Test of Pennsylvania Castle Doctrine

Pretty recently, we got ourselves some castle doctrine and stand your ground here in Pennsylvania too. The Allentown Morning Call is reporting on a story that presents a test of the new law. Prosecutors said even if the law hadn’t changed, they probably still would have declined to prosecute. What tends to steady a prosecutors hands is that juries are generally more forgiving of crime victims dispatching their attackers than prosecutors tend to be. I’ve said previously that all stand your ground really does is make the law reflect what juries tend to do anyway. It honestly doesn’t change that much, but it does pull some options off the table for a prosecutor who doesn’t like self-defense that just wants to nail someone. Think about the Gerald Ung case for a minute. Duty to retreat didn’t play a role there (Ung was retreating when he was attacked), but would you really want to give prosecutors an extra tool to go after someone who committed legitimate self-defense? Bet their future that the Jury will do the right thing anyway? Make them pay six figure legal fees to go to trail because the powers that be in a big city don’t like the plebes to be able to have guns to defend themselves? Castle Doctrine laws are more a statement of principle than a desire to fix an actual problem, and I think most people agree with the principle it states.

Speaking of the Pennsylvania law, our arch nemesis (every blog should have an arch nemesis!), Max Nacheman of CeaseFirePA, is busy misrepresenting self-defense laws, the Martin case, and pooping all over due process on Public Radio here in Pennsylvania. I thought the attorney, Peter Georgiades, on our side, did an excellent job. Max Nacheman is pretty clearly not a legal expert, and it was enjoyable to see him go up against someone that was. Give it a listen. It’s worth 24 minutes if your time.

10 thoughts on “Test of Pennsylvania Castle Doctrine”

  1. I’m a little confused by Max’s logic. He said that based on the information the police are releasing, he believes it points to a straight up self defense situation where Zimmerman was acting to save his own life.

    However, he immediately complains that even though police has all of this evidence from the night of the incident, they still should have treated Zimmerman as a murderer.

    Based on his statements, it seems that Nacheman’s proposed standard of arrest procedures is that we must presume all self defense cases to be murder regardless of the evidence the authorities find in the course of the investigation. Only when police reveal details of the case to the media can the victims who defended their lives be released without charge.

  2. Disparity of force by deadly weapon (baseball bat)? Check.
    Disparity of force by numbers? Check.
    Attempted retreat? Check.
    Gave a verbal warning? Check.
    Attempted less-lethal force before firing? Check.
    Did not fire until after deadly force was used against him (he was hit in the head with one of the bats)? Check.
    Stopped shooting as soon as the threat was ended? Check.

    I don’t see how this could be a cleaner case of self-defense.

  3. The Morning Call article states that the Montgomery County case was the test case for Pennsylvania’s new expaned castle docterine law. Fact of the matter is, and I believe Sebastain blogged about it, that the test case in suburban Pittsburgh late last year, where a bow and arrow was used in self-defense.



  4. I’m glad juries seem more likely to support self-defense, but in terms of the Castle Doctrine especially, a matter of civil rights and even protecting your life, shouldn’t be at the whims of the local population, or any subset of the population cherry-picked by the prosecutor for their supposed biases. The saying goes “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six,” but it ought to say “I’d rather be tried by twelve rural, white evangelical Republicans than anyone else in a self-defense case.”

    Fortunately the potential for racial bias in the Ung case didn’t hurt the defendant, but it often does, too. Juries also get frustratingly limited information and the defendant is at a huge disadvantage if he isn’t rich–more reasons that laws, not just local support for self-defense are better overall in keeping justifiable self-defense cases out of court.

  5. I loved the radio show. I would have loved it even more if we had a person there who was willing to mix it up instead of give a careful recitation of the law. He did manage to make the Ceasefire director look like the loon he was, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if he’d come off the top rope on the guy a couple of times.

    1. I actually like calm, logical responses to insane drivelings. It makes the person who’s unreasonable look even more insane.

  6. Max seems to hate gray zones unless it is a big gray zone for prosecutors to say “he could have gotten away.” What’s the big deal anyway? Of course there are gray zones. That’s what trials are for.

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