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Las Vegas Tourist Claims Self-Defense in Punching Death

Benjamin Hawkins, from Florida, was on vacation in Las Vegas with his family. John Massie, from Utah, was also in Las Vegas. After the two men encountered each other at the O’Sheas casino, Massie was dead, and Hawkins is now awaiting arraignment on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

An inaudible video of the two men’s encounter from the O’Sheas security camera has given both the prosecution and the defense many aspects of this case. The problem, these aspects are subject to interpretation and are being interpreted differently by both sides.

In the video, the 46-year old Massie leaves a restroom at O’Sheas. He then stands by a door near the food court. Moments later, 38-year old Hawkins leaves the restroom and begins to head to a gaming table to meet up with his wife and friends. As Hawkins passes Massie, the two have words. Hawkins begins to walk away when Massie takes three steps, coming up behind Hawkins. Hawkins spins around and punches Massie, slamming his head onto the casino floor. Massie dies as a result of the head trauma caused when his head his the floor.

Hawkins says Massie was intoxicated and bumped into him in the restroom. As he passed Massie, Massie began talking trash to him, called him a racial slur, and then aggressively approached him. Though an O’Shea casino security guard says that is what Hawkins told him, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (LVMP) detective says Hawkins and a witness told LVMP that Massie only called Hawkins a “black guy.” Hawkins also told the LVMP that when he punched Massie, he was not angry, but scared for himself, his wife and family, and friends.

The Las Vegas police charged Hawkins with involuntary manslaughter after originally considering charging him with murder. Hawkins is pleading self-defense. An arraignment hearing is set for April 23, 2012.
Under the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), involuntary manslaughter is “the killing of a human being, without any intent to do so, in the commission of an unlawful act, or a lawful act which probably might produce such a consequence in an unlawful manner.” NRS 200.070
Under NRS 200.200, a defendant successfully proves they acted in self-defense when it is shown that:
1. The danger was so urgent and pressing that, in order to save the person’s own life, or to prevent the person from receiving great bodily harm, the killing of the other was absolutely necessary; and 2. The person killed was the assailant, or that the slayer had really, and in good faith, endeavored to decline any further struggle before the mortal blow was given.

Involuntary manslaughter is a category D felony, which carries a punishment of 1 to 4 years in prison, and a $5 thousand fine. NRS 200.090
The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in the above-referenced case. The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.