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November 14, 2010

"'Castle doctrine' coming under fire; Critics: Right to kill intruder is being used to defend criminals"

The title of this post is the headline of this timely article appearing in today's Columbus Dispatch.  Here is how the article gets started:

Ohio prosecutors warned two years ago that the "castle doctrine" would add an unwelcome page to the playbook of criminal-defense lawyers.

The 2008 law, designed to protect the grandmother who shoots an intruder in her home in the middle of the night, increasingly is being used to defend murder suspects as not legally responsible for their deeds.

The castle doctrine states that people are presumed to be acting in self-defense when they use deadly force and injure or kill someone who illegally enters their occupied home or vehicle.

But critics say the law is silent about the appropriate level of force in response to threats, as well as the fault or criminal conduct of people who create situations that imperil themselves. "It was not made to protect drug dealers from drug dealers, but that's how it's being used," Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said.

In rural Pike County, a man who ripped off a drug dealer's wares shot the dealer through the heart after he broke a window in an attempt to enter the defendant's car. Defense attorneys contended that the man acted lawfully. A jury convicted him of reckless homicide rather than murder.

In Franklin County, a man fatally stabbed an acquaintance who pushed his way into the defendant's home during an argument. His attorneys said the law granted him an absolute right to defend himself with deadly force. The prosecution countered that the law "is not a license to commit murder."

November 14, 2010 in Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink

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Comments

Some interesting retributivist underpinnings here.... "was not made to protect drug dealers from drug dealers"... It seems like legislators wanted this law to apply to a specific class of individual, but didn't write that into the statute (though, it seems that this would not be too difficult to do. We don't allow felons to own guns, what if we didn't presume self-defense for any felons either?). I would also be interested to see others' perspectives on creating presumptions of self-defense in any instance when one uses deadly force... I definitely feel a tension between "innocent until proven guilty" and the fact that that when there's a dead body, someone should be able to explain how and why it got there.

Posted by: Michael Shoenfelt | Nov 16, 2010 9:05:27 AM

I agree with Mr. Shoenfelt. It definitely seems like legislators wanted this law to apply to a specific class of individual. At least that's the way this article makes it seem. A law to "protect the grandmother who shoots an intruder in her home in the middle of the night" but not a law to "protect drug dealers from drug dealers".

I would argue, though, that we see a utilitarian argument for this statute deterring future crimes/home invasions, etc. I find the potential for getting shot more of a deterrent for breaking into a home then a potential burglary charge. A utilitarian might say, "good...let people get shot for breaking into a home...then we don't have to worry about rehabilitation or incarceration...and this will bolster our desire for a deterrent effect."

Posted by: Luke@CrimLaw | Nov 16, 2010 9:37:35 AM

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