By Guest Columnist Anna Coates
Copiah County District Attorney Daniela Shorter and Assistant District Attorney Pat Beasley discussed the “Castle Doctrine” at Sheriff Byron Swilley’s quarterly meeting with citizens last month at the Gallman Safe Room.
The Sheriff’s meetings provide an opportunity for him to hear citizen concerns and share information. In September, he brought the ADAs.
The “Castle Doctrine” holds that persons are legally defending their homes and property against trespassers even if they use deadly force, but ADAs Beasley and Shorter made clear that it is not law and there is no guarantee that a defendant claiming justifiable homicide is not guilty of murder.
“You may post your property with ‘no trespassing’ signage, but that does not give you a right to use a weapon to kill trespassers on your property,” ADA Beasley said. ADA Shorter added: “The guidelines are extremely strict in determining whether homicide is justified.”
Three questions, they said, apply to the presence and actions of persons claiming justifiable homicide under the “Castle Doctrine” in defending a home, vehicle or business:
Do they have a right to be in the place where an incident has happened?
Have they caused a violent confrontation as the aggressor or immediate provoker?
Are they engaged in unlawful activity in their homes, vehicles or businesses?
ADA Beasley summarized:
“It is important to realize the consequences of ending someone’s life. Are you yourself in mortal danger, in fear of your life? Or are you mad about theft or damage to your property? Ending a life means you will be arrested and charged, and your case will go to the grand jury. You do not automatically get a pass because you and others feel that you had reasonable cause for your action. The members of the grand jury will consider the evidence and apply the law. Were you reasonably in fear of death, or not? The power to indict or dismiss is solely in the hands of the grand jury after considering the case as presented by the prosecution and the defense.”
Attendees raised “what if” questions, but left with a clearer understanding of the “Castle Doctrine.” Sheriff Swilley thanked Shorter and Beasley for their presentation, and reminded the audience to refer to the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for breaking news and information.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Anna Coates covers Copiah County for Wesson News.