who assault innocent victims, can make them even harder to stop. Alcohol is such an effective anesthetic that “feeling no pain” has long been a synonym for drunkenness. Opiate-based drugs are obviously strong painkillers, too. Cocaine is a stimulant that gives its users a “rush” in part because it releases the body’s own epinephrine, creating temporary super-strength and high endurance. In the famous Case One, an armed robber with a .45 was a heroin junkie who had apparently recently “fixed.” When he shot it out with the cops, he absorbed an incredible 33 rounds of 9mm pistol fire and a 12-gauge rifled slug and was still on his feet when a final shotgun slug severed his spine and put him down.

A “substance-fueled” resistance to gunfire can be compounded when the defender is armed with a less-powerful weapon or less-than-optimum ammunition. I appeared as an expert witness for the defense in Case Two, in which a deputy sheriff on leave, recovering from a line-of-duty injury, was with his family when they were all attacked by a crazed doper. In addition to having taken methamphetamines, the physically powerful attacker had a high blood-alcohol content…


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It is generally accepted that we Americans are inundated with thousands and thousands of…