A criminal court in the Czech Republic indicted “Lamb of God” lead singer Randy Blythe for their country’s version of manslaughter, or causing bodily harm to another person with lethal consequences. The 41 year old Blythe is accused of pushing a fan from the Lamb of God stage during a 2007 concert. As a result of the push the fan hit his head on a concrete floor below causing his death two weeks later. Under Czech speedy trial rules, Blythe’s trial date must be set within 3 months presumably from indictment. If convicted, Blythe will face between five and ten years in prison.
Just about every media outlet describes the incident as one where Lamb of God was performing on stage and due to either lax venue security, insufficient barricading, or both, this fan was able to trespass onto the band’s stage. Once the fan accessed the stage he proceeded swiftly toward Blythe who reacted and pushed him away. The unfortunate consequence of death resulted from the push.
So we know someone died and someone else has been accused of causing that death in a fashion not premeditated. Will the charges stick and should they? Generally a “manslaughter” charge is very similar state to state and in most civilized countries not using some type of religiously fanatical court. In its most stripped down form it is the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of someone else, without lawful justification according to the justifiable use of force statute and in cases in which such killing should not be excusable homicide or murder. The Florida manslaughter statute is codified at 782.07 if you’d like to take a further look. Manslaughter without any type of aggravating factor is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The key portion of the statute to focus on is the language “without lawful justification.” Obviously the killing of another without a reason is illegal. However, if someone appears ready to inflict some type of physical harm upon you, you have a right to defend yourself. Stated differently, you have lawful justification. Blythe’s case will rise and fall on whether the trier of fact believes his assertion of self defense is justified.
Using Florida law in interpreting Blythe’s defense, if I were his Tampa criminal lawyer I would lobby for “justifiable use of deadly force” jury instruction under Florida Jury Instruction 3.6(f) as it casts the widest net. In order to get this instruction you must show:
A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent
1. imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or
2. the imminent commission of (applicable forcible felony) against himself or another.
Under this jury instruction “deadly force” is defined as force likely to cause death or great bodily harm. Should the jury find Blythe was justified to use deadly force, they should acquit him. Oddly, what’s different about this case is that for all practical purposes Blythe wasn’t using deadly force when he pushed this guy, despite his push causing injury which lead to death. That being said, perhaps the more applicable jury instruction is found under Florida’s justifiable use of non-deadly force instruction at 3.6(g). Under this instruction Blythe would have been justified to defend himself if the following were proven:
1. Blythe must have reasonably believed that such conduct was necessary to defend himself or another against the victim’s imminent use of unlawful force against the defendant or another person.
2. The use of unlawful force by the victim must have appeared to Blythe to be ready to take place.
Realistically under each scenario I believe Blythe has a complete defense to these charges. In fact, I’ll go so far to say it’s utterly ridiculous that he’s being charged to begin with. In 2004 the band Pantera’s lead guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot in the head three times while performing on stage. The murderer went on to kill two additional people at this concert. As Blythe’s Tampa criminal attorney I would put Blythe on the stand and walk him through his testimony regarding his incident and how the Dimebag Darrell incident affected him. It surely wouldn’t hurt to put other members of the band on the stand in addition to any other favorable witnesses that saw the incident. At the end of the day, this victim was trespassing and no doubt rushed toward Blythe so as to avoid detainer by security. Taken as a whole there is no doubt Blythe feared for his safety and likely his life. It is unfortunate that some Prosecutors hook into high profile cases and shift from their duty of administering of justice to chasing their legacy. Shame on this Czech prosecutor’s office and best of luck to Blythe and his legal team though I do not believe, in a fair system, they will need it.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal lawyer practicing in Florida and Tennessee. If you are facing criminal allegations, please contact us at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.