This article sets forth the primary theories which might underlie the right of self-defense: necessity, duress, and personal autonomy. The article then examines the common law and the law of Washington governing the use of force in self-defense and demonstrates that both are grounded primarily in the utilitarian theory of necessity, which has as its primary objective the minimization of social loss even at the cost of harm to individual innocent victims. The article then analyzes the inadequate manner in which Washington courts are resolving difficult cases involving the use of deadly force in self-defense. Finally, the article argues that the law of self-defense ought to be grounded primarily in the theory of personal autonomy and, accordingly, that the law should be changed explicitly to permit recourse to deadly force by innocent victims against aggressors whenever necessary to defend effectively against unlawful violence. Additionally, the article argues that such a shift in underlying theory and explicit reformulation is not necessarily inconsistent with utilitarian objectives and that, in any event and more importantly, such a shift is necessary to insure that the law is congruent with current public values and affords citizens reasonable assurance of preserving their bodily integrity.
John Q. La Fond, The Case for Liberalizing the Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense, 6 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 237 (1983).