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In Our View: Castle doctrine is no loophole

Missouri’s new self-defense law, the castle doctrine, was supposed to help people protect their homes and loved ones from evil-doers. It wasn’t supposed to become another legal loophole.

In 2007, Missouri passed a castle-doctrine bill, which guarantees Missourians the right to use lethal force in defense of their homes. Missouri law, before the bill’s signing by Gov. Blunt, already allowed for that, however.

The major thing the bill did was remove the “duty of retreat” from law. In other words: A person doesn’t have to attempt escape before responding with lethal force, and simply entering another’s property is grounds for killing in self-defense.

However, that change may have opened up Missouri’s law for abuse.

Adair County Prosecutor Mark Williams is saying the castle doctrine should apply in the case of Jackie Gleason, who fatally shot former boyfriend Rogelio Johnson in May.

Johnson, who was court-ordered to stay away from Gleason, allegedly climbed through a window of her Kirksville home. According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation, Gleason said Johnson’s hands were clasped as if he was in a firing position, but no weapon was ever found.

A coroner’s jury in Adair County ruled that Gleason committed the crime of “death by felony.” Williams has asked the attorney general’s office to determine if charges are warranted.

Missouri’s version of the castle doctrine, which was basically written by the National Rifle Association, was intended for self-defense against burglars and hardened criminals — according to the language used by legislators to justify it.

Now, as it nears its first legal test, it appears it can be twisted to justify other excuses of lethal shooting, or used as a loophole in the law.

When the General Assembly meets in January, a look at the castle doctrine is in order. The law should be used strictly as intended.

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