Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Missouri felons not entitled to self-defense

 Missouri is one of only four states where there are no limits on which felonies can trigger a felony-murder charge, and, once prosecutors invoke the law, defendants can no longer claim they acted in self-defense, reports The Appeal. Having previous felonies means having a gun for self-defense is a felony for illegally possessing a gun. In the eyes of the law, the rest of what happens no longer mattered.

There are at least 10 men in the state of Missouri who are serving sentences for felony murder in cases where they maintain that they killed someone in self-defense, according to a three-month investigation by The Appeal and the Yale Investigative Reporting Lab. The Appeal also spoke to 10 public defenders across the state. Eight said they either had such a case in their district or knew of one nearby.

Of the 10 men who say they shot someone to save their own lives, seven had prior felony convictions at the time of the shooting.

According to a study by the Sentencing Project, there were at least 67,800 felons on parole or probation in Missouri in 2020. The situation raises questions about who Missouri believes deserves the right to fight back if someone is trying to kill them.

“If you are a convicted felon in Missouri, you have lost your right to self-defense,” Hatley told The Appeal.

Ruth Petsch, the district defender in Kansas City—Missouri’s largest city—seethed as she spoke about the law’s impact in her district.

“Once you become a felon, you lose all these rights to keep a job. It’s harder to get housing. It’s harder to get assistance,” she said. “You’re left in a neighborhood where you’re more likely to have someone put a gun in your face like that. But in Missouri, once you become a felon, you just have to get shot.”

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