When does home defense become 2nd degree murder? The AP and my hometown paper, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, combined to report that “castle doctrine” shootings in Missouri totaled seven in 2011, up from two the previous year. The article provides a good run-down of what a Brady flack predictably refers to as “shoot-first” laws, but not every case is without some questions. . .
In a case earlier in 2011, a man broke into his ex-girlfriend’s St. Louis home and tried to attack her, according to police. Another man who was also in the home came to the woman’s aid and pointed a gun at the intruder, Emmett Terry, but didn’t shoot.
Instead, he handed the gun over to the woman, who pointed it at Terry as he stood with his back to a wall, according to police. The woman’s friend helped her steady the gun and point it at Terry.
“I told you if you came back, I was gonna kill you,” she said before fatally shooting him, according to police reports.
St. Louis police thought the killing of Terry in April was a crime and sought second-degree murder charges against the woman and the man. But prosecutors declined to file them because the shooting could be justified under the castle doctrine.
This strikes me as a companion to Robert’s post “Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Hold Anyone At Gunpoint” where el jefe commends the Armed Intelligentsia to forgo the Pepper Anderson routine and shoot the bad guy rather than imperil yourself in an attempt to hold them until backup arrives. [ED: As I remember it, I advised our AI to let the bad guy go if at all possible or practical.]
In the above case, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around shooting someone once they are backed up against a wall and subdued enough to let someone hand the gun to another person and help them steady, aim and fire. At the risk of making an understatement of enormous proportions, this seems to me to be morally problematic at least.
Then again, I’ve never been the victim of someone bigger, stronger and angrier violating a restraining order to break into my home. The elimination of the duty to retreat requirement that castle doctrine laws afford is certainly an important advancement of the individual’s right to defend himself in his own home.