Mom Shoots Intruder and Sparks More ‘castle Doctrine’ Debate

Mom Shoots Intruder and Sparks More ‘castle Doctrine’ Debate

in Homicide, on

The Internet has been awash with stories this week about the woman who shot and killed a man who broke into her mobile home. What makes the story unusual is that the woman, huddled in her bedroom with her baby, first called 911 to see if shooting the intruder would be okay. The dispatcher told her to do what she had to do to protect her baby, and, when the man kicked in the bedroom door, the young mother killed him with a shotgun blast.

Today, authorities cleared her of any wrongdoing. She was clearly acting in self-defense, and she was in her own home. This story didn’t unfold in North Carolina, but the result would likely have been the same, because of something called the “Castle Doctrine.”

Yes, the term is derived from the old saying that a man’s home is his castle. The theory is that a person may protect his home/castle and his loved ones from violent attack and not be subject to criminal charges. The law goes way back to English common law and, over time, has expanded in many ways, such as, for example, protection not just of family but of all innocent parties.

Mostly, for our purposes, the Castle Doctrine has come to be associated with the use of deadly force in one’s home to protect self or others from an attacker or intruder who poses a risk of attack. That’s quite a mouthful, for sure, and the courts have spent decades deciding what constitutes an attacker, what counts as a home and what conditions must be present for the killing to be justifiable.

Over the past few years, states have begun to put the common law rule into statute. The North Carolina statute was rewritten last year, in fact; the revised statute went into effect on Dec. 1.

We’ll talk about that and other states’ approaches in our next post.

Source: CSMonitor.com, “Oklahoma mom kills home invader,” Patrik Jonsson, Jan. 5, 2012