When the Rule of Law Fails Us

The key word in that definition is “unjustifiable.” That’s because New York State law provides a defense of justification, which permits a person to use physical force on another person when it is “necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person.”

Even if some restraint was justifiable, Penny may face conviction if the restraint is deemed excessive. Thus, he has two primary points of legal peril: the initial decision to restrain Neely and the nature of the restraint itself, a prolonged chokehold.

No one should be certain of what the outcome of the case will be. There is still much we don’t know, including the perceptions of the other passengers on the train and the reasons Penny held Neely for so long. But one striking aspect of the public commentary surrounding Neely’s death is the sheer number of people who’ve shared stories of their own…

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This article was written by David French and originally published on www.nytimes.com