The French Jeweler’s Frustration

Nice citizens, holden a banner writing "No in jail, Yes to self defense", take part in a rally supporting Stephan Turk, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Nice southeastern France.  Outrage is growing over the decision to bring manslaughter charges against Stephan Turk, 67, as  the country's top security official on Tuesday, Sept. 17,  urged fearful storekeepers to let justice take its course.  Turk was confined at home with an electronic bracelet after the shooting last week that left a teenage robber dead in the street outside Turk's jewelry store. An accomplice escaped on a motorbike.  (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

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.

New York Times

Photo (NY Daily News)

3 comments

  1. Was Mr. Turk justified in shooting the 19 year old boy who robbed him? In America and in France, in order to prove self-defense, Mr. Turk would have to show that there was an imminent threat to his life. At first, there was a risk to his life when Mr. Asli came in and punched and kicked Mr. Turk until he opened the safe. At this point, Mr. Turk’s life was being threatened. However; Mr. Asli sped away on a motor scooter and was shot by Mr. Turk when he was fleeing. It can be argued that at this time, Mr. Turk’s life was not threatened and there was no imminent threat to his being. Mr. Turk had the opportunity to grab his gun and chase after the boy and shoot him. In the United States, some states say that in order to claim self-defense, the use of force must be proportional. Was the amount of force that Mr. Turk used to kill Mr. Asli equal to the amount of force Mr. Asli was using? That is a difficult question because Mr. Asli was a young boy in comparison to Mr. Turk who is an older man. A young man punching and kicking an old man can inflict serious injuries and can cause death. Even though French law allows the use of deadly force when there is an imminent threat, it is difficult to determine if Mr. Turk can successfully prove self-defense.

  2. This reminds me of the famous 1980s New York case of People v. Goetz, where Mr. Goetz shot and seriously injured four young black men on the subway (who may or may not have been trying to rob him), and was later acquitted on all charges except for one possession charge. Similar to the French jewelry situation, there was significant public outcry about crime on the subways and Mr. Goetz was heralded as the “Subway Vigilante” after he claimed self-defense.

    Mr. Turk’s claim of self-defense, is almost more disgusting than Mr. Goetz’s. The fact that the intruders were driving away from the jewelry store clearly shows that Mr. Turk’s actions do not comport with any reasonable understanding of self defense. However, if Goetz is any predictor, reasonableness may fly out the window due to the public backlash against crime.

    Hopefully there will be justice for Mr. Asli, but perhaps French politicians and media should use this as an opportunity to draw attention to crime problems in France and force an adequate government response.

  3. There doesn’t really seem to be any defense for the jeweler in this situation. Although there was an imminent threat while he was being robbed, after they had left the store, there was no longer any threat. One can understand the frustration as a result of being robbed, but shooting and killing someone is not a justifiable response.

    The huge support shown for Turk thus far makes this more than just an ordinary shooting. There will be huge media coverage and a cult-like following. There will also be protests during the hearings and trial. However, people must realize that although people are in huge support of him, it does not mean that he did not kill someone.

    The French definition of self-defense may need some altering to deter events like this from happening. But I’m sure in doing so there will be a lot of opposition. Regardless, events like this should not be happening and people should not be justified in killing people. Even though Mr. Asli committed a crime, justice should be served and Turk should not get away with murder.

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