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Legal Analysis: Was Ray Rice’s Punch to Wife’s Head Lawful Self-Defense?

Legal Analysis: Was Ray Rice’s Punch to Wife’s Head Lawful Self-Defense?

The amount of defensive force used must not be disproportional to the threat faced

Well, this weekend I learned there’s a guy named Ray Rice who’s got a pretty mean left hook, at least when he’s punching his wife in the face on an elevator.

It seems he also plays something called “football,” or at least he used to do so until surveillance video of the punch was released by some kind of news organization called TMZ.

What caught my attention about this story was not, of course, Mr. Rice or football or TMZ, about all of which I know pretty much nothing, but a raging series of debates I see on Twitter today about the matter.

As is typical of such debates argued in the 140 character “jabs” of the Twitterverse, there’s a great deal of mis- and cross-communication, undoubtedly much of it deliberate.

(UPDATE: Note that this topic can now also be viewed as a Law of Self Defense University Video Lecture, or listened to as a Law of Self Defense Podcast, here: http://is.gd/1HOsaT)

The key issues leading to angry pitchforks and torches appear to be:

  • Is it ever permissible for a man to physically strike a woman?  Here the two sides are “No, never,” and “Yes, if done in necessary self-defense.”
  • Was Ray Rice’s punch to his wife’s face an example of a lawful use of force in self-defense?

Addressing the the first question from a legal (and, I dare say, a pragmatic) perspective, the answer is of course the latter.  If one meets the necessary conditions of lawful self-defense, one may use necessary force against any aggressor, regardless of their gender.

Of course, one of those conditions is the element of proportionality, and it is this element that would appear to undermine any claim that Rice’s punch could be characterized as lawful self-defense.

Proportionality in the Context of Deadly Force Self-Defense

In the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting I’ve done several posts here on the issue of proportionality in the context of deadly force, in particular noting that a weapon, such as a gun, can be used against even a nominally “unarmed” aggressor if that aggressor nevertheless represents a threat of death or grave bodily harm:

When can you legally use a gun against an unarmed person?

Caught on Video: Vicious Group Attack by Thugs on Young Couple

Caught on video: Another black-on-white racially motivated gang attack

The legal issue in these cases, from the perspective of self-defense, is one of proportionality–was the gun, a weapon capable of causing death or grave bodily harm, used to counter a threat that was also capable of causing death or grave bodily harm.  If the answer of yes, the demands of proportionality are met.  If not, proportionality fails, the use of the gun was excessive force, and the claim that the gun was used in lawful self-defense collapses.

Once the threshold of deadly force has been achieved, the law sees little variance in degree in terms of that force. Deadly force is deadly force.

It is important to keep in mind, when we say “deadly force” in the context of self-defense law we always mean “force capable or likely of causing death or grave bodily harm (e.g., maiming, broken bones, unconsciousness, rape, etc.) A broken bone may not threaten a loss of life, but it is “deadly force” for purposes of self defense law.

Whether that deadly force is presented by a gun or a knife or a bat or a bone-crushing blows to the face or a stomp to the head makes really no difference to the law.  The law is concerned with the possible or likely mortal outcome, by whatever means it might be achieved.

Proportionality in the Context of Non-Deadly Force Self-Defense

But what about the issue of proportionality in the context of non-deadly force?

Somewhat counterintuitively, the analysis of proportionality is actually more difficult and subtle in the context of non-deadly force than it is in the context of deadly force. As mentioned, deadly force is deadly force. Period.

The matter is quite more varied in the context of non-deadly self-defense, however.  Some gently places a hand on your arm may well be committing a simple batter, if the touching is offensive and unwanted.  But that is a much lesser degree of force than if they poked you painfully in the chest, which in turn is a lesser degree of force than if they powerfully shoved you in the chest.  Yet all of these fall under the umbrella of non-deadly force.

And because they all fall under the umbrella of non-deadly force, they can be defended against only with non-deadly force in return–and, as required by the element of proportionality, only by a degree of non-deadly force that is proportional to the aggressive force.

So, certainly, if an angry person grabs you by the arm in the absence of any intent to cause you death or grave bodily harm, the requirements of proportionality would clearly prohibit you from responding with, say, a gun. Further, it would prohibit you from responding with force that would predictably result in grave bodily harm.

Anybody foolish enough to grab an appropriately trained defender by the arm is putting themselves in a position to have that arm’s elbow vigorously broken–but such a “grave bodily harm” counter to a non-deadly offense would almost certainly be deemed disproportionate, and therefore not lawful self-defense.

What about responding to the arm grab with a multiple blows to the aggressor’s face, with such blows causing contusions and abrasions, but no broken bones?  This is far more proportional than the snapped elbow, but still leaves room for a jury to conclude that these lasting injuries were disproportionate given that an arm-grab is not itself likely to cause any lasting injury.

In contrast, a joint-lock a few millimeters short of the elbow bending in ways its geometry does not intend would almost certainly not qualify as “grave bodily harm,” nor cause any lasting injury, and thus be proportional to an unwanted arm grab.  Similarly the simpler but perhaps less satisfying expedient of simply knocking the arm away.

(Note: These dynamics naturally vary if the aggressor is much larger, stronger or possesses an exceptional fighting ability relative to defender–under such circumstances the defender would be permitted to use as much greater degree of force as necessary to avoid a disparity of force that prevented them from effectively defending themselves.)

Ray Rice’s Punch: Proportional Non-deadly Force?

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that Rice’s punch constituted merely non-deadly force.  Were I the prosecutor of such a case, however, I would argue very vigorously that the punch was, in fact, deadly force, because the victim lost consciousness as a result. Remember, in the context of self-defense deadly force includes force causing grave bodily injury.  Unconsciousness qualifies as grave bodily injury.  (Were I the defense, I’d counter that the unconsciousness resulted from the wife’s head striking the handrail in the elevator, to which the prosecutor me would argue that event occurred as a predictable consequence of the punch. Sheesh, lawyers.)

Let us also assume for purposes of discussion that Ray’s wife was the aggressor in the conflict, launching an unjustified physical attack upon him in the elevator, to which he responded with his punch to her face.  Under such circumstances Rice would clearly have the legal right to use necessary non-deadly force to defend himself from that attack.

(I note, however, that in the video embedded above at the 0:25 second mark, before the knockdown punch, the wife’s face turns abruptly to the right of the frame, as if she had been slapped hard.  Immediately afterwards comes her advance on Rice. Clearly, if Rice were actually the initial aggressor in the conflict he cannot claim self-defense for his later punch–at 0:27–regardless of whether it was proportional to his wife’s force against him.)

Even with those assumptions, the question remains, was Rice’s punch proportional to the threat he faced form  his wife?

Here the law requires that we take into consideration the degree of threat likely presented by the non-deadly force his wife could bring to bear against the degree of non-deadly force at Rice’s disposal for purposes of self-defense.

I know nothing about Rice’s wife except that she appears to be a modest-sized healthy female with a weight and stature less than that of her husband. I’m unaware of her possessing any special capabilities that would endow her with exceptional fighting ability for a person of her size and gender.

Rice, on the other hand is (regardless of what one might think of him from a moral perspective) a premiere professional athlete.  I understand he was a second round draft pick into the NFL in 2008, which presumably is an indicator of exceptional physical strength and abilities among an already highly elite pool of athletes.  And based on the Twitter screams of the football fantasy fans on Twitter at word of his expulsion from the NFL, I take it that his physical abilities had remained potent to the current day.

These disparities alone would mean that any physical act of Rice’s–even a mere shove or smack–could well be several times as powerful as any similar act of his wife.   Thus, if his wife were shoving or smacking at him, the  powerful left hook to her face would clearly be disproportionate response. Indeed, this disproportionality would exist even if she had struck at him with her own left hook to the face.

This is especially so when we know Rice’s left hook to the face dropped his wife instantly to the ground, where along the way she struck her head such that either the punch or the head strike was sufficient to render her unconscious.

What actions on Rice’s part might have been proportional to his wife’s supposed attack? Simply extending his arms and holding her at arm’s length would have been a prudent choice, even if he’d had to grip her firmly to keep her at a distance.  Alternatively, he could simply have wrapped his arms around her to immobilize her arms–a less prudent choice, perhaps, if she was angry enough to make use of her teeth or knees).

A punch to the face hard enough to instantly drop her to the ground, however, is going to be a very difficult sell to a jury on the issue of proportionality.

If Rice’s Punch Wasn’t Lawful Self-Defense, What WAS It?

Absent proportionality, then, Rice’s punch could not have been lawful self-defense, which would make his use of that force at a minimum a simple battery (typically good for as long as 5 years in prison).  Indeed, if the blow could be characterized as deadly force (on the basis that it caused grave bodily harm in the form of unconsciousness), his punch could be characterized as an aggravated battery (typically good for as long as 15 years in prison).

Very unhelpful to any defense against such charges, by the way, would be Rice’s patently callous treatment of his victim/wife in the immediate aftermath of the blow, dragging her unconscious body along the floor and even nudging it with his foot. But that’s a topic for another day.

UPDATE: I see now that Rice was, in fact, charged with aggravated assault at the time, and the grand jury indicted him on that same charge. He initially pled not guilty to the charges. Prosecutors, of course, had possession of the elevator footage just now released to the public, and this would of course have guided them and the grand jury in their decisions. Prior to trial, however, Rice pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the third degree in exchange for acceptance into a pre-trial diversionary program named PTI. Usually this program is not offered to violent offenders, and almost never in cases of physical domestic abuse.  Under the program no further criminal justice actions could be taken against him if he avoided future legal difficulties for one year, at which time he could request to have his record expunged.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.

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Comments

PersonFromPorlock | September 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

Yes it was. And it’s a perfect example of the law being “a ox, a ass.”

TrooperJohnSmith | September 9, 2014 at 11:48 am

All that time spent being mentored by Ray Lewis obviously wasn’t wasted.

Reason # 1,835 to Hate Fantasy Football: “And based on the Twitter screams of the football fantasy fans on Twitter at word of his expulsion from the NFL, I take it that his physical abilities had remained potent to the current day.” And Twitter.

Absolutely unjustified.

He could have defensively smothered her…

in diamonds.

If I was on the jury and you as a prosecutor showed me a tape of a 110lb woman initiating physical contact against Mr Rice via a left hook (Or any strike for that matter) and he responded like in the video, I’d “No Bill” him.

If you want to assault a stronger, bigger person than yourself then you had better be prepared for the response.

If Mrs. Rice was actually Mr. Jones with a similar weight and body frame we’d have a lot more people going “He got what he deserved”. But because it’s a woman people White Knight and scream about the cruelty and evilness of the response.

I’m all for equality. Man or woman, if you want to start a fight be prepared for the response. Or for a more generic quote: “You mess with a bull you get the horns”.

Then again, the tape shows Mr. Rice throwing the first punch. **ASSUMING** the rumor of her spitting on him before that is false, then he’s getting the abuse he deserves. If the rumor of her spitting on him before that is true, again I refer to the quote above.

    Ragspierre in reply to tphillip. | September 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Apart from legal issues, the code of chivalry forbids the craven use of force against any weaker opponent.

    Would I never strike a woman? It would take a concerted, effective attack on me, not a punch.

    What is the right response for a gentleman? Leave.

    That’s the same response I taught my daughters. If you are struck by a man who you are in a relationship with, you have just been told all you need to know. Leave. Right then.

      brainpimp in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Chivalry has nothing to do with the law.

      I believe that he actually spit on her in the video not the other way around. That was her face jerking to the left to avoid a direct “splash”

      It’s obvious JackRusselTerrierist is a jock sniffer that has been left humiliated his whole life.

      I do have a question in general, when did the rule become you lose your job because of a legal situation like this? If I’m an insurance agent, for example, that isn’t even on the table.

        MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to brainpimp. | September 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        Ask Donald Sterling.

        Ragspierre in reply to brainpimp. | September 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm

        Yes. That’s why I said, “Apart from the legal issues…”

        And “Jack” is a lady.

        Many contracts contain a “morals clause”. Dunno about the professional football contract, but any entertainment field can only tolerate a certain amount of misconduct before you’ll be shown the door, one way or another.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 2:34 pm

          Wait, Jack is a female? Well the Gremlin feels clueless, lol.

          In response to the discussion, an insurance agent doesn’t have nearly the PR concern that a major league football team or other high profile business does and that PR concern can dramatically affect their business.

          Also, I have worked for companies who would have fired you for exactly the same thing, which in my state the have every right to do. Why keep someone like that around they are only going to hurt the business. Not to mention some places have you sign an ethic’s agreement. I actually turned down a job once because I didn’t agree with the ethic’s agreement.

          I have no problem with the team cutting him, I am not sure I agree with the indefinite suspension after he had already been told it would only be a 2 game suspension, I am sorry that just isn’t right. Especially since the only thing that changed is that now there is video of what he had already admitted to doing. Its kind of like being convicted of a crime and being sentenced to 30 days in jail, but then a couple of weeks later being told that; “Oops, sorry we changed your sentence to 10 years.”

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to brainpimp. | September 9, 2014 at 6:23 pm

        Grem, Jack Russell terriers are a passion of mine. Surely you’ve seen them. The Frazier TV dog and many others used in TV commerceials. Love the little squirts. And they are indeed little terrorists – they WILL “get after it”, as they say. Smarter than smart, loving, affectionate, fierce, amazingly athletic and loyal. They don’t just react. They plan and plot – hilarious to watch. Best of all breeds, IMO. And – choke – they have really good longevity. They hunt, and one of ours hunts with my husband. She puts up birds and will find a shot deer after they run. Last year, she found a deer that my hubby got during doe season. It was sunset, almost twilight, and the doe ran a long way, went down a steep, long ravine and into the woods through heavy cover. Hubby would not have found her but for our little girl. When we go fishing, they steadfastly stand for hours looking over the rail of the boat watching for fish. Fabulous little dogs. 🙂

        So that’s why Jack is my nic. 🙂

        cindyca in reply to brainpimp. | September 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

        As a matter of employment law which I know little about, if an outside illegal activity such as hitting your partner does not interfere with your actual job doesn’t the employee have an expectation of privacy–akin to a DUI or a bar fight–if an employer hears about this cane he use it to fire the employee

          Edgehopper in reply to cindyca. | September 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

          In the US, absent a contract, your employer may fire you for any reason other than a narrow list of prohibited ones (e.g., discrimination based on race, sex, disability, other forma of discrimination varying by state, retaliation for whistleblowing in some states, etc.) If your employer found out you had assaulted your wife, you could be fired for that unless you have a contract that says otherwise.

          Ray Rice is not an at-will employee and is protected both by a union and by a contract, but there almost certainly is a morals clause that allows the Ravens to fire him for such an act. Whether the NFL can indefinitely suspend him given that it already decided on a 2 game suspension is an interesting question that probably depends on the NFL’s union rules.

        Sharpshooter in reply to brainpimp. | September 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

        “I do have a question in general, when did the rule become you lose your job because of a legal situation like this? ”

        When they signed multi-million $$$ contracts, which also specify conduct off the field, with a image sensitive organization. An organization that, unfortunately, appeals to thugs of all races and political persuasions.

      MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      The problem is that there are women who thrive on torturing men with such chivalry,

      I remember an incident when I was a teen. I was lying in bed. I heard this woman screaming “Help Help police.” I jumped up to phone the police. My mother told me to put the phone. It turned out this drunken woman was chasing a man down the street hitting him over the head with her purse.

      Chivalry is often misunderstood. Chivalry does not say a man should never hit a woman. Chivalry says that a man should never hit a lady.

      Big difference.

        Dude. You need to learn what you’re talking about before embarrassing yourself.

          MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 2:43 pm

          Are you saying that you have never seen a case of spousal abuse by wife, where the wife took advantage of the fact that her husband would not hit back because she was a woman?

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

          Hardly. What I AM saying is that in ANY relationship, one has to have the moral courage to LEAVE. Being a submissive personality is a form of cowardice.

          Hope that is clear now.

        Doesn’t matter. You don’t hit women … even when they deserve it.

        It has nothing to do with law. It’s a matter of class, like wearing a shirt and tie over your Budweiser t-shirt when visiting a war memorial.

          MJN1957 in reply to tom swift. | September 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

          Really? As a LEO, on occasion I have beaten a few women like a dented gong using a police baton to its maximum effectiveness – all within the law and well within the use of force rules of my agency.

          ..and will do it again if justified.

        NC Mountain Girl in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        Chivalry was also a reciprocal arrangement. Women were expected to behave like ladies. If she obviously doesn’t then the bargain is off as far as I am concerned.

          Not according to the code. Yes, it is supposed to apply to both sexes.

          No, a weaker person’s conduct does not excuse misuse of one’s strength. I CAN provoke a defensive response, but I don’t think Mr. Rice was ever in jeopardy. He could readily have pressed the button for the next floor and just stepped off the elevator.

          I would. I also would have stepped adroitly out of that woman’s life. It would have saved Rice several million dollars if he had.

          MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm

          @Rags, no Mrs. Rice was between Mr.Rice and the elevator buttons.

          ZOMG…!!! Trapped and helpless…!!! Purrr idy wadums…

          (That noise you heard was the point flying over your head.)

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Agreed, however, I would also give the same advice to my son concerning any woman he dates.

        Phillep Harding in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Not just hitting, either. Some people (any gender) are just too much trouble to have around.

        Ragspierre in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

        I thought that was implicit. I raised my sons to be gentlemen. And to be brave. Even when you have a HUGE investment in a relationship, you just have to have the gumption to leave. This requires moral courage AND a healthy self-regard.

          healthguyfsu in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm

          Gonna go out on a limb and guess that you are either divorced or never married.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          I am the proud father of a large family, and I practice family law…among other things.

          healthguyfsu in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 11:51 pm

          Didn’t completely answer my question…no doubt you are teaching your kids very good things by things you’ve said on here.

          However, I just took the whole “walk away” thing as a bit too absolutist and universal, which is why I postulated that you have been divorced. If I misread, and you only meant walk away to apply to cases of abuse then I agree with you and my bad.

      memomachine in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Modern feminism has forfeited any right to chivalry and arguments to the contrary is frankly silly. I too was raised to never raise a hand to a girl or woman but the entire point of modern feminism is to be treated equally. So IMO Rice treated his girlfriend precisely as she desired to be treated; as a man would and thus equally.

      Anything else and you’re a sexist.

      Mike Giles in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      In an era when women are demanding the right to be combat soldiers, chivalry is dead.

        Phillep Harding in reply to Mike Giles. | September 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

        A very tiny and vocal minority are making those demands.

        On behalf of “other women”.

        The next tactic being to disrupt the military with demands that half the military has to be female by discharging enough males to make the numbers even.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to tphillip. | September 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Spitting on him? Wow, now there’s a serious provocation. Very painful, possibly debilitating./sarc

    It’s not like he wasn’t already familiar with her body fluids. She’s his wife. Was it insulting? yep. But a pro football player should be able to take it.

    Or maybe they’re not so tough after all. Maybe they’re just a bunch of big, bullying, self-centered babies with egos as fragile as egg shells.

      TrooperJohnSmith in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | September 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Having played Texas high school and Div. I college football, a lot worse things than spitting takes place on the field. If you can’t keep your cool, your team gets penalized and/or you get ejected. Rice is supposedly a professional, whose game is on a whole different level.

      Violence against women is a learned behavior. Restraint is also learned behavior. I was raised in a household where there was absolutely no justification for hitting a woman. Ever. I suspect that Ray Rice was perhaps raised differently, and/or his years hanging with thug Ray Lewis may have something to do with his actions.

      As Rags said, there is always the option to leave. He clearly could and should have.

      In marriage, no one ever “wins” an argument, much less a physical confrontation. This whole thing is sad on so many levels.

      “Or maybe they’re not so tough after all. Maybe they’re just a bunch of big, bullying, self-centered babies with egos as fragile as egg shells.”

      Yep, who have money & women thrown at them for no explicable reason.

        Ragspierre in reply to Chem_Geek. | September 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm

        Jeepers. You STILL insist on demonstrating breathtaking STUPID in economics.

        They EARN very high compensation because the MAKE a lot more money for their employers, AND they are a RARE combination of physical and intellectual talent. And, yeah, they ARE quite intelligent in ways that allow them to do what they do.

        Evolution might explain the attraction women have for them. Dunno about that…

          I’m fairly confident the owners don’t pay the players a penny more than they believe the players are worth, in terms of adding value to their franchises.

          Just a guess on my part. 🙂

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          Chem_Geek in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 2:40 am

          Wow – your naiveté with respect to compensation is astounding. Rice, and athletes in general, produce NOTHING and therefore EARN nothing – they are thrown money, cars, bling, women, etc.

          Women throwing themselves at athletes is simple greed. But they shouldn’t then complain when the athletes treat them like this. It’s a craven calculation on the women’s part.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 8:44 am

          Wow. What must life be like inside a skull as packed with crap as that one?

          How do you live, actually? I mean, in your world there is no cause >>> effect relationship, as you’ve amply demonstrated here many times. BSD MBAs build up companies so they can screw employees and take “golden parachutes”. NFL players get millions for nothing. Note the undercurrent of loathing for others, too. You impute the basest motives to people constantly.

          A-flucking-mazing.

Rice plead guilty to aggravated assault.

Phillep Harding | September 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I cannot play this video due to bandwidth constraints.

The video I saw in the news started with them entering the elevator. He moved over under the camera with her near the door on the other side. Looked like she poked the button, then her head snapped around toward him. I think “defensive outrage” like maybe he said something nasty. Then she jumped him. He was out of arm’s reach, under the camera so he could not have initiated combat. Looked like he covered to protect himself, then acted, but I could not see what happened clearly enough to swear to any of this.

Then again, the video I saw was pretty horrible quality.

Side note: I’ve read that women start half the fights. Men end almost all of them.

Willful ignorance coupled with smug condescension is strong in this one.

Go sip a latte in the faculty lounge and expound upon the preening superiority you just laid on us.

Thanks.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to AYFKM. | September 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Indeed. I was hoping for an interesting discussion, but it is now clear why Mr Branca CC’s ( Is that the right term? Anyway conceal carries. )
    With what he knows about the fighting arts, if Pee Wee Herman were to jump him in a dark alley he would get pummeled within an inch of his life, He needs the gun for protection.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to AYFKM. | September 10, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Andrew is no wimp, and I guarantee you’d be begging for his help if you ever got jammed up for a shooting.

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I left a cooment about this yesterday at TCTH. http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2014/09/08/baltimore-ravens-fire-ray-rice-despite-wife-janay-palmer-not-having-issue-with-knock-out-punch/comment-page-1/#comment-946182
Which I will eventually use as the basis for a post here. ( After I’ve read the topic more thoroughly. )

But I did want to address the “hit a lady” issue.

Part of the reason for the rule is the basic fact that all other things being equal a bigger and stronger person has an advantage in a fight. But in general all things are not equal.

I have known several women who are around 5′ and weigh around 80 pounds who could kick the ass of most people on this forum,

Mrs. Rice is a lot bigger than that.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    That is not the norm, and I have serious doubts about your claim.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 9, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Ah, the “proof” of anecdotal evidence.

    You say, essentially: I know some women who can kick your ass who are smaller than Mrs. Rice, therefore she was able to kick his ass, thus Mr. Rice was just defending himself.

    No proportionality figures into this reasoning.

    As for the “dojo” comment… seriously? Let me just say that you’ve obviously never played football past what, Pop Warner? It’s a dirty, nasty, viscous game. It begets violence in one to survive, especially in the professional game.

    Ray Rice had zero chance of being harmed by this woman, and people in the business of football know this. That’s why he’s unemployed today. They are sending a message to all the fantasy football idiots and hero worshipers who said or implied, “B*itch had it coming.”

      Phillep Harding in reply to TrooperJohnSmith. | September 9, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      I had not thought about that. Related point, pro football players are used to getting banged around.

      Too bad the video I can access is not clearer. He is big enough that a “get out of my face” fly swat could do some serious damage without any intent on his part.

JackRussellTerrierist | September 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm

The more of these beasts taken off the pro-sports gravy train, public dole, etc., the better. The picture it paints of American culture is just disgusting.

If these big, badass football bruisers can’t handle a smack from an average-sized woman without damn near killing her, especially in particular a wife or “significant other”, they should be run out of the business on a rail. In this case, this pig needs to serve about 5 years in prison.

I hope the legal system handles Rice in such a way that getting booted off the team is the least of his worries.

There was nothing “proportional” about his response. It was a cowardly act resulting from an over-inflated ego.

Throw the bum out and lock him up.

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm

On proportionality.
It helps to look at what happened during the incident.
Mr. Rice flees to the opposite corner of the elevator during the argument. Opening as large a distance as is possible between him and Mrs. Rice. Well in an elevator.

Then Mrs. Rice takes a step towards him. Actually she is taking another step and her front (right) foot is just starting to plant.
Then comes the punch. Fact is that Mr. Rice did not have much of a windup from a standard boxing perspective. His back was to the wall.

Unless, Mr. Rice was some sort martial artist, practicing things like one inch punches that punch could not have had much force behind it.

As for “knocking her down”. There is a big difference between a person standing braced being knocked down by a punch and a moving person being knocked down. In the second case, a well timed gentle shove can knock down a person, a lot of jujitsu/aikijitsu techniques depend on it. Many of those techniques are supposed to be timed as the lead foot is planting.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    His arm had a good deal further to travel than 1 inch, also it was a “hook” style punch with gave it even further distance to travel. A short fast hook punch has a great deal of power and requires almost no body momentum to throw. Also you have to remember that placement of the punch matters just as much as power, now I can’t tell where the punch landed, with the size of his hands I would say it landed all over that side of her face, but if it hit her temple, the point of her cheek bone, or the connection of the upper and lower jaw, just behind the ear then even a light punch could drop you to the ground or render you unconscious.

      guyjones in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      Great analysis, Andrew, as always. And, as you point out, beyond the issue of the proportionality of a defensive response, which test Rice seems to fail miserably, here, lies the issue of the physical prowess and conditioning of the actors to the encounter. As you observe, Rice (thought short) is a pro athlete in peak physical condition, weighing around 220 pounds or so. Any physical blow delivered by him is going to have substantial force behind it, perhaps sufficient force to make that blow rise to the level of deadly force. His wife is petite in stature and weight, so, any blow that she delivered to Rice would not inflict substantial harm.

      As far as Rice getting canned, he deserves no sympathy, as far I’m concerned. The NFL, like any corporate entity, is an image-conscious business which is even more sensitive to potential negative publicity and associations in the wake of several damaging scandals (decades-long indifference to concussions; rookie hazing; the perpetual problem of off-field criminality; etc.). When you work for such an entity in a high-profile role, you have to understand that your conduct is going to be scrutinized more intensely.

    I know that this will be hard to believe, but…

    I can provoke someone to blind rage (I know, I know….but trust me).

    But when I see that I have, I don’t retreat. I generally step in closer, and start the process of pouring oil on the waters I’ve troubled.

    Oddly enough, putting your arms around a person you actually care about…but is still enraged…works. Plus, they can’t really punch you that way… Pummel, yes.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 9, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    When did YOU stop beating your wife? 😉

My understanding is that they were in a verbal altercation and then she spit on him. This makes it for all intents and purposes mutual combat, though one sided. I think in most jurisdictions, cases of mutual combat are dismissed soon after arrest, much less go to a grand jury. It is clear that if this had not been a famous person, a busy Assistant District Attorney would have dropped it and moved on to the next easier case, especially since the two combatants have since married, making testimony difficult. This is a case of being prosecuted for being famous.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Federale. | September 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Take a look at the video she lunges at him across the elevator with her fist clenched.

    Outside, she alsso tried to hit him . THough it does not seem to be a serious punch.

    Phillep Harding in reply to Federale. | September 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Have since married!!!!!!!!!

    Chaos and broken wheel.

    Well, they are well matched.

    Two idiots.

I have a greater concern about how the NFL(a major employer)simply changes policy regarding it’s individual treatment of players based on how much complaining is going on via social media and ESPN/CNN.

As an employer, shouldn’t they have a fixed policy that deal with behavior incidents individually with players, officials, etc.? They have players, namely Michael Vick, who committed and were convicted of felonies, resulting in prison sentences, who are now playing again in the NFL. Or is he now going to be banned as an example of the new NFL toughness?

Rice has been dealt with by the legal community. His “victim”, then his fiancee, has married him. She declined to testify against and didn’t want charges pressed. The NFL waffling back and forth on his “punishment”, finally suspending him indefinitely as a reaction to the loud hysteria from the video just seems so disengenous and patently unfair based on their treatment of other players transgressions. There is no evidence whatsoever that this happened prior or since this incident.

I, for one, am tired of hearing from all the experts how this is likely not the first time Rice hit her, calling it a “beating”(no, he punched her once as she lunged at him), etc. Every self styled expert is trying to get on the news for their fifteen minutes of fame over this.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to Uh Huh. | September 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    No one except the partners themselves know the full story of what happens inside a marriage, which is why cops and prosecutors hate these cases.

    The fact is that some people like to fight. It is their form of foreplay. Nor is the woman always the victim. I know of a couple where she has far higher earnings and where she always instigates the violence, usually in the form of throwing some heavy object at her husband. It always ends in hot make up sex.

      “No one except the partners themselves know the full story of what happens inside a marriage, which is why cops and prosecutors hate these cases.”

      It IS true that prosecutors hate these cases when the only evidence must come from the testimony of those involved. But that’s clearly not the case here. The video made this an open-and-shut conviction.

      The original prosecutor assigned to this case LOVED it. Any objective prosecutor would–with that video it’s a slam-dunk win, even if the victim/wife chooses not to testify.

      Every stakeholder familiar with such cases in New Jersey was nothing short of astonished that a violent domestic caught on video was put into PTI.

      I’m sure the fact that Rice is a multi-millionaire star athlete for a multi-billion dollar NFL had NOTHING to do with the DA (or AG, or whatever they call them in New Jersey) stepping in and smoothing over the waters. 🙂

      Let me just say I wouldn’t be awfully surprised if the person responsible for pulling the trigger on this PTI deal ends up watching a LOT of NFL games for luxury boxes, moving forward.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      “…she always instigates the violence, usually in the form of throwing some heavy object at her husband.”

      But enough about Bill and Hillary…

      There is a strong cultural bias that incorrectly perceives that females are incapable of inflicting physical, verbal or emotional abuse on males. As a result, many “accidents” that males report in an ER are actually the result of female inflicted physical domestic violence. There is no incentive or reward of expected sympathy and a strong disincentive for a male to honestly report domestic violence in any form, but there is a strong demand that they “be a man” and “suck it up”. It is noted elsewhere in these comments that women initiate half of domestic violence incidents. You would not be able to determine that from the reporting in the media.

      As for men “walking away”, since there is also a bias against males “walking away” from a relationship in divorce court regardless of cause, then males suffer a “double whammy”.

NC Mountain Girl | September 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

A better question is when is it appropriate for an employer and the employer’s professional association to judge an employee’s conduct with a spouse.

The video is disturbing but is a short clip out of a much larger story that has nothing to do with Rice’s job.

    Phillep Harding in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 11, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Been thinking on that.

    “Sports figures” are among those emulated by a large percentage of the population. I suspect if it were put that way in court, many judges would regard such a termination/black listing to by in public interest to support.

I couldn’t care less about two multimillionaires getting drunk and smacking each other around in an elevator somewhere.

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Thasss ’cause you boys up in the moun-tains jus’ club the girls an’ drag ’em back to the cabin to cook you up a mess of possum.

    I used to read ‘Lil Abner. I know.

      Phillep Harding in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Funny thing about “cave man” and “Neanderthal” accusations.

      The stones and bones crowd say that female Neanderthal skeletons have the same patterns of breakage and muscle attachment points as the men, indicating identical activities. Neanderthals lived on big game, not a rabbit or squirrel has been found in the midden heaps.

      Indicating that the cave women had their own spears and swung a mean club.

      I expect cave men were actually rather polite to women.

      Sexual differentiation and knocking women around is an Homo sap trait, not “cavemen”. (First slaves were young women stolen from their home tribe.)

      Odd how the feminazis no longer use “cavemen” as freely as they used to.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Possum Holler wimmins know better’n t’ step into a left hook like ‘at.

      Here in th’ Holler, you put yer hands on a woman, you best not have plans t’ ever sleep agin, ’cause you goan pay fer it. Big time.

DINORightMarie | September 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Andrew Branca – I see your update, but don’t see a link to the court documents…… What a mess this is!!

I’m wondering…..did the (now) wife press charges against him? If he pled guilty and is now in a form of a probationary period, trying to prove he is not going to do this (or anything like it) again – with the end result of this conviction being expunged from his record – can he now have a legal case against the NFL for improper dismissal, after he has begun the process of proving he is working toward expunging his record of the conviction?

Since he wasn’t fired & suspended because of the conviction, but rather because of public outcry, can he (or he and his wife) sue TMZ, ESPN, the person who sold/leaked the video, etc. for public humiliation or defamation – given that he is in the process of trying to expunge his record?

Also, it sounds as if his wife did NOT press charges against him, given the Instagram message that is floating around today. Did she not want her (now) husband to pay a price for hitting her? Again, was it her – and if not her, then who?

And, why is it now so much more “heinous” when it was clear that he MUST have done what is now publicly viewable – giving her a knock-out punch – when the courts made the decision?

As I said earlier, it looks to me that the NFL has a HUGE potential law suit coming………if this guy was in the process of showing he is “clean” and his record is “expunged” – will they suddenly reverse themselves?!

Not a good situation for the (now) wife, for their family, for the NFL, for our crumbling society.

    Ragspierre in reply to DINORightMarie. | September 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Nobody can sue for being defamed by the truth. Any defamation case starts with the predicate that what was published (spoken or written) was FALSE.

      Haha, I had this conversation on a totally unrelated matter not 48 hours ago. Somebody threatening ME with having committed slander.

      Me: “Was what I said untrue?”

      Them: “Well, no.”

      Me: “OK. Anything else we need to talk about?”

      Them: “Uh, I guess not.”

      Me: “Cool. Have a nice weekend.”

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        DINORightMarie in reply to Andrew Branca. | September 10, 2014 at 6:40 am

        First, you didn’t answer my question: who pressed charges – the wife, or someone else?

        Second, I wasn’t focused on the “defamation” – the question was can the NFL be sued for terminating/suspending him while he is trying to have his record expunged?

        If the answer is no, because he was indeed convicted, then what about after his record is expunged (assuming it is), since his wife is now obviously upset at the public humiliation?

        “Big money” has been sued often for far, far less.

        Can you answer my questions, please?

          If Ray Rice were an ordinary at-will employee, he could be fired for any reason at all except for a few narrow exceptions such as discrimination based on race, sex, or disability.

          Since he is not an at-will employee but an employee under a contract, protected by a union (the NFLPA), his rights regarding his employment are defined entirely by his contract, and since we don’t know what the contracts say, we can’t answer that. I’m sure the Rices, the NFLPA, the Ravens, and the NFL are paying some high priced lawyers hundreds of dollars an hour to do that analysis as we speak.

      Immolate in reply to Ragspierre. | September 9, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      But your honor, I’d already gotten away with it!

The woman cynically married a man after ge pummeled her into unconsciousness and then trash dragged on her face across the hotel floor. I have no sympathy for her ironically being punished for his abuse of her. I have much less sympathy for him being double-jeopardized out of a job by the NFL. Vick abused dogs, which is an awful thing, but Rice abused a human, which is far more serious.

Understand, I love dogs and I tolerate people, but there is zero question about whom the law should prefer. God gave man dominion over the beasts of the field.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Immolate. | September 9, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Well, technically, that’s all true.

    But there may be more dogs that I’d run into a burning building to rescue than humans I’ve known.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Immolate. | September 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Your theory sinks if one does not believe in a God . If then , what do you have ?

    Anyways , another way to look at it is that humans have stewardship of the animals & we ought respect their needs & right to exist . If we hunt all snow leopards out of existence because we can then what does that say about humans. Your God would surely not be pleased.

      Phillep Harding in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | September 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Leopards are one of the very few predators that will prey on humans without need (like being sickly or crippled). (Source, several of the pre internet books on great white hunters and dangerous game.)

      Fun factoid: Number one dangerous mammal on the North Am continent pre Viet Nam?

      Bulls kept for breeding dairy cows.

Wasn’t Rice a star at Rutgers, the state university of NJ? Maybe the DA thought ‘we need to protect our own’. I wonder if DA is a grad of Rutgers (or maybe law school).

BannedbytheGuardian | September 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I think they might be equal rubbish . However one should not leave litter lying around .

Man pick up your trash & take it home .

9thDistrictNeighbor | September 9, 2014 at 10:25 pm

The thug mentality in professional sports begins at the college level, where this sort of behavior is covered up for the same reason…money.

There was a guy on Rush’s show yesterday, a caller, who was a probation officer (transcript here).

His comments were quite unique, including that had Rice pled guilty, he would have been given probation as a first offender, at most.

Not sure that this is true; however, Rice is a football star with big bucks; he’s all over the news now, and the attack on the NFL continues.

WRT proportionality:
What if a proportional action results in death or grave bodily harm? For example, a guy comes at me swinging wildly. He’s smaller than me but drunk and mad about something. He gets in a couple of blows which are not particularly well-aimed and not powerful due to his being off balance or something. I’m not hurt. I put my hand on his chest and give him a smart shove. Most guys would step/stumble backwards. He falls, hitting his head and suffering a serious, nearly fatal, injury. Or he dies.
To change it somewhat: I step back, he misses, I move left, he misses, I shove him and he falls, hits his head on something and dies.
I am not talking about stepping up to him so that one foot is next to his feet, giving me maybe two feet of distance in which my shove can be accelerating him backwards. I’m talking about one step above a playground shove.
And he dies.

    Ragspierre in reply to Richard Aubrey. | September 10, 2014 at 9:50 am

    A shove is not “deadly force”.

    The technical term in the law is “accident”.

      Phillep Harding in reply to Ragspierre. | September 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      Pretty close to what happened in one case I was called for jury duty on. Clearly an accident, and the defendants were acting like it was a big joke.

      They were the ones I gave a “hanging judge scowl” I mentioned here a few months back. Did they ever straighten up and get scared/serious.

      The judge, lawyers, and cops all caught it and had a heck of a time keeping a straight face.

He was physically capable of managing the situation without escalating the confrontation. Instead he chose vengeance for compensation. It’s progressive justice.

He’s the kind who punches women. She’s the kind that knowingly marries a man that punches women and defends him afterwards.

Good luck with that, American Jurisprudence.

Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
If I spring a leak she mends me
I don’t have to speak she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one….

Doing, doing, doing, doing….

    Abu Nudnik in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    “Those who marry for money, earn it.” -Anonymous.
    “The thing no one talks about is that couples who engage in domestic abuse have really hot sex.” -Camille Paglia (quoted from memory)

In your analysis of the law you left out the element of persistence. If someone were to put his hand on your arm in an unwanted way, don’t you have the right to use such force necessary to prevent a recurrence of the event even if the force is greater than the initiating act?

    Not to my limited knowledge of the subject.

    Any use of defensive force has to meet the required elements of self-defense, which to my understanding consist of innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance, and reasonableness.

    That said, not all forms of force have the same characteristics. You specifically spoke of someone putting their hand on your arm. It’s quite common for someone to do this once, but I don’t I can’t recall a person doing this repetitively, absent an effort to take someone into custody (an entirely different scenario). So it wouldn’t strike me as reasonable to assume that someone who put his hand on your arm once, and was disengaged, is going to do so again, and to use that assumption as a basis for further pre-emptive force against them.

    Punches, on the other hand, are routinely thrown in a repetitive manner, and rapidly so. A pretty good indicator that someone is going to punch you a second time is that they punched you the first time. Also, of course, punches represent a much greater threat of harm than does a a hand placed on your arm. In the context of a thrown punch I would think it would be reasonable to perceive an imminent successive blow.

    In that case, however, the key self-defense law element is imminence–the reasonable belief that a successive blow is about to strike, based on a common understanding of the manner in which punches are typically thrown–not a mere assumption of “persistence” or “recurrence.”

    Of course, if you have a relevant statute, jury instruction, or court decision that references “persistence” or “preventing a recurrence” as an element of self-defense, I’d certainly be interested in seeing it. I love to learn new things. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

I think Andrew is attributing more force to the punch than can be determined from the video. Palmer is RUSHING forward. If there is any firmness at all to Rice’s punch it is going to knock her backwards, the same as if she ran into the edge of an open door. Have you ever seen somebody just walk into a door? They’re head will go flying backwards, and this gal was launching herself.

I would not be surprised at all if the punch was pretty close to minimal on the scale of Rice’s punching power, and it is likely in any case that what knocked her out was hitting her head on the steel railing. THAT part looks vicious but since SHE is clearly the initiator of this last stage of the conflict, engaging in clear escalation, it seems that the obvious dangers from fighting in an enclosed elevator should fall to her more than to him. She ran at him in close proximity to steel handrails. She is the one who should foresee the possibility that the resulting conflict might result in one or the other of them hitting their head on the railing. Why is this on him when it is SHE who escalated the conflict?

The punch MIGHT have been disproportional but the video does allow us to determine that. There would have to be some medical evidence of damage to the right side of her face to indicate that it was the punch that knocked her out (it was the back of her head and the left side of her face that hit the handrail).

Are there pictures from after? Did she have a big bruise on the right side of her face? I haven’t heard any such evidence, and if it doesn’t exist, I would think should militate strongly against a judgment of disproportional force.

She popped him in the mouth before she got on the elevator so he is obviously used to being hit by this woman. Maybe he knew from experience that her launching herself meant a forceful attack. Nobody has to stand there and let someone punch them in the face.

What is disturbing here is the obvious double standard. If a small man had popped Rice in the mouth outside the elevator, and then in response to Rice’s tit-for-tat poke back had launched himself at Rice, nobody in the world would fault Rice for fending off this clear escalation with a punch.

So the guy hits his head on the railing. He is obviously the one who incurred the risks of fighting next to a handrail. How does that get switched around just because it is a woman? She’s coming right at his face. Surely the law can’t require that he try to contain that attack rather than knock it away. If so, the law is an ass.

Love that Mark Levin on his show just now notes that the prosecutor of Rice didn’t prosecute him……even though he had the video, saw the video, and knew the entire picture – having full access to all the visual evidence.

Sounds like Rice was NOT convicted, after all. His acceptance of a deal to have a probationary period after a first offense……and he was NOT found guilty of a crime……

Makes me wonder, once again, if he and his wife may sue for wrongful termination, etc. – especially since she didn’t press charges AND the prosecutor didn’t see fit to prosecute him. Notice I didn’t say WIN a law suit; I said sue the NFL, the Ravins franchise, etc. – all the “big money” they can go after. I’m sure there are lawyers they can (and probably will) find that will be more than willing to try.

Smugness and snark don’t answer questions and blur truth and facts – regardless of MSM frenzy over a TMZ-released video, high emotions over knocking out a woman, and many false premises and assumptions made by pompous brainiacs.

R. v. Palmer gives a nice description of the relevant common law principle of self-defence which has been omitted from the discussion here, and that is: “If there has been an attack so that the defence is reasonably necessary, it will be recognized that a person defending himself cannot weigh to a nicety the exact measure of defensive action.” If that is applied to what is going on in the elevator in the Ray Rice incident, he still has a good case for self-defence to be put to the judgment of a jury, since no one exercising the right of self-defence could survive if he had to stop and judge precisely the exact measure of defensive force to use and no more before acting.

    Except New Jersey has a statutory framework for self-defense, and the event took place in Atlantic City.

    In any case, NOBODY is expected to “weigh a nicety to the exact measure of defensive action,” not anywhere.

    The issue is whether a right cross from an elite physical athlete in a violent contact sport that knocks out a smaller, weaker woman attacking him with slaps was a reasonably proportional use of defensive force relevant to the threat.

    Good luck selling THAT to a jury.

    There’s a reason Rice was charged with, and pleaded to, aggravated assault, and it wasn’t because he had a robust self-defense narrative.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

BOOM – I told ya so! (

Yeah, I went there……I’m being petty, perhaps, but snark and a disregard from the OBVIOUS possible response by Rice from a self-declared fellow-“conservative” is unacceptable, IMHO.)

Ray Rice to appeal suspension and consider possible legal action over loss of $35 million contract, as he claims he told NFL and Ravens about abuse incident in June

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