Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Legalized Murder

Last weekend, an underage drinking party in Slinger was busted. When the police arrived, the guests fled. Twenty-year-old Bo Morrison apparently tried to evade the police by hiding on a neighbor's porch. The homeowner came out of the house and shot him to death. He was not charged, since he claimed that he mistook the young man for a (presumably housebreaking) intruder. Wisconsin's new "castle doctrine" allows deadly force to defend one's home (which evidently includes the porch).

Drunken wandering and trespassing is a nuisance and a crime. However, it is not a capital crime. Should homeowners be allowed to impose the death penalty without due process, when they are not really in danger?

I was appalled when I read this story, but I took some time to think about it. I told myself that I should not judge a man when I haven't worn his shoes.  Then I realized that I have been in his shoes.

Over the years, numerous drunks have wandered onto our lawn and left behind beer cans and/or articles of clothing.  On one frightening Friday night, someone tried to open our front door and, finding it locked, went around and tried the back door (also locked). My husband and I stood near the phone, weapons in hand, to see if our mystery visitor would try to force the door or break a window. He or she did not.  It could have been an opportunistic burglar or rapist (there have been several cases in Madison of such criminals who take advantage of unlocked doors). More likely, however, it was just a drunk who confused our house for another or thought it was a good idea to go on an inebriated parade of homes. We waited to find out if there was an actual threat before escalating the situation.

We are not anti-gunners. There are several firearms (and one concealed carry permit) under our roof. But we believe in being responsible gun owners.  That man in Slinger is a murderer, in my opinion, who took the opportunity to act out a Clint Eastwood fantasy. Given the demographics in Slinger, he probably considers himself a Christian, and he may even be a churchgoer.  I wonder if he feels any remorse for what he has done.  I wonder how safe his neighbors feel knowing this man will shoot first and ask questions later.


Tim Morrissey said...

Yup. We're trackin' together on this one. Not even a "halt! Who goes there?" Manslaughter.

KSB said...

The homeowner had previously had an encounter with the drinkers, presumably where he asked them to quiet down. Then the cops were called.

An hour later the homeowner hears someone INSIDE his house (the "porch" was an enclosed sun room, apparently with only an unlocked sliding glass door between it and the "living area").

He goes and investigates, gun in hand. What does he find? One of the drunks, who is probably pissed that he called cops on them (especially since being under court ordered sobriety, Bo Morrison would have been charged with a felony had he been caught drinking again). The intruder wasn't shot in the back, but in the chest. Tells me he was standing and facing the homeowner. He also has a history of being belligerent when he is drunk (just look at his rap sheet). I imagine he was also belligerent with the homeowner. Regardless of if he was belligerent or not, you now have someone with a motive for revenge, who has broken into your house at 2 am.

I would have shot too, and not felt guilty in the least.

Deekaman said...

Stupidity hurts. Sometimes it's fatal. Harsh, but true.

michael donnelly said...

That's a tough one. On first read I was totally with you, but I saw KSB's comment. I checked CCAP, and Mr Morrison did have a history that included, among a good number of arrests, more than one for battery.

I'm inclined to give the homeowner the benefit of the doubt since I don't know the whole situation.

Anonymous said...

KBS and michael, forgive me, but isn't the point that thanks to the castle doctrine, no court will ever even attempt to answer those questions because the killer won't be charged? One person has killed another person, and there will be no formal process to determine how and why it happened and whether it was justified. I agree that your story is plausible and the homeowner should have a chance to tell it--and the time and place for that is called a "trial".

Tim Morrissey said...

Sometimes the inhumanity and hate evidenced by some people amazes me. A man with a fucking GUN has to SHOOT TO KILL (chest shot) because a loud drunk with a history of being obnoxious is annoying him? Pray to God such people as this shooter never become officers of the law. And you hardasses who rejoice in this killing - you'd best hope you or one of your loved ones is never in the situation the obnoxious drunk got himself into.

This is Wisconsin. We are the drunkest state in the nation. We give a traffic ticket to first-time DUI offenders. We're known across the nation as beer-swilling cheeseheads.

Until now, though, we were not some back-assward southern state with a "castle doctrine", enabling our neighbors with Eastwood fantasies to kill with impunity.

Ordinary Jill said...

I don't know if the Castle Doctrine protects homeowners from a wrongful death civil suit. I have a feeling that we'll soon find out, and then perhaps there will be some legal discovery of the facts in this case.

KSB said...

Ordinary Jill, Wisconsin Castle Doctrine does protect the homeowner from civil lawsuits, if he is found to be justified (ie - he is cleared of wrongdoing).

However, if he is charged, regardless of if he is acquitted or not, I think civil liability suits are fair game. Could be mistaken on that part, though.

James Greenlee said...

I would suspect that anyone who is not a sociopath or psychopath would have a great deal of pondering to do after killing a human, whether or not it was a cleanly justified kill. I myself had much soul searching after merely killing (or possibly only wounding) a yellow lab with my car one sad evening.

But I dare say that even the manliest hetero manly man would rather not shoot an intruder, and is secretly piddling in his boots if he has to. No matter how hard he sets his jaw and harrumphs his justification, he's going to be hoping he's not questioned too strenuously.