Questions over Missouri castle doctrine following fatal shooting of 13-year-old

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - A Missouri lawmaker is calling for changes to the state`s Castle Doctrine, following the death of a 13-year-old boy, shot by a homeowner who caught him stealing from his car just after midnight Sunday morning in the 5900 block of Riverview Boulevard.

Martinez Smith-Payne, 13, was killed by a single gunshot.

According to his 14-year-old cousin, who admits being with him at the time of the incident, the two boys and another 11-year-old friend were riding bikes late Saturday night when they got hungry and began rummaging through the homeowner`s unlocked car looking for change to buy snacks. It was parked under a carport inside the man`s fenced backyard.

'Stealing a vehicle, stealing change, that is not justifiable to kill somebody, but if they thought their life was in jeopardy by these people being there, that`s where it changes things,' said Steve King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies.

King says Missouri`s Castle Doctrine leaves open the possibility a person could feel threatened by simply being outnumbered, even if the perpetrators do not have a weapon.

'If there is a huge disparity of force, three against one, two against one, five against one, that is justifiable to use deadly force as well,' King said.

In this case, it was three young men against a 60-year-old homeowner.

Gun owner Britt Butler says he understands how a person could feel threatened even if no weapons are visible.

'It would be hard not to feel fearful if someone is going through your car, not knowing who it is,' Butler said. 'When you do approach them it can be too late once you find out that they`ve got arms,' he said.

Missouri State Senator Jamila Nasheed, (D-St. Louis) who is a gun owner herself, thinks the Castle Doctrine needs to be changed.

'If it is outside of the home, like a car, then that should be exempt. That provision should be repealed,' Nasheed said. "You can always purchase what was stolen, but you can never bring a life back,' she said.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney is still deciding whether to charge the homeowner.

The tricky part will be proving whether the homeowner truly felt threatened.

FOX 2 made several unsuccessful attempts to reach him to get his side of the story.

 

Circuit Attorney`s Office Statement

November 30, 2015

The shooting death of 13-year-old Martinez Smith-Payne on Riverview Boulevard is a terrible tragedy. Missouri law regarding a homeowner`s right to protect himself and his property is complicated. The matter is currently under review by prosecutors in my office. We are reviewing the evidence, witness accounts and case law to ensure we are protecting the rights of both the victim and the homeowner. All individuals deserve a thoughtful review of the facts.

Use of force in defense of persons

563.031. 1. A person may, subject to the provisions of subsection 2 of this section, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force by such other person, unless:

(1) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case his or her use of force is nevertheless justifiable provided:

(a) He or she has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened use of unlawful force; or

(b) He or she is a law enforcement officer and as such is an aggressor pursuant to section563.046; or

(c) The aggressor is justified under some other provision of this chapter or other provision of law;

(2) Under the circumstances as the actor reasonably believes them to be, the person whom he or she seeks to protect would not be justified in using such protective force;

(3) The actor was attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a forcible felony.

2. A person may not use deadly force upon another person under the circumstances specified in subsection 1 of this section unless:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, or herself or her unborn child, or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony;

(2) Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person; or

(3) Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter private property that is owned or leased by an individual claiming a justification of using protective force under this section.

3. A person does not have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, or vehicle where the person is not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining. A person does not have a duty to retreat from private property that is owned or leased by such individual.

4. The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of physical restraint as protective force provided that the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the restraint as soon as it is reasonable to do so.

5. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of justification under this section. If a defendant asserts that his or her use of force is described under subdivision (2) of subsection 2 of this section, the burden shall then be on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not reasonably believe that the use of such force was necessary to defend against what he or she reasonably believed was the use or imminent use of unlawful force.

(L. 1977 S.B. 60, A.L. 1993 S.B. 180, A.L. 2007 S.B. 62 & 41, A.L. 2010 H.B. 1692, et al. merged with H.B. 2081)