If I killed Osama bin Laden

Lets say I spot Osama in New York and shoot him in a restaurant with lots of witnesses.

Since it all happened on American soil, would this be regarded as a felony? What would be the punishment?

Why wouldn’t it be? Does America no longer classify murder as a felony?

You, as a private citizen, kill someone you *believe *to be wanted by our government in front of witnesses, and you ask if it would be a felony?

I presume the punishment would be decided by the judge at the trial.

Well, there is a price on his head, technically for information leading to his apprehension or conviction. By shooting him dead we cannot either convict or apprehend him (the FBI notice does not state dead or alive) so you wouldn’t get any kind of immunity. The most you should do is what any bounty hunter would do to capture a subject.

You would likely go to trial for murder, but I can’t imagine any American jury convicting you.

I checked; the wanted poster doesn’t say “dead or alive.”

The only legal systems I know about are the Canadian and British ones, and that’s precious little. So I do ask this genuinely:

I believe the OP is setting up a scenario where guilt is easily shown. He mentions witnesses, and being in a public place. Now, if there are a dozen witnesses willing to testify to his guilt, and the security cameras have footage of the shooting, and ballistics matches the bullet the kills the victim to the one that scamartistry is holding when arrested… can the jury come back with a non-guilty verdict? Does the judge have to accept that?

Yes. See Jury Nullification - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification

The jury’s right to acquittal is absolute. A not-guilty verdict can not be rejected by a judge.

A guilty verdict can be voided by a judge in certain circumstances, usually if he feels the trial was flawed in some way.

That said, I have a bit more faith in American juries than Regallag_The_Axe does. I don’t see many of them tolerating a clear murder in broad daylight, even if it is Osama. People have been convicted for assassinating far lesser villains.

If all else fails, I’m sure whoever the president is at the time would realize it’d be political suicide not to pardon the shooter.

So when this goes to court, would the judge keep the victim, Osama, anonymous?

I asked a similar question a few years ago, and apparently murdering Bin Laden would make you very unpopular.

Bin Laden Hypothetical

scamartistry, the FBI wanted posters advises you:

In a pinch, I don’t think anyone would complain if you called 911 and told them you were staring at Bin Laden and they needed to apprehend him immediately.

However, you are suggesting that you approach someone you believe to be Bin Laden, based purely on some visual observation, and shoot him dead without any provocation, or confirmation of his identity?

Let’s change it to the guy stands up and proclaims “I am Bin Laden!”, but is unarmed and just standing there, and you shoot him dead.

In either case, you are guilty of murder, regardless of any prior acts by Bin Laden.

You would only be excused legally from murder if he made some extant threat to you are people in the area, such as brandishing a weapon or a bomb.

Would the DA attempt to prosecute, or would he try to negotiate a plea bargain, or would he decide to drop charges? Would likely depend more on his assessment of public sentiment and his desire to send a message about vigilanteism.

Would the jury convict? If it can be shown to be Bin Laden, highly unlikely given the circumstances of who he is. Juries have the right of nullification, even if courts frown on it. They can decide that this instance is justified and decide that whatever the law says, they aren’t convinced the circumstances of this case specifically meet the intent of the law, and return Not Guilty anyway, even in the face of witnesses, physical evidence like video, gun ownership, ballistics, etc.

The one thing I’m not certain about is if the judge is compelled to accept their verdict, or is able to set it aside or otherwise reject it based upon the merits of the testimony.

Assuming that the DA decided to prosecute, the jury followed instructions and evalutated the evidence on the merits against the laws as written and didn’t take into account who Bin Laden was, then yes you could be convicted of murder, and punished according to the laws of that jurisdiction just like any other convicted murderer. Those are some big ifs.

tr0psn4j said:

I don’t see how, it goes to motive. “Why did you kill this stranger in broad daylight, in front of witnesses?” " Because he was the notorious terrorist and villain Osama Bin Laden."

friedo said:

That’s what I thought.

But that’s hardly the point, because they are lesser villains. The question is if we reach a point where the notoriousness and vileness of the victim is sufficient to outweigh, in the people’s minds, the legality of the act. Just because one notorious villain does not reach that standard does not mean some greater villain might not.
“I’m Hitler.” bang “Hey, you can’t shoot him!” “But it was Hitler?!” (Okay, he’s already dead. Notoriousness was needed.)

Yes, see, these were the two answers I kept finding when trying to look it up. You can understand my confusion.

IDK but that scenario just made me LMAO. . . Can you imagine someone in Mahattan going “there’s Bin Laden!” and pulling out a gun and shotting. . . Can you imagine Bin Laden having lunch downtown. . . I bet he’s having the chicken salad on rye. . .

Bin Laden was comin’ right at you when you shot him, wasn’t he? Think hard before you answer.

sciurophobic, I think there is a slight difference between the scenario described in this thread, where Bin Laden is roaming free and the citizen takes apprehension upon himself in the most direct way possible, and the scenario from your thread, where apprehension is completed, and then someone takes punishment upon himself while Bin Laden is already in custody.


How much did he tip?

Would the situation be different if a French resistance fighter poisoned a Nazi who was eating dinner at a Paris restaurant? Why, or why not? Are we at war, or not?

The FBI doesn’t really have much to do with this, apart from advertising his mug. The State Dept. funds a $25mil bounty “pot” to finance leads or actors in his “capture or death.” Of course you would be arrested and detained until the details were sorted out, but assuming you kept your mouth shut, a good lawyer with the right connections will have Federal law trumping any possible state murder charges.

You go free and the mayor gives you the key to city.