Thursday, June 15, 2023

Daniel Penny, Jordan Williams & the Self-Defense Dilemma

It happened again.  Another attack in the subway resulted in one dead and another arrested.  The case is similar to that of Daniel Penny who killed Jordan Neely, however, things are very much different.  Jordan Williams, only 20, was with his girlfriend on the J train. Devictor Ouedraogo, 36 who is an ex-con was also on the same train. 

He began to attack people on the train including the young couple. Quedraogo punched Williams' girlfriend and all hell broke loose. The two men got into a scuffle. At one point, they were holding each other's head in a lock until Williams pull out a knife and stabbed Quedrago. The latter later succumbed to his injuries.  Williams and his girlfriend stayed on the train and were met with police at the Chauncey Street station. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. 

At his appearance in court today, the judge released Williams out without bail despite the Brooklyn District Attorney's office asking for a $100,000 bail. According to those present, the judge was very sympathetic to Williams telling him, "I have every reason to believe you will fight this case."  Perhaps the fact that the young man recently graduated from high school and was wearing his senior hoody sweatshirt may have had something to do with it, not to mention that the young man has no criminal record. Many witnesses spoke in defense of Williams saying he did the right thing. However, one disagreed stating "It's certainly something he didn't start or would have probably been involved in if it weren't for, you know, the guy who was killed being the aggressor," the witness said. "But you can't kill someone just because, you know, they started a fight with you." 

As expected, armchair political pundits on social media began making comparisons between the case of Penny and Neely with this new one. Some claim that it is not fair that Penny is being made out to be a murderer while the court seems more sympathetic to Williams. Others say that racism is at place. It ok over a week for Penny to be arrested and charged, but Williams was immediately arrested and charged. There does seem to be a discrepancy between the two cases. 

However, we must remember that one happened in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. Each county has its own District Attorney. That being stated, things will be done a bit differently. Nevertheless, the claim that Williams was immediately arrested while Penny was let go by the police is something we need to look into carefully.  In the case of Penny, he was the aggressor who came from behind and grabbed Neely as he was yelling for food and acting erratically.  Neely did not attack anyone physically. In the case of Williams, Quedraogo was attacking people physically, including Williams' girlfriend who was punched. So we see a big difference here.  

Moreover, Williams had a knife while Penny did not have a weapon.   In the case of Penny, he should have simply not gotten involved.  In fact, New Yorkers are known for ignoring things on the subway, including people who may be behaving erratically.  As for Williams, Quedraogo was the physical aggressor so the situation was different. Williams had no choice but to fight back. This man had just attacked people and punched his girlfriend.  However, he could have hit the assailant back or shoved him to the ground and fled with his girlfriend.  Stabbing the man with a knife could have been avoided. He could have used the knife to scare the assailant. The knife should only have been used if the assailant was attacking Williams to the point that Williams could not get a hit in or was incapacitated to the point that he could not retreat or fight back and stabbing him was the only option.  

Both cases have brought into the spotlight the crime problem in NYC's subway system and the fact that citizens have to fend for themselves. Citizens should not have to be put into this situation. They should be able to pay their fare and get on the subway to their destinations without issue. Moreover, it highlights the need to educate New Yorkers on how to defend themselves without catching a case. The duty to retreat clause is there, but more needs to be done to make it clear what force can be used and what constitutes self-defense in different situations. 

If not, we will continue to see these cases.  During an altercation, people are not thinking about the law or consequences. They are trying to survive.  Survival instincts kick in.  Everyone has the right to self-preservation, but the law must find a balance so that people can defend themselves and not be worried about breaking the law. There also has to be a balance that allows for people to fend off assailants without killing them and flexibility in regard to retreating.  The law cannot account for every situation, so this is why we have to reexamine these laws again and make them more flexible by clearly giving specific common situations and what to do in regard to self-defense and retreat.

UPDATE June 28, 2023

Jordan Williams was just cleared of any wrongdoing. All charges were dropped against him!

What do you think? Comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment goes through.  


UPDATED Source June 28, 2023:

Grand jury dismisses all counts against Jordan Williams (

Charges dropped against Jordan Williams who fatally stabbed homeless man on subway - ABC7 New York (

Grand jury dismisses all counts against Jordan Williams (

Charges dismissed against man in fatal Brooklyn subway stabbing, DA says | PIX11

Brooklyn train-stabber Jordan Williams dodges manslaughter prosecution (

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