Governor will review the bill before deciding whether to sign or veto it.
Last night the Pennsylvania House of Representatives sent to Governor Ed Rendell a bill that expands the use of self-defense in Pennsylvania, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The legislation known as "stand your ground" enables people to use lethal force to defend themselves without retreat outside their homes. Currently the law allows those protections only within one's home.
The bill was approved by a 161-35 vote. Gun groups, many of them from Western Pennsylvania, pushed for the bill's passage over the past five years, reported the Tribune-Review.
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association opposed the bill. Association president, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, has been an outspoken opponent of the legislation.
Two years ago Ohio passed a version of the Castle Doctrine. Prosecutors had concerns about the law when it was passed and that concern has not abated.
"It was not made to protect drug dealers from drug dealers, but that's how it's being used," Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk told the Columbus Dispatch.
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, reported the Dispatch.
In Franklin County, a man fatally stabbed an acquaintance that 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. According to the Dispatch, the prosecution countered that the law "is not a license to commit murder."
The use of the castle-doctrine defense has not succeeded in heading off homicide convictions, but appeals of trial-court verdicts are promised that could produce rulings interpreting the law.
"I am surprised it took this long to become an issue," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien told the Dispatch. He fears that the law is being used to "confuse jurors to think there was self-defense under the law when there wasn't."
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