Is it self defense against a knife attack?

Please, take a moment to read this:

We don’t know all of the details because this is a news article and we weren’t there.

Hypothetically, if this was all of the information about the incident, would you say he acted in self-defense?

  • Yes, it was self-defense
  • No, it was not self-defense
  • Not enough information to say if it was self-defense

0 voters

Why or why not?

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On the face of it, Carter has some serious explaining to do, but with only the information there I wouldn’t dream of judging either way.

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What parts are major red flags to you about his claim to self-defense? What would you like him to explain?

Yes, I’m playing devils advocate here. :slight_smile:

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There was an on-going feud between the two. He brought guns from a previous house out of fear for what his neighbors might do to him? Then stated that if his neighbors bring wrath upon, he has lots of guns? This really sounds like a person looking for a fight.

Jennings was drinking, but was he drunk? Was his BAC measured after the incident?

He fired a second shot 12 seconds after the first, because he thought he might be faking. That needs much better explanation. 12 seconds is a LONG time.

The widow said she had never seen the knife, while Carter admitted he sometimes wore one on his belt. Where is Carter’s knife now? DNA evidence on the knife Jennings had? A six inch knife is no joke.

Carter had never fired any of the guns he owned, then he stood over the down man and aimed at his head.

The statement that “when he arrived, he saw a truck belonging to Jennings in his front lawn …” needs clarification. Jennings’ truck was in Jennings’ front yard, or in Carter’s?

There was a “nasty exchange” between the two, then he went inside. That should have ended the confrontation, but he armed himself and went back outside.

Carter himself said he had never seen Jennings with the knife before, partially corroborating Mrs. Jennings statement that she had never seen the knife before.

None of these are really damning in and of themselves, but put them all together and there is some serious explaining needed, thus the continued testimony.


@fish covered pretty much all my points :+1:
Especially telling for me are the going inside then coming back out to reengage the argument, and the 12 seconds after the first shot where he could have walked away from the downed man, gone inside and called 911

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Awesome response, @Fish! Those were the types of things I was hoping people would think about. They are so important to your legal defense!


Based on this article alone, I have to say it’s a bad shoot. It’s one thing to retreat from a heated argument and grab your firearm just in case. It’s another to go out and re-engage.

The 12 seconds could be shock, adrenal freeze, uncertainty. But honestly it genuinely sounds like this started as a right vs left political feud that went way too far. (And that’s where I’m going to stop with the politics part.)

Now I wouldn’t put it past the writer of this article to be trying to use it to stir the political pot either. I think we can all agree that the media is only interested in stirring up stories to create shock and awe for ratings. And that is a whole other topic all together.

Based on the article, bad shoot. However I don’t trust it to be a “just the facts ma’am” article. I would definitely like to see more information before making an actual judgment.


Based on the information, I say no bueno. Had he fired once, then after Jennings was on the ground retreated to a safer distance, I’d give the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think is was premeditated though. If I were on that jury, I’d vote guilty on all but the 1st degree charge. The fact that Jennings was on the ground, and the 2nd shot wasn’t for 12 seconds throws up the red flag for me.


Very tough call on this one.

He retreated to the house, should have stayed there, called police, and let them do their thing. Interesting that there’s no mention of multiple calls to police supporting the ongoing feud claim.

As for the 12 seconds - yeah 12 seconds may be a long period between shots, but we don’t know exactly what he saw when he said “Carter insisted that he saw Jennings move after falling to the ground. “I thought that he was faking me out,” he said more than once. “I wasn’t sure he was even shot. So when I saw the blade I shot him again.”

Did he just see the blade or did he see him move as well?

The prosecutor is almost guaranteeing a conviction on something with the variation of charges filed. “charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and related charges.” Playing craps with the mans life.

I question not filing 2nd degree murder charges as well, if the evidence isn’t there to support a 2° charge it’s damn sure not there to support 1°.


The way I read this case the guy is in serious trouble and better have an atty gifted at plea deals.

The basic criteria for lawful self defense are that you must first be lawfully present, acting in a lawful manner, and completely innocent and this guy seems to fail terribly on the third.

This was an ongoing feud between known individuals with animus and escalation from both sides so he’s not completely innocent.

Next is the reasonableness test.

Would a reasonable person under the same circumstances acted/reacted in a similar manner. He fails that test. He was a willing participant in an childish feud and he had every opportunity to avoid the conflict from the start but chose not to.

Innocence test. Even if you could make the argument that he acted lawfully up through the point of the first shot he’d left the scene and was no longer in danger when he then turned around and went back firing a coup de gras shot to the head to finish off the victim.

What it sounds like to a reasonable person here is that he was angry and enraged provoked and escalated a fight then when the other guy produced a knife fired out of fear. Following that as the totality of the situation rushes in and he realized what had just happened he then reacted out of anger and perhaps even a “gotcha” sense and made the decision to finish off the vanquished foe.

A shot to the head in a case like this indicates a desire to totally dehumanize your opponent and show your mastery and dominance at a minimum and it can easily be argued that it also shows a premeditated desire to make sure that the wounded man cannot testify against him.

Morally this shooting seems wrong in every way and legally it certainly appears to be some form of murder or manslaughter.


If the prosecutor is right and the defendant goaded the victim into coming onto his property so he could shoot him, that’s problem #1. Problem #2 is shooting the victim when he was on the ground. To legally claim self defense, you must not be the instigator of the confrontation, you must reasonably believe your life is in jeopardy, and you must stop your defense when the threat is over.


^^^^^^^What they said. Every point mentioned is a red flag for me.


I’ll play. We train to shoot only in “imminent fear of great bodily harm or death”. But even then we only shoot to “stop the threat”.

I can see the first shot, as possibly being self defense. The second shot was not. His first shot had “stopped the threat” there was then 12 seconds in which he could have moved to a safe position, by staying there for 12 seconds he " reset the engagement" and was now the aggressor by firing into a downed and prone victim.

He may have been defending himself on the first shot, but by staying there and firing a second shot he went from “possible victim” to “definite agressor”.