Exploit any tragedy to advance the agenda! The NY Times is at it again with an outrage from Montana:
In Youth’s Death, Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong
The story writes itself, at least in the Times newsroom - those wacky Montanans have far too lenient self-defense laws and now a teen is dead.
Only the pesky facts undermine their narrative - the shooter has been (IMHO, correctly) charged with homicide and the author of the lenient law, although avoiding the specifics of this case, does not describe it in a way that could suggest the defense has a real hope of success.
On to the Times coverage, which jibes reasonably well with the Marcus Kaarma police complaint:
MISSOULA, Mont. — Teenagers call it garage hopping. The goal was to sneak into an open garage, steal some beer or other items and slip away into the night. It was dumb and clearly illegal. It was not supposed to be deadly.
Around midnight on April 27, a 17-year-old exchange student from Germany named Diren Dede left the host home where he played Xbox and drained cans of Sprite to set off with a friend through his dark hillside neighborhood. They passed a home whose garage door hung partially open. Using a cellphone for light, Mr. Dede headed in.
Inside the house, motion sensors alerted Markus Kaarma, 29, to an intruder’s presence. Two recent burglaries had put Mr. Kaarma and his young family on edge, his lawyer said, and he grabbed a shotgun from the dining room and rushed outside. He aimed into the garage and, according to court documents, fired four blasts into the dark. Mr. Dede’s body crumpled to the floor.
While Mr. Kaarma has been charged with deliberate homicide, Mr. Dede’s death has set off an outcry an ocean away in Germany, exposing the cultural gulf between a European nation that tightly restricts firearms and a gun-loving Western state. In his defense, Mr. Kaarma is expected to turn to laws enacted in Montana five years ago that allow residents more legal protections in using lethal force to defend their homes.
I should add that per the complaint, the couple had live video from the garage and could see one man; also, the wife followed the husband outside as he investigated, leaving the ten-month old baby inside. Terrified? Really?
The laws, as eventually explained by the Times, don't seem to offer the defendant much hope. But first we get the expected NRA-bashing:
In Montana, which has one of the country’s highest rates of gun ownership, the killing has renewed criticism of the state’s “castle doctrine” laws, which allow residents wider latitude to use force to defend their homes.
Nearly every state has a law on the books giving residents the legal right to defend their homes, but Montana is among several that have gone further. With backing from the National Rifle Association and the support of the state’s Democratic governor, Montana passed a stronger law in 2009 that placed the burden on prosecutors to rebut claims of self-defense.
And on to their description of the law:
Under the old laws, residents were justified in using force only if an assailant tried to enter their home in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.” The new law eliminates that language and makes it clear that residents can use force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent an assault on themselves or someone else in the home.
Here is a statement from the defendant. Their garage had been robbed twice recently (they leave the door open so they can smoke cigarettes or, says the Times and others, maybe marijuana), but what was the basis for his belief that the third time around the garage invasion would lead to a dangerous home invasion?
Back to the Times:
His lawyer, Paul Ryan, says Mr. Kaarma feared for his family’s safety and panicked that night.
“He doesn’t know who’s there, what they’ve got, anything,” Mr. Ryan said. “He just didn’t know what was going on. Then he started to shoot.”
I don't think panicked ignorance reaches the leval of reasonable belief and apparently the local prosecutor concurs. The shooter had a video feed and a baby monitor to observe the garage; awaiting developments inside his home was not an option? Going outside (with his wife!) and shooting into a dark garage struck him as the safer play?
The defense attorny raised his game in a public statement:
Ryan says Kaarma ran towards his front door, grabbed a shotgun sitting nearby, and went into the driveway in front of his unlit and dark garage.
He then fired four shots into the garage, two striking Dede in the shoulder and in the head.
He says, "Markus believed that the intruder posed an imminent threat to himself and his family." Ryan goes on to describe what happened after he realized Dede had been shot-- Pflager called 9-1-1 and attempted life saving procedures on Dede.
Whether Markus believed there was an immient threat is one thing; whether the belief was reasonable is quite another.
Complicating the defense is a police witness with a tale to tell:
A hairstylist named Felene Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma had come into the Great Clips salon three days before the shooting and talked about how he had been waiting up with his shotgun for three nights “to shoot some kid.” Ms. Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma was being “extremely vulgar and belligerent,” according to court documents.
Here is the relevant snippet from the complaint:
The Times offers an additional seven hand-wringing paragraphs about the daft laws in Montana but doesn't spend any time looking for an expert to tell them that self-defense is going to be laughed out of the courtroom. Well now they know.