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Mon Oct 29, 2012, 03:36 PM

'Stand your ground' promotes violence [View all]

One amazing thing about the recent spate of laws that make it easier to shoot people and get away with it is how much prosecutors hate them. "It's an abomination," one Florida prosecutor told the Sun Sentinel, referring to the state's "stand your ground" law at the center of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin.

And now we're hearing from Montana's county attorneys, sheriffs and police chiefs, all of whom oppose the 2009 law that expanded the "castle doctrine" to give homeowners more leeway to kill potential intruders. The law is "a solution that had no problem," the president of the Montana County Attorneys' Association said. And earlier this month, the prosecutor for the town of Kalispell cited the newly strengthened castle doctrine in refusing to indict Brice Harper, a man who shot and killed Dan Fredenberg, the husband of the woman Harper was having an affair with. Harper didn't kill Fredenberg at the end of a violent encounter. He killed an unarmed Fredenberg when he walked into Harper's garage.

The idea that Harper won't be charged is crazy making because he had a clear, safe choice that didn't involve shooting. According to the letter Flathead County attorney Ed Corrigan wrote explaining his decision not to prosecute, Fredenberg suspected that his wife, Heather Fredenberg, was having an affair with Harper. On the day of the shooting, she went to Harper's house with her 18-month-old twins to help him get ready to move out. Her husband called to ask if she was with Harper, and she didn't answer. Then she and Harper went for a drive she wanted to get his opinion about a noise her car was making and she saw her husband following behind. Harper got out of the car at his house. Heather Fredenberg told him to go inside and not to answer if her husband came to find him. Instead, Harper went inside, got his pistol from his bedroom, and stood at the door from his laundry room to his garage while Fredenberg approached. Harper told the police, "I told him I had a gun, but he just kept coming at me." He also claims Fredenberg was "charging at him, like he was on a mission." When Fredenberg was a few feet away, Harper shot him three times.

Harper told the police he feared for his life at that point. Maybe so. But it's hard to see how he could have reasonably had such a fear when he saw Fredenberg walking up the driveway and had the option of going inside and closing the door. Montana's law, however, gives people in this situation more leeway for a confrontation this really is about standing your ground, for good reason or for bad. You can use force if you think it's necessary to prevent someone from unlawfully entering a house. You can use force "likely to cause death or serious bodily harm" if you think that's necessary to keep yourself from being assaulted. You don't have to fear that you may be killed or seriously injured. You have no duty to retreat or call the police. And if you have evidence that your use of force was justified, it's the state's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't.

http://www.montereyherald.com/opinion/ci_21876542/emily-bazelon-stand-your-ground-promotes-violence

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