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Our gun culture reared it's ugly head in Maple Valley, Washington. From the Seattle Times (04/05/13):

A homeowner in Maple Valley fatally shot a man and wounded a woman he said were breaking into a shipping container on his property about 4 a.m. today.

King County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said the man made two calls to 911: the first at 3:49 a.m. to say he had intruders on his property, and a second call a few minutes later to  say he had shot them.

The woman was charged with burglary, the shooter was questioned and released.

One would think that you can't just go and shoot someone dead in order to protect your property. One would be wrong. In theory you can't kill merely to protect property, but in practice, it is a different manner. There is this convenient little escape hatch in the stand your ground laws that lets you get away with murder if you "believe" you are in danger.

More from the Times:

Sheriff’s Detective Jason Stanley said under Washington law, use of deadly force by a homeowner is typically justifiable only if the resident believes that they or others around them are in imminent physical danger, and typically does not include someone who is simply protecting property
In this case the shooter called 911 from his house and reported the attempted burglary taking place on his property. He was clearly in no imminent danger at all. He then when outside, approached the unarmed prowlers, and shot them. There would not have been a way for him to know for sure they were unarmed. Therefore, having confronted them, he very well could have "believed" he was in imminent danger. The fact that the shooter made a decision to remove himself from a position of safety and place himself in a potentially dangerous situation is not relevant. The relevant issue is whether, at the time he pulled the trigger, he had a reasonable expectation that he was in danger.

Imagine you are the prosecuting attorney. Do you think you could unanimously convince a jury that this man had no cause to believe he was in danger as he confronted burglars on his property at 4:00 in the morning? Of course you couldn't. This is why the shooter will almost certainly not be charged, and if charged, will likely never be tried.

In Washington State, as with most states, if someone trespasses on your property, you can legally shoot them dead, because it would be nearly impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you had no reasonable cause to believe you were in danger. (In the Maple Valley case, I don't have enough facts to determine the shooter committed a crime. That is not important. The point is that he could have, without fear of prosecution, and without believing he was in any real danger, simply shot them because he was mad at them and didn't want them to steal his shit.)

Ingrained in our gun culture is the notion that it is okay to murder someone if you think you have a good reason, and that idea has made its way into public policies like stand your ground laws, capital punishment, and even pre-emptive war. The legal killing of a person for attempted burglary is state sanctioned murder every bit as much as the death penalty. If we want to change our culture in a way that moves us away from unnecessary violence as a means of solving problems, a good start would be the abolition of stand your ground laws and capital punishment.

Originally posted to Sarge in Seattle on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Koscadia.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There is no duty to retreat. (4+ / 0-)

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by notrouble on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:49:20 PM PDT

  •  Bad news from ALEC (20+ / 0-)
       Results indicate that the prospect of facing additional self-defense does not deter crime.  Specifically, we find no evidence of deterrence effects on burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault.  Moreover, our estimates are sufficiently precise as to rule out meaningful deterrence effects.

        In contrast, we find significant evidence that the laws increase homicides. Suggestive but inconclusive evidence indicates that castle doctrine laws increase the narrowly defined category of justifiable homicides by private citizens by 17 to 50 percent, which translates into as many as 50 additional justifiable homicides per year nationally due to castle doctrine. More significantly, we find the laws increase murder and manslaughter by a statistically significant 7 to 9 percent, which translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally across the states that adopted castle doctrine.

        Thus, by lowering the expected costs associated with using lethal force, castle doctrine laws induce more of it. This increase in homicides could be due either to the increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations, or to the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal conflicts. We suspect that self-defense situations are unlikely to explain all of the increase, as we also find that murder alone is increased by a statistically significant 6 to 11 percent.

    TAMU study (PDF)

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:52:40 PM PDT

  •  Once you decide it's okay to slaughter (8+ / 0-)

    any number of Iraqis, on the grounds that you are afraid that someday Saddam Hussein might attack the US, you're pretty much decided that it's open season on human beings.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:20:21 PM PDT

  •  SYG law has been the law of the land in CA for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    over 100 years.  AKA "True Man" doctrine.  

    Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    by thestructureguy on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:46:23 PM PDT

  •  I'm a little perplexed that people have not wised (2+ / 0-)

    up to the reason ALEC and billionaires-funded astroturf groups are working so hard at arming the population.

    It has nothing to do with crime deterrence, or some principled stand on the Second Amendment.

    As the pillaging and plundering by the ruling class continues, and as they push austerity on the population, tensions are going to rise, and knowing this, they are arming people so they turn on each with lethal force.

    I'm dumbfounded that this isn't already common knowledge.

    •  Expand on why they want this. I'm curious to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny wurster

      what the final outcome of this would be.

      Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

      by thestructureguy on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:48:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the problem is that is hard for average (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Horace Boothroyd III

        decent, hard-working people to understand the true evil nature of the people who have taken control of the levers of power.

        The government has been taken over by corporatists cartels; they are in the process of dismantling democracy (whatever is left of it), and subjugating the population.

        As this happens, and as they continue to defund the proper functioning of government, and as they push "austerity" down people's throats, this creates scarcity, especially at the lowest rungs of society.

        Eventually average people feel under siege, and as this happens, they look for scapegoats: the poor; the burglars; the immigrants; whatever.

        These business cartels (ALEC, the NRA, etc.) are working hard at arming as many people as possible with full knowledge that once conditions get really bad, people will turn on each other.

        All this will happen while the ruling class, untouched by the mayhem, continues to accumulate unimaginable wealth and power.

  •  maybe it's the contrarian in me, (4+ / 0-)

    maybe it's because I, and people I know, have suffered breakins and thefts . . . but I'm having a hard time working up any sympathy for the deceased.  4AM, on someone else's property, breaking in to their storage, I don't need a "stand your ground" law, I'd think that "fox in the chicken coop" is quite enough.

    Is somebody's "stuff" worth dying for?  That's a question that the thieves answer in the affirmative . . . I just can't find it in me to fault the homeowner for closing on the deal.  Tell me again why we're supposed to just let people steal stuff . . . maybe I'm missing something.

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 11:19:29 PM PDT

  •  I don't think your main premise is correct (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think freewheeling murder is particularly "ingrained in our gun culture" -- we would have far more self-defense killings than we do. Look at the stats. They're just not there in huge numbers; in fact, some gun ownership opponents cite precisely this lack of self-defense killings as proof that guns are not particularly necessary for home defense.

    Starting in the 70s, communities across the country, particularly in blue states, began energetically prosecuting people who shot intruders (even burglars who were inside the home, in some cases) to protect property. And woe unto the gun owner who shot an intruder in the back or outside of the house. Between such prosecutions and liability lawsuits by intruders who survived being shot, it could in no way be argued that "it is okay to murder [or attempt to murder] someone if you think you have a good reason."

    The ALEC-spawned Stand Your Ground laws were promoted precisely because, prior to their passage, a gun owner's right to blow away perceived bad guys was not absolute, not even in the Sunny South.

    Maybe you're right about Washington state, but here in Gun Heaven -- Tennessee -- there is no open-ended warrant to kill someone who trespasses on your property. If they're in your house with a weapon, you stand your best chance of escaping prosecution if you kill them, but otherwise it is best to hire a lawyer, say nothing to the police, and not count one's chickens.


    by raincrow on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 01:03:11 AM PDT

    •  Please look at these comments (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to a SeattlePI article on this shooting. It is based upon comments like these that I think it is ingrained in our culture.

      Here is one example:

      "Score one for the homeowner, I hope the gal has a lifelong limp to remind her and any who ask, that crime doesn't pay! I doubt he'll be bothered again!"

      "It is easier to fool people, than to convince them they've been fooled" - Mark Twain

      by Sarge in Seattle on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 05:51:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Are you sure burglary would be a misdemeanor? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    Would the diary title be as provocative if "misdemeanors" were replaced by "felons"?  I doubt you'd get quite as sympathetic a response to the idea of shooting felons in the act.  Lots of acts of burglary would qualify as felonies.  

    There's no reasonable expectation that the shooter would know whether he was witnessing a misdemeanor or felony.  And there's no way to know if what he is witnessing is the whole story as far as the criminal behavior.  A "Where there's smoke, there's fire" type of argument could be used to justify perceived danger.  

    •  Beside the point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UntimelyRippd, Cassandra Waites

      Trespassing is a misdemeanor. That is all that is necessary for someone to stand their ground and kill, (so long as a single juror isn't convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the shooter didn't reasonably believe he was in danger.) The specifics of this particular case aren't that important. Even so, I'll be very surprised if the woman is charged with a felony.

      "It is easier to fool people, than to convince them they've been fooled" - Mark Twain

      by Sarge in Seattle on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 05:41:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Burglary, in almost any jurisdiction (3+ / 0-)

      is necessarily a felony, because burglary is defined as breaking in with the intent to commit a felony inside (in this case, larceny).  

      •  Good point, however (0+ / 0-)

        This was a large shipping container. If they were homeless people looking to get out of the rain, that would not be a felony, and the result would be the same. The point is, stand your ground is a license to kill.

        "It is easier to fool people, than to convince them they've been fooled" - Mark Twain

        by Sarge in Seattle on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 06:36:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A bit "contrived", what? (0+ / 0-)

          Look at the location.  They didn't get there walking.  They were already "out of the rain" in their car or truck.  If it was raining they had to go out into the rain to break into the "container".  These are no "innocent victims" . . . their criminal intent was inherent in the act.

          Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

          by Deward Hastings on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 02:17:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  "Imagine you are the prosecuting attorney. Do you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, valion

    think you could unanimously convince a jury that this man had no cause to believe he was in danger as he confronted burglars on his property at 4:00 in the morning?"

    Yes, unequivocally yes.  It wouldn't even be a hard case.  If I couldn't do this, I'd be pretty sucky at my job.  

  •  I have a cousin who came home one day and heard (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KVoimakas, Deward Hastings

    noise in her back yard.  This was in the middle of the afternoon and broad daylight.

     She walked into her fenced yard and some man was attempting to steal copper near her a/c unit.  As she had walked around the corner of her home before seeing him...she came within 5 feet of him before she realized what was going on.  She stood there for a few seconds and then turned to run.....he caught her and beat my cousin with fists and a tool he had....presumably so she could run in the house and call the police.   He then ran off and has never been caught.  She suffered a broke arm and nose and fractured ribs and that is not even including the fear she will live with the rest of her life.  He will suffer the knowledge that he wasn't able to get that copper like he wanted.  All "little burgeries" can turn into a murder, rape or assault if the home owner happens to surprise them in the act.  Sometimes it is just a noise that a home owner will go inspect.  My cousin was totally unaware of what she was walking into.

      If a criminal takes it upon themselves to enter someone else's property and take what isn't theirs, then they CHOSE to put their life in danger.  They are well aware that a home owner might catch them or the police or a home owner's dog might attack them or whatever.  They chose the danger and could have avoided it by not committing a crime in the first place.  I feel no sympathy for them.

     I wish she had had a gun that day.

    •  So your point is... (0+ / 0-)

      because your cousin was mugged when she surprised a thief, all burglars should be shot on sight? I'm not opposed to shooting in self defense. That isn't what happened in Maple Valley.

      "It is easier to fool people, than to convince them they've been fooled" - Mark Twain

      by Sarge in Seattle on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 10:47:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I say I feel zero sympathy for them and if they (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deward Hastings

        decide to commit a home invasion, then they assume all risks for that criminal decision.

        I don't think drunk drivers should get the death penalty, but if a drunk driver is killed in a car accident because they chose to drink and drive...their fault.

        I don't think all preachers who worship with rattlesnakes should get the death penalty, but if they get bit and die...their fault.

        I don't think all circus performers who abuse elephants and lions should get the death penalty, but if one of those beaten animals has enough and gets pissed and decides to maul them to death...their fault.

        Same with a, I don't think all robbers should get the death penalty but if one decides to rob the wrong person, one who is protected by carrying or has a gun in the home, then that robber made a choice and if the person shoots the robber.....guess what?  It's the robber's sympathy.

  •  One wonders what the sheriff's response (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    time is in this neighborhood at 4:00 a.m.

    It's also why we need to develop the ability to read criminal's minds better, so we can be positive they are the good kind of criminal, e.g. the kind that won't try the house after the container.

    Plus, at 66, it's conceivable the owner's fight or flight skills (especially in the dark) were sub-optimal without firearm augmentation.

    So, as usual with situational decision-making, it depends....

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