Tag: Castle Doctrine in the United States

Granny Got Her Gun

The other day in my “Demagogue” post I let our vice president have it over his emotional tear fighting plea to pass his boss’s jobs bill using a worse then ,”Do it for the children” play, this was a ,”Pass this bill, or a criminal will rape, murder, steal your stuff” play. If only the real world was that simple. Sadly, the only real line of defense, no matter how many cops are on the streets, is your own ability to protect yourself. And when someone is breaking into your house in the dead of night and your safety is imperiled, forget the police/sheriffs/highway patrol/ FBI/ CIA, or even the TSA (not saying don’t call them, just don’t expect them to be there when you need them) what is going to pull your ass out of the grease and save your bacon is Smith&Wesson, Ruger, Glock, or Colt. Just ask Donna Hopper:

An elderly Northern California-woman woke early Friday morning to hear an intruder attempting to break into her home. CBS 12 reports that the 66-year-old Donna Hopper is still shaken after shooting the 37-year-old intruder dead:

Could you possibly find a sweeter looking woman, or a scarier looking burglar?

Redding is a rural town, not very big, mostly farmers and simple folk. I assume that Donna lives by herself, no mention of any one else in the house, and keeps a gun in the house for protection, the type of gun is not mentioned, but probably a hand gun of some kind.

The Searchlight reports that Theis had been released from jail the morning before the shooting took place.

Great, even more evidence that the state of California is going broke, can’t keep bad guys locked away, and can’t really protect the folks from being victims.

Reading through what happened, it sounds like every action she took was reasonable and prudent. But although she did nothing wrong, she still gets traumatized with being involved in someone’s death, not an easy thing to shake even if it was justified.

A few years ago on the other blog I used to write for we had some fun talking about Joe Horn. Texas has just passed a new more expanded version of the Castle doctrine, where people could use deadly force to protect their own property or to stop arson, burglary, robbery, theft or criminal mischief at night. Joe decided to test his new found freedoms, only it wasn’t his property he was protecting, it was his neighbor’s. Here is the 911 transcripts of how the whole thing went down.

Ultimately Joe was never charged.

I had a hard time justifying Joe’s actions. Clearly in his mind he thought he was justified in going outside and confronting the two guys and stopping the burglary that was in progress at his neighbor’s residence. Popular sentiment was with Joe, two dirtbags were dispatched and no innocents hurt, but to me, no property crime is worth taking a life, even a dirtbag’s life. Others might feel differently but (and I don’t live in Texas) I think this new law is just asking for trouble. Regardless of the fact that the law sanctioned the killing, I think the best way to go is to start off with minimal force, and escalate it as warranted, but in no way putting your life in danger. To ratchet things up, right out of the box straight to deadly force, I have a problem with that.

I’m sure that Europeans and other non Americans probably look askance at out gun culture, scratching their head at what all the fuss is about. Guns are part of our heritage, our frontier spirit, manifest destiny, and an integral part of our basic liberties. Right after the 1st Amendment, the basic right to own and bear arms is not far behind. “From my cold dead hands”, these are not empty words to many Americans.

So, any thoughts on Donna hopper, Joe Horn, the expanded Castle doctrine in Texas, or our affinity for things that go bang, all are grist for the mill.

Jury Duty

Although I am a proponent of our judicial system (got anything better to offer?) I am also of a mind that people that sit on juries are usually too stupid to get out of jury duty. A promise of a jury of one’s peers is an easy order,  but to assume they will find anything resembling justice to always a crap shoot. One of the themes that was popular at the other site I wrote for was ,”What say you, jury?”, where we take an actual court case where the jury rendered a verdict, and dissect it a bit, either giving them accolades or raspberries. Sometimes we can’t be spot on, different laws in different states (what constitutes first degree murder may vary) and we are never privy to the jury instructions, the mutually agreed upon guidelines given to the jury by the judge as to what they are to consider, what definitions are important, and what hurdles must be jumped in order for a guilty verdict.

Today we examine a pharmacist who was robbed at gunpoint, but shot back, and was found guilty of first degree murder:

Over at livelink I found all 3 video feeds of the shooting, we can see much better from here exactly what happened.

Some things to consider, Oklahoma is one of a number of states that adhere to and recognize Castle Laws:

A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine arising from English Common Law[1] that designates one’s place of residence (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as one’s car or place of work) as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his “castle“), and any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. In a legal context, therefore, use of deadly force which actually results in death may be defended as justifiable homicide under the Castle Doctrine.

Ersland’s defense was simple, he was protecting himself and his several female employees within his castle from a violent robbery where  a gun was pointed at him. After downing one of the assailants (the one without the gun) and chasing the other out of the store, he returned but saw the downed robber (face down) still moving. He retrieved another (loaded) gun and felt still threatened by the downed man, either by movements or words ( he could not see the guy’s hands so was unsure if he had  a weapon), he then shot the robber 5 more times until he stopped moving. Notice that we can not see the downed robber during the second shooting spree, we don’t know what he was doing, we don’t know if words were exchanged (no audio). Ersland contends that the robber was trying to get up and was still a danger to him and his employees.

The main question before this jury (and you, the rightthinking jury) is whether the downed robber represented a sufficient threat to Ersland, was it reasonable to assume that he should still feel threatened? Under the law, the right to use deadly force ends at that instant that the menace has passed, the right to self defense does not include killing anyone who was rendered defenseless.

Ersland has become a hero within his community, even sparking new legislation to beef up self defense laws.

What separates murder from manslaughter is “malice aforthought:,  But first degree murder has a very high hurdle to clear:

In most states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.

The jury deliberated for just over 3 hours, doesn’t seem very long to me, to come back with a first degree murder conviction so quickly, without being able to see the actions of the victim (was he a threat or not).

So there you are, was this a fair verdict, would you have voted for a lesser crime,  or even vote to acquit ?

One last thing before I send you all to the jury room for deliberations, drinkingwithbob has an opinion on the matter.