Castle law makes it legal; can it also make it right? 7/16/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Castle law makes it legal; can it also make it right?

By John Howell
Against the backdrop of the George Zimmerman trial in Florida this weekend came the account of a fatal shooting in Jackson that was considered protected under Mississippi’s “castle doctrine.”

That is Mississippi’s version of the Florida law that made the Zimmerman case a cause celebré among gun rights advocates.

In this state, the castle doctrine allows use of deadly force to protect one’s home, business or vehicle when there is imminent danger.

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Early Friday morning in Jackson, a man heard someone messing with his vehicle parked outside his home. He went to the door and fired five shots at the vehicle, according to the account in Saturday’s Clarion-Ledger. When police arrived, they found a wounded man in the vehicle. He was transported to the hospital where the 20-year-old was pronounced dead.

The story also reported that the investigation would try to determine whether the dead man might also been the same person responsible for a rash of vehicle burglaries in northeast Jackson that weekend. Even Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis was a victim. He found a window broken out in his vehicle that morning.

The vehicle owner faces no charges because he was protected by the castle doctrine, a Jackson Police Department spokesman told the CL. Case closed. I’ve seen no further report of the fatal shooting since.

That’s one criminal career ended, one criminal who won’t continue to be a burden on society. He won’t be stealing and he won’t be going around and around in the revolving door of criminal justice system.

And yet you wonder about the shooter — the man who acted within his rights to protect his property. Five years from now, will he be satisfied in his mind that he made the right decision? Where was the imminent danger? Perhaps — the story didn’t elaborate — the would-be thief was in such close proximity that a strong personal threat was implied.

Or was the imminent danger to the vehicle? If it was, it would stand to reason that the vehicle was also in danger of damage from the five shots fired at it.

Will the shooter have second thoughts about whether with his quick decision to shoot he placed the value of his property over the value of life, even low life?

The castle doctrine law made the action legal. What the vehicle owner will likely wrestle with in coming months and years is whether his action was right.