Even justified self-defense may land you in prison

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None of us really hope to have to use a firearm in self-defense. However, if we do, most of us receive a great deal of training in hopes that we’ll use that gun wisely should the need arise. The goal is to not just go home to our families but also to stay out of prison.

Yet what if you use your firearm in self-defense, a jury finds that you did indeed act in self-defense, but you still land in prison?

Sounds bizarre, right?

Well, it’s the reality for one woman in Georgia.

A Bulloch County judge sentenced Ashlyn Griffin on Monday, four days after a jury returned a split verdict in her murder trial.

Monday’s afternoon sentencing hearing began with an announcement from Judge F. Gates Peed. He told both parties that he received an email from the alternate juror in the case, who had been sequestered from the remaining jurors during deliberations. The email was not read aloud in open court, nor was the juror identified, but detailed concerns of the individual about the jury which found Griffin guilty of some offenses.

Case Details 

Statesboro Police charged Griffin with murder in the shooting death of her boyfriend, Brandon McCray, in June 2020. Though the agency arrested McCray for violently assaulting Griffin in 2018, when Griffin claimed she acted in self-defense in the 2020 case, neither the police nor District Attorney Daphne Totten believed her. Totten presented the case to a grand jury in November 2020.

In November 2021, Griffin testified at her own immunity hearing, sharing with the court why she feared for her life when she shot McCray. When she stated that she didn’t want McCray to die, Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black moved for the motion for immunity to be dismissed, which Judge F. Gates Peed granted.

Now, let me jump in here to say that this makes no sense. Yes, Griffin didn’t want McCray to die, but many other people who act in self-defense cases can say the same thing. They’re not hoping the other party dies, they just don’t want to be killed themselves.

How that somehow warrants a motion for immunity to be dismissed is beyond me.

Moving on to the verdict itself…

A jury of twelve determined Thursday that Griffin was acting in self-defense when she killed McCray, but returned an inconsistent verdict on two other charges. Jurors said Griffin was guilty of Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony during the same incident. Both charges are felonies and carry a one to twenty year sentence and a one to five year sentence, respectively. Georgia law requires that the Possession of a Firearm sentence run consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

So Griffin was found by the jury to have acted in self-defense, yet her shooting him still landed her in prison. She got 10 years in the slammer and another 10 years of probation for this crap.

I honestly don’t see how the jury can see it this way. Especially since it appears that Griffin was a victim of domestic abuse, which means she had ample reason to fear for her life.

I’ve looked for other circumstances for these charges, such as acting in self-defense putting other people at risk or something, and I can’t find it. The shooting happened in a private residence, after all.

It seems the aggravated assault charge stems from her acting in self-defense, which makes no sense at all.

The question we need to ask is whether this could happen to us, and that really depends on a lot of factors. However, I think we’d all do well to understand that no matter how justified we are in pulling that trigger, the criminal justice system isn’t necessarily there for us. It’s not about right and wrong but whether a prosecutor can notch another win on their belt.

Ashlyn Griffin acted in self-defense. The jury agrees.

She’s still going to prison, and the next one could be any of us.