Kimberly Ferzan L’95, Earle Hepburn Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, recently discussed self-defense laws and its elements at Talks on Law. Ferzan, whose work focuses on criminal law theory, is Co-Director of the Institute of Law & Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and she teaches criminal law, evidence, advanced criminal law, and advanced law and philosophy seminars.
The following is an excerpt from Talks on Law:
High-profile cases in the last decade have brought to the fore issues with private citizens’ use of deadly force in self-defense, citizen’s arrest, and vigilantism. The public closely followed three highly-charged trials centered around self-defense: Kyle Rittenhouse shootings, the death of Ahmaud Arbery, and George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. Much has been written about these cases, but some confusion remains about the legal underpinnings that resulted in its divergent outcomes. Self-defense laws are complicated, further muddled by duty to retreat/stand your ground provisions and citizen’s arrest laws. Professor Kimberly Ferzan of the University of Pennsylvania Law School explains self-defense laws and its elements, including the use of deadly vs. nondeadly force, when use of force is reasonable, and provocateurs and initial aggressors. She discusses the hot-button cases and the issues that arise when citizens are empowered to act like law enforcement.