Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Man's Car Is His Castle

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has reversed a manslaughter conviction as a result of the trial court's failure to give a requested jury instruction on the so-called Castle Doctrine.

The facts:

On March 8, 2008, a fundraising party was being held at the Performing Arts Building in Southaven, Mississippi. After the party, a crowd gathered in the parking lot and a fist fight ensued. Security attempted to stop the fight but could not. [Defendant] Thomas shot a gun in the air, and the attack stopped. The State and defense each called several witnesses who were in the parking lot on the night of the shooting to testify as to the events that followed. Thomas chose not to testify at trial.

Kenetric Randolph testified for the State. He had attended the party and witnessed Thomas shoot a gun in the air during the fight in the parking lot. Randolph testified that he thought Thomas was shooting at him or the young men standing with him. Randolph testified that Thomas immediately ran and got into his car. Randolph and several other men ran after Thomas and tried to open Thomas’s car doors, but Thomas had locked the doors. Randolph testified that Thomas began to reload his gun, and Randolph and the other men ran to the back of the car. He testified no one was in front of the car. Dexter Harris was to Randolph’s left at the rear of the car. Randolph testified that he then threw a cell phone at the car in an attempt to break the back window. Thomas then rolled down the driver’s side  window and fired several shots from his car. Two of the shots hit Harris in the chest and thigh. Harris subsequently died from his wounds. Thomas then drove off. Randolph testified that Thomas could have fled in the car at any time as nothing was blocking the car’s path.

The court concluded that the Castle instruction was appropriate along with a self-defense instruction. (Mike Frisch)

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