Last week, on September 11th, 2013, while America was mourning the loss of its citizens and heroes on 9/11, a French jeweler shot and killed a teenager who had just robbed him at gunpoint. The country has since reacted as to whether Stephan Turk, the jeweler, was justified in killing Anthony Asli, a teenager. Mr Asli, 19, and another young man, entered the 67 year old, Mr. Turk’s store, punched and kicked him, and forced him to open his safe. As the two young men were speeding away on a motor scooter, Mr. Turk shot and killed Asli. While gun violence is uncommon in France, robberies are very prevalent. According to the National Observatory on Delinquency, there is a robbery every 90 seconds in France.
Mr. Turk, regretful that the young man had been killed, said that he was defending himself, and an unusually large number of French people, have stood behind Mr. Turk. Commentators and lawyers on the subject say that the French people are fed up with the persistent robberies, and view Mr. Turk as a symbol that stood up for himself, and is being lauded as a hero. The support is so strong that 1.6 million people have “liked” the Facebook page created for Mr. Turk. Additionally, in Nice where the incident occurred, jewelers closed their stores for 15 minutes to protest. French law is similar to United States law in that it allows the use of force if a person is threatened with imminent bodily harm. While American states differ on the topic, and there are variations on the law, the baseline is that there must be an imminent threat. While I can understand the frustration of the French people with robbery, there is basically no room to argue that Mr. Turk faced an imminent threat when Mr. Asli was driving away. However, it seems that there is a large faction of the French that in this case, values property over life. Does Mr. Turk have any chance of successfully defending himself? Should the definition of self-defense be changed in France to deter crime? I can’t think of a situation where property can be valued over life justifiably, but some seem to think differently.
Photo (NY Daily News)