A Florida homeowner has been acquitted of trying to kill a police officer.
The only good news is that the officer was wearing a bullet-resistant vest and got a bad bruise from the shot.
Beyond that, there's plenty of blame to go around. Officers heard a rock hit their car around 1 AM and went looking for the thrower. (Given what followed, it is reasonable to deduce that they were angry and not exactly thinking straight).
They climbed over the defendant's 7 foot fence and went poking in his backyard. One entered his screened porch (an imporant detail, I think). Others pounded on his door, awakening the homeowner. He'd been vandalized before. He went to the back where an officer had entered his screened porch. The officer pointed his flashlight in his eyes (standard tactic to ensure you can see and the other person cannot). Startled, he shot, and hit the officer on his vest. The prosecutor charged attempted murder of an LEO, and the jury found otherwise.
I can't say as I would encourage either (a) shooting thru a door when the most you know is someone is on your back porch at 1 AM and shining a flashlight into your eyes or (b) climbing over 7 foot fences into a stranger's backyard at 1 AM, pounding on his door, shining a flashlight into his eyes and expecting that your relationship is not going to go sour in a hurry.
I think the entry onto the porch may have been critical, since a porch with a door is part of the residence (special rules may apply where you have to enter the porch before you can knock or ring a doorbell). In this situation, the officer (or perhaps we could say unknown intruder) was thus in a place where he shouldn't have been, and (in legal theory, anyway) inside the residence. If he'd just been standing in the backyard, the jury's view might have been different.
I don't know about "not encouraging" anyone to shoot in that situation. Someone has forcibly entered my residence at 1am and is intentionally blinding me so I can't see what he's doing. Is he aiming a gun at me preparing to shoot?
In a case like that, I think I would have taken exactly the same action. It's my property, I've done nothing wrong, I'm not wearing bullet resistant clothing, should I wait for them to start shooting first?
It is heartening that the jury made the correct decision in this case, that might not always be true.
The Police had better get their minds around the idea that civilians have the right to arm themselves and defend themselves. Before going off half-cocked about some incident that just pissed them off, they better ask themselves long and hard...Is this worth getting shot, or possibly killing an innocent civilian?
Posted by: Sailorcurt at January 30, 2006 05:39 AM
"[U]nder normal circumstances, uninvited visitors coming to a residence to speak with an owner or resident are expected to come to the residence's most direct, obvious, and prominent entryway, which in most cases is the front door." Trimble, 816 N.E.2d at 88. These visitors "are also expected to leave by the same route after knocking on the front door and receiving no response," unless the "nature of the circumstances surrounding the visit" indicate that the visitor "could reasonably be expected to seek out residents through areas other than the front door." Id. Generally, "a substantial and unreasonable departure from the normal access route will exceed the scope of the implied invitation and intrude upon a constitutionally protected privacy interest." Clark, 859 P.2d at 350. Similarly, entering the property late at night, especially if accompanied by the use of subterfuge, may exceed the scope of the implied invitation. As noted by one court, Furtive intrusion late at night or in the predawn hours is not conduct that is expected from ordinary visitors. Indeed, if observed by a resident of the premises, it could be a cause for great alarm. As compared to open daytime approaches, surreptitious searches under the cover of darkness create a greater risk of armed response-with potentially tragic results-from fearful residents who may mistake the police officers for criminal intruders.” - Robinson v. Commonwealth, Va. App. (2006).
Posted by: Rudy DiGiacinto at January 31, 2006 08:34 PM
It's an old saw, but true - "Better judged by twelve than carried by six."
Posted by: RKV at February 1, 2006 07:08 AM