Today's Columbia Missourian features the first mention I have seen of a Missouri case involving a homeowner being sued for shooting someone who was on his property illegally.
It appears the case came to the Missourian through the diligence of its own reporters, and not from any of the legislators who have been claiming there is such a dire need for the Castle Doctrine bill, which was signed into law this week by Governor Matt Blunt and takes effect Aug. 28. As far as I can tell, these legislators have never cited a specific case:
In 2001, a Callaway County man, William Jones, shot and killed 18-year-old Jonathan Gramling during what police later said was a case of self-defense during a robbery attempt.
Gramling’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jones in 2002, despite the fact he was never indicted for the killing. Reports at the time said Jones had chased Gramling and two accomplices from the house with a shotgun before firing his weapon. Gramling’s body was found about 32 feet from Jones’ house.
The Gramlings’ suit was dismissed in 2004. When reached by phone, Jones declined to comment.
While this case doesn't seem to fit exactly into the mold that has been described by the bill's proponents, it does prove that such cases have been filed. The case was quite rightly dismissed.
It is the only case mentioned in the article.
What seems evident from the Missourian article and from other articles about this law is that there really has never been any necessity for it in the first place. It is simply the flavor of the month for the National Rifle Association, which has been pushing Castle Doctrine laws across the United States. A few years ago, it was the right to carry concealed weapons that the NRA was pushing. By showing legislative success on these measures and by hyping mostly non-existent threats to the Second Amendment the NRA is able to keep relevant and keep the dues coming from members who think something substantial is actually being done with their money.
The Missourian article includes this passage which just about sums everything up:
Sgt. John White of the Columbia Police Department’s Community Service Unit said the department will follow the same investigative procedures as before and let the courts worry about whether the Castle Doctrine applies.
“I think the interesting thing is that Missourians have always had the right to protect themselves,” White said. “If they felt like they were in imminent danger, you could always protect yourself. So I’m not quite sure what the change in the law is going to accomplish, because we already had that right.”
My blogging colleague at the Branson, Missouri website has eloquently defended Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, the sponsor of the bill:
The bill was one of three major issues for Goodman and was the topic of conversation during several of our winter interviews. Coverage of the bill, bordered on irresponsible. Goodman is a straight shooter (forgive the pun) and never once cited a case where this issue was brought up in the state , he has cited cases in other states.
I quote this passage from KY3 Political Blog's Dave Catanese March 13 interview with Goodman:
Is this a widespread problem?
"There have been not a lot of cases, but there have been some cases in Missouri of people who were victims of home intruders, being sued as a result of injuries they inflicted defending themselves," Goodman said. "Not a lot of cases, but some."
Has this happened around here?
"Not in this immediate area that I'm aware of, but they have been in the state of Missouri," Goodman said.
If Goodman was as well-versed on this legislation as he should have been (considering he sponsored it), he should have been able to cite these cases without any difficulty whatsoever. It appears all he was doing was using the same language used by the legislators who sponsored the bill in the other 22 states, which have been marching in lockstep with the National Rifle Association.