My good friend Derek has asked me (several) times if he could shoot someone he believed to be a zombie who was trying to eat him. Since I blogged about self-defense last week, I figured I would address Derek’s question here. Obviously, the answer is “no,” but why is the answer “no”?
First, an initial look at Texas law surrounding self-defense requires that, in order to use deadly force, a person (Derek, here) believe that (1) the use of deadly force is immediately necessary, (2) to prevent deadly force from being used against the person. Clearly, a zombie would inflict deadly force by gnawing at Derek’s flesh if it got close enough to attack him. Whether the use of deadly force was “immediately” required would depend on whether the zombie was a traditional slow-walking zombie, or was one of the “28 Days Later” kind of fast-moving zombies, in addition to the distance away the zombie was. If the zombie is, for example, slow moving, and is 50 feet away, it would not appear “immediately” necessary to shoot it. However, if the zombie is a fast-moving/running zombie, 50 feet could be covered fairly quickly, so the use of deadly force might be “immediately” necessary. And, of course, if Derek was being currently attacked by the zombie, clearly the use of deadly force would be “immediately” necessary.
So far, so good. The problem, however, relates to the “reasonableness” of Derek’s belief that the person is, in fact, a zombie. Self-defense requires that the belief that deadly force is required by “reasonable.” Here, then, by extension, we would have to convince a jury that it was “reasonable” for Derek to believe that a person was a zombie. Since zombies are not (for the moment…) real, it would be highly unlikely that anyone would find his belief that a person was a zombie to be “reasonable.” If his belief was not reasonable, then his subsequent use of deadly force would not be legally justifiable.
So, the answer is “no.”
Unless, of course, the person Derek believed (unreasonably) to be a zombie had broken into Derek’s home. Then, as I discussed last time around, Texas law would give rise to a presumption that deadly force was justified to prevent a burglary, regardless of whether the would-be burglar was a zombie or not. So, stay away from Derek’s house, I guess.