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district attorney ben david /actual statement

September 26, 2007 District Attorney Ben David's Statement Regarding the Death of Sam Flinn Thanks to the excellent work of the Wilmington Police Department, we now have a clear understanding of what happened in the early morning hours of September 23, 2007. Now I want to speak to you about what those facts mean in legal terms. Everyone closely involved in the investigation, from the police to the prosecutors, is united in concluding that no one should be criminally charged in this tragic incident. This case serves as another example of the close working relationship between WPD and the District Attorney's Office, and our joint commitment to embrace a police/prosecutor team approach to seek justice in homicide cases. WPD first notified me at 3:30 am and I personally responded to the police station early Sunday morning, and have remained actively involved in the investigation since that time. Senior Assistant DAs from my office have worked closely with the detectives over the past few days to ensure that all leads were exhausted and the truth of what occurred is known. Also, we have carefully researched the controlling criminal law of North Carolina that applies to this situation. As in all cases, we have followed a process of applying the facts to the law, and have come to a decision that is warranted under the circumstances. The facts are clear that the victim's friend, Doug Reece, initiated the conflict with Jeffery Collins that ultimately led to Sam Flinn's participation in the fight. At some point during the confrontation, Mr. Collins struck Mr. Flinn, causing an injury that proved to be fatal. A person who deliberately brings on a fight by word or action has committed the criminal offense of an affray. A review of the facts discloses that Mr. Reece unlawfully assaulted Mr. Collins. Mr. Flinn attempted to intervene in an effort to assist Mr. Reece, who was the wrongdoer in this confrontation. In this circumstance, the law authorizes Mr. Collins to act in self defense against both Mr. Reece and Mr. Flinn, as he was not the initial aggressor. In the exercise of self defense, a person cannot use more force then is reasonably necessary to repel an attack. Mr. Collins was confronted with a non-deadly threat and responded appropriately with matching force, i.e., the use of his fists as opposed to any type of deadly weapon. The Medical Examiner concluded that the injuries to Mr. Flinn's body are entirely consistent with those suffered during an unremarkable fist fight. The medical authorities also found the cause of death to be a brain hemorrhage that is typical of one suffered by someone who is intoxicated and receives a blow to the chin. The physical evidence from the autopsy is corroborated by the accounts of numerous eyewitnesses. Although the injuries to Mr. Flinn proved to be fatal, the amount of force that Mr. Collins employed was a measured response to the unlawful actions of Mr. Reece and Mr. Flinn. Further, the law does not impose a duty to retreat in this circumstance. Jeffery Collins was justified in the use of self defense and he used a reasonable amount of force to repel an unlawful attack. The fact that the consequences were both severe and unintended does not elevate a tragedy to a crime. Earlier today, we spoke with the family of Mr. Flinn and informed them of our decision not to prosecute anyone in connection with the death of their son. We expressed our deep sympathy for their loss, but explained to them that we will not compound this tragedy by pursuing criminal charges that are neither supported by the law nor the facts. The parents agreed that no criminal charges should be filed and expressed the hope that something positive could be learned from their son's death. They asked for privacy and that they not be contacted by the press in their time of grief. During the course of this investigation, witnesses admitted to illegal activity, including underage drinking, illegal drug use, and an affray. In this regard, I decline to take any criminal action for two reasons: First, there is no nexus between the crimes which occurred and the death of Mr. Flinn sufficient to charge anyone with an offense of criminal homicide. Second, I do not believe that it is in the public's interest to charge anyone with the other listed offenses. In conducting the interviews of witnesses, the police needed the cooperation and honesty of many people who admitted to their own unlawful behavior. It would have a chilling effect on future cases if we were to arrest witnesses for these misdemeanor offenses in the context of a homicide investigation. Also, in this particular case, many of those involved are probably suffering under their own form of self-imposed punishment. This case serves as another tragic reminder of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, particularly in the hands of the very young. I have shared our findings with Chancellor Rosemary Depaolo of The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I remain committed to working with UNCW and local law enforcement to address the problems associated with off-campus parties. Sincerely, Benjamin R. David District Attorney

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