An inquest jury should not have been allowed to return an unlawful killing verdict in the case of a man shot dead by police, the High Court has heard.
Police had been tipped off that Mr Stanley was armed
Pc Kevin Fagan and Ch Insp Neil Sharman opened fire on Harry Stanley, 46, in Hackney, east London in 1999.
Police had been tipped off that Mr Stanley was armed, but he was in fact carrying a table leg in a plastic bag.
The policemen have launched a legal challenge to quash the unlawful killing verdict returned by a second inquest.
The first hearing in 2002 returned an open verdict, but the second one was ordered after a campaign by Mr Stanley's family.
Edmund Lawson QC, representing Ch Insp Sharman, asked the High Court to rule the second inquest "defective" and the verdict to be quashed.
He said the unlawful killing verdict amounted to "murder by the police", and should not have been left to the jury to decide.
Mr Stanley had been walking home from a pub with the table leg in a plastic bag when police received a 999 call from someone believing he was carrying a sawn-off shotgun.
Ch Insp Sharman had killed Mr Stanley with a pistol shot to the head, while PC Fagan had fired and wounded him in the hand as he had walked from the Alexandra pub.
Insp Neil Sharman is one of the officers fighting the verdict
Last October, an inquest jury reached a majority verdict that Mr Stanley had been unlawfully killed after a two week hearing .
Mr Lawson said on Tuesday the case was "of real public importance" because it could decide how armed police dealt with similar incidents in the future.
He told Mr Justice Leveson the police "responded quickly - and rightly so" to an emergency call they believed had been made in good faith.
The officers "acted as they did because they feared that Mr Stanley, whom they didn't know at all, was about to shoot them".
Mr Lawson said it could not be suggested the officers wanted to "kill Mr Stanley willy-nilly" as he had turned towards police after being challenged.