A Marine is in jail for doing what American Citizens have a right to do according to our constitution. The Marine defended himself, his friends, and most of all – his family. An armed criminal tried breaking into the Marine’s home, was warned to leave, and that’s when things escalated to an absolute disastrous level that should not have happened if the criminal obeyed laws and had any sense of moral decency. This sad situation should never happen in America.
Marine Joey Nelson was at home enjoying family time with his fiance, child, and a few close friends one night. It was a cozy evening that many would love to have. Just some good old fashioned downtime that allowed friends and family to relax and enjoy each other’s company. But as the evening progressed they were startled by what was described as violent pounding on their front door. It was someone trying to force their way into the residence. People were scared. This didn’t sound like someone delivering an Amazon Prime package. This was violent, scary, and worrisome. Nelson did what many red-blooded Americans would do, and he grabbed his gun to protect his friends, family, and himself. No one knew what was on the other side of the door as it pounded violently trying to get in. It was horrifying and like something out of a brutally violent scary movie. Nelson told the pounding intruder to leave immediately, but nevertheless, they persisted. That’s when things turned violent and the night went terribly sour.
Nelson warned the intruder that he was armed he should leave, but didn’t seem to get any luck. Nelson braced for the worst as he became proactive in his self-defense. He opened the door to find 39-year-old Michael Wilson from Detroit Michigan standing there. Wilson brandished a gun and started shooting at Nelson, who was shot in the hip. Nelson returned fire while telling all the people in residence to run for cover downstairs and call 911.
The cops arrived and assessed the situation. In what appears to be the wrong side of justice, the homeowner was charged with assault with intent to commit murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and felony firearm possession. If convicted, then Nelson faces up to life in prison. A judge set his bond at $150,000 and scheduled his next court appearance for next week Thursday.
Wilson, the man who was trying to break into the home, who also shot the homeowner first, was only charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Wilson’s bond was set at $5,000 and scheduled his next court appearance for Thursday of next week.
Now we must review the Castle Doctrine and hope that it helps our sturdy Marine from being found guilty of anything. It’s a shame he’s in this position when all he did was protect his castle, family, and friends.
What is the Castle Doctrine?
The Castle Doctrine is a self-defense theory which gives a homeowner the right to protect his home with the use of deadly force. The Castle Doctrine originally emerged as a common law theory. Since then, a majority of states have implemented some statutory version of the Castle Doctrine. If a defendant successfully presents a Castle Doctrine defense, then he is completely exonerated of any wrongdoing. Read on to learn more about the proof required to assert a self-defense theory based on the Castle Doctrine.
History of Castle Doctrine
As mentioned, the Castle Doctrine first began as a common law theory. This means that it wasn’t a written law, but rather an understanding everyone had of the rule. Under common law, a person could use deadly force to defend their home, but only after using every reasonable means to avoid the danger. Some states still use the common law version of the Castle Doctrine, but most states have passed statutes to codify (or write down) the common law rules. The rules were passed so that everyone would understand what is required or expected of them before resorting to the use of deadly force. Even though the Castle Doctrine statutes differ by state, many states utilize the same basic requirements for a Castle Doctrine defense.
Current Requirements of Castle Doctrine
The statutory definition of Castle Doctrine is far more formal than the common law version. States place limitations on where, when, and who can use deadly force, and the extent of force allowed. As with any self-defense theory, the burden of proof for a Castle Doctrine defense is on the defendant. The first component of a Castle Doctrine defense is that a person must be inside of his home. Home or habitation in Castle Doctrine statutes tend to be interpreted very strictly. The structure must be the place where the person regularly resides, like a house, apartment, or mobile home. The defendant must be inside the structure. Some defendants have attempted to use the Castle Doctrine to defend the use of deadly force in their front yards. Courts have rejected this and said that the statute is very clear: in order to use the Castle Doctrine, the person must be in the home.
The second component is that the victim must be attempting to commit or have committed an unlawful entry into the defendant’s home. Walking across a person’s front yard will not qualify. There must be some actual evidence that the victim was at least attempting an unlawful entry. The Castle Doctrine will not apply to a person who was in the home lawfully, but the defendant decided to force out. Similarly, the defendant cannot be the first aggressor of the confrontation with the alleged victim. For example, if a defendant’s neighbor comes over for a casual visit, but the defendant decides to assault the victim after the otherwise consensual conversation turned ugly, the defendant as the first aggressor could not use the Castle Doctrine as a defense. Many states, like Indiana, prohibit the use of force against peace officers as well. Proving that the victim was engaged in an unlawful entry is critical to a Castle Doctrine defense because the unlawful entry will affect a defendant’s right to use deadly force.
The third component of the Castle Doctrine is proving that the use of deadly force was reasonable. Many states follow Florida and Mississippi, and actually have a presumption in their Castle Doctrines that if a person is entering a home unlawfully, that he is doing so with the purpose to commit an act of force or violence. This means the defendant’s burden of proof regarding the use of force is reduced because he doesn’t have to put on more evidence of reasonable. Some states do not have this presumption. Instead of proving just an unlawful entry, a defendant would also have to show that he was in actual danger of death or major bodily injury from the person trying to enter his home. These states do not authorize the use of deadly force to protect only property. In these few states, if a defendant does not prove he was in real danger of physical injury, then he can not claim or use a Castle Doctrine defense.
The last major component, and most contested, of the Castle Doctrine is the duty to retreat. Older common law versions of the Castle Doctrine required some duty to retreat or avoid the conflict. However, after writing their own Castle Doctrine statutes, many states no longer require defendants to run from their home or to another area of their home before using deadly force. The states are split on the issue of this duty because of the number of incidents of people using deadly force on what turned out to be serious misunderstandings of the Castle Doctrine. To the extent possible, any person should know and understand the duty to retreat laws in their state before using deadly force.
How to Use the Castle Doctrine
In order to invoke a Castle Doctrine defense, a defendant must first offer some evidence showing that it fits the situation in which he was involved. As mentioned, this is the defendant’s burden, not the prosecution’s burden. Putting on evidence is only the first step in using the Castle Doctrine. After presenting evidence, a defendant must request an instruction in a jury charge on the Castle Doctrine theory of self-defense. Jury instructions are the set of rules and law that the jury receives that tells them what they can and cannot do. Without the jury instruction on the Castle Doctrine defense, the jury has no way of exonerating a defendant in their verdict.
Because the Castle Doctrine is a defensive theory, anyone seeking to use it should remember that the burden is on them. Some law enforcement agencies will acknowledge or preserve evidence when they see that the Castle Doctrine applies. However, not all law enforcement agencies are this straightforward. Out of an abundance of caution, anyone charged with a home invasion shooting should at least consult with a criminal defense attorney to insurethat evidence and testimony critical to their Castle Doctrine defense is preserved. A criminal defense attorney can also insure that the same evidence reaches a jury in the form of a proper instruction.
When did the American legal system move in the wrong direction so severely that it protects the criminals who attempt to break into our homes and murder us? How can the man who saved his friends and family be the one who might find himself in prison? Hopefully charging him was nothing more than the protocol for the situation and a judge with a rightful mind finds that all charges should be dropped against the Marine. Not only did this man protect and serve his country, but also his family, and there’s no reason why he should be punished for this.
The intruder deserves a firm kick into a cell for what he did to that family.
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