Friday, July 1, 2011

The Cautionary Instruction: The Piety of the Castle Doctrine

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 1, 2011

This week Governor Tom Corbett signed into Pennsylvania law the Castle Doctrine. The new law, passed by the State Senate 45-5, provides the right to use a gun or other deadly force in self-defense in situations outside a person's home. The law enables citizens who are in a place where they have a right to be and are not committing a crime, to use deadly force in the face of a threat without the obligation to retreat.

Last fall, the legislature passed a similar bill but it was vetoed by then-Governor Edward Rendell. "The bill as passed encourages the use of deadly force, even when safe retreat is available, and advances a 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality," said Rendell.

The state’s district attorneys association opposed last year’s bill. This time around the group dropped its opposition after the bill was amended to eliminate any loophole that would enable the bill to be used as a defense against criminal charges.

State Senator Richard Alloway II, the primary sponsor of the bill, said he believes self defense is a God-given right. However, the piety of similar statutes in other states is in question.

In Ohio, a man who was robbed by a drug dealer was later shot and killed after he broke a window in an attempt to enter the car of the thief. Defense attorneys contended that the man acted lawfully. A jury convicted the thief-turned-killer of reckless homicide rather than murder.

In Texas, a jury acquitted Jose Gonzalez of murder. According to the Associated Press, Gonzalez had endured several break-ins at his mobile home when four boys, ranging in age from 11 to 15, broke into his home. Gonzalez went into the trailer and confronted the boys with a 16-gauge shotgun.

Both sides agreed about what happened next. Gonzalez forced the boys, who were unarmed, to their knees. They were begging for forgiveness when Gonzalez hit them with the barrel of the shotgun and kicked them repeatedly. Then one boy was shot in the back at close range—two mashed Twinkies and some cookies were stuffed in the pockets of his shorts.

In Montana, prosecutors decided not to file charges in a case where two men got into an argument over an extended break while working at Wal-Mart. According to The Billings Gazette, Craig Schmidt was punched and shoved by Danny Lira. Schmidt apparently feared another blow could cause serious injury or kill him. He pulled out a pistol and shot Lira in the forehead.

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