I've recently come across this video by Attorney Tommy John Kherkher regarding the subject of using deadly force in self defense. In his video, he presented a checklist of things which are required for a case to be considered self-defense and not murder or manslaughter.

The list is as follows:

  1. There is a belief of actual, imminent threat of deadly force (grievous bodily harm)
    • Belief must be OBJECTIVELY and SUBJECTIVELY reasonable
  2. Threat is unlawful and immediate
    • Must have clean hands
  3. Confronted with imminent peril
    • Force must be immediately necessary
  4. Response was necessary
    • Retreat may be required if:
      • Duty to retreat
      • There is an entirely safe place to retreat to
      • Safe place is known to the person retreating
        • Exception: Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground

The requirement for a threat to be objectively reasonable is pretty clear: Even if I have an irrational fear of something and that perceived threat seems subjectively reasonable to me, it is generally unreasonable. The example presented was his girlfriend "attacking" him with a purple plush unicorn and him supposedly being deadly afraid of said plush unicorn.

However, the requirement for a threat to be subjectively reasonable isn't obvious to me. If there is an objectively reasonable threat of deadly force (e.g. a stranger pointing a gun at me), why is it necessary to determine if I subjectively believed this to be an imminent danger to me?

Is there an example of a situation in which a threat would be objectively reasonable, but subjectively unreasonable?

  • 2
    What's the actual legal authority for the requirement? If someone says something in a video that's not a legal authority.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 22:24
  • @Greendrake Correct. I didn't look up the respective law, since I'm just a commoner and actually have no idea where to look up an actual law.
    – MechMK1
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


Because your buddy routinely points loaded firearms at you

First, you should probably get friends who don’t do this but, even though this is objectively a threat, you know that you are in no danger (barring accidents). Self-defence is not justified.

This is why there is the dual requirement that the danger is clear to both:

  • an objective observer, and
  • the person under threat.
  • 1
    As someone who is very passionate about firearms and firearm safety, the very idea of pointing a gun at someone I don't intend to shoot seems revolting to me. But it is indeed a great example and I find it astonishing that this is even being considered to be possible.
    – MechMK1
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 22:36
  • 1
    @MechMK1 yes, reckless idiots should no be allowed firearms. The correct thing to do with them is elect them to high office where they can do no harm.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 23:08
  • @MechMK1 clearly, if you don't suspect actual threat (even if there is!), and you kill, you basically opt to kill potentially under the premise that the objectively dangerous situation may disguise murder. Completely reasonable bar as Dale M outlined
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 2:20
  • @MechMK1 although, under in Hungarian law, if your judgement was reasonably misguided under the psychological conditions of imminent threat, you would also not be deemed culpable which gives quite a loophole, but at the same time is also reasonable if applied or structured correctly
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 2:22
  • 1
    This example might go either way since there is still an imminent threat of death, even if it's not expected. A clearer one might be that someone points an object that looks like a firearm but the defendant had prior knowledge that it was a prop. Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 2:23

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