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.