El Paso County Jury Rules In Favor Of Family Of Burglar Killed By Business Owner

A Colorado jury has rendered a rare award to the family of a burglar killed in the course of a crime. Verdicts like this one are likely to be used by advocates of Castle Doctrine or “Make-My-Day laws — laws designed to protect citizens from criminal liability in the protection of their homes, or in some cases, their businesses. The El Paso jury awarded roughly $300,000 to the family of Robert Johnson Fox, who was shot in the course of an attempted burglary of a car lot.

Fox broke into Southwest Auto Sales in 2009 with a friend, Brian Corbin. Corbin testified that two armed men came running toward them — one shouting “we’re gonna get you.” Numerous shots were fired and Fox, who went into a small shed, was hit by a .45-caliber rifle bullet that passed through the shed’s door. Notably, Fox had knives in his pockets and one strapped to his ankle, but the police found that he presented no threat to Milanovic or father Ljuban Milanovic and brother-in-law Srdjan Milanovic.

Fox, 20, left a three-year-old daughter who will receive $269,500 for loss of companionship and loss of future earnings. The six-person jury deliberated for over two days before rendering the verdict.

There have relatively few cases of civil liability for the killing or shooting of burglars. The premise of such liability is that you cannot kill or maim for property. However, make-my-day laws statutorily dictate that any entrance into a dwelling constitutes a threat to person not property. This triggers the privilege of self-defense. This protection has been extended to include not just homes but their curtilage. One such case was Katko v. Briney, 183 N.W.2d 657 (Iowa 1971), where the defendant owned an unoccupied farmhouse left to him by his parents. It was repeatedly broken into despite no trespass signs and boards on the windows. Briney then wired the house with a snare gun and shot Katko. He was found liable. While this case also addresses the common law rule against man traps or snare guns, it was premised on the principle that that no property is worth more than a human life. The court held:

“The intentional infliction upon another of harmful or offensive contact or other bodily harm by a means which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, for the purpose of preventing or terminating the other’s intrusion upon the actor’s possession of land or chattels, is privileged if, but only if, the actor reasonably believes that the intruder, unless expelled or excluded, is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to the actor or to a third person whom the actor is privileged to protect.”

This case presents a more difficult case for the defense as a business rather than a home. Notably, if Fox was brandishing a knife, the result would likely have been different. However, the witness insisted that the shooting began without any threat. Notably, there is no record of a criminal charge in the case.

We have seen cases, including the Horn case in Texas, where there was no threat to a homeowner, but no criminal charges were brought.

Source: Gazette

Jonathan Turley

75 thoughts on “El Paso County Jury Rules In Favor Of Family Of Burglar Killed By Business Owner

  1. AY,

    Since you brought it up:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/31/lawrence-wilkerson-dick-cheney-book_n_943217.html

    “Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Colin Powell during his tenure as secretary of state, tells ABC News that former vice president Dick Cheney “fears being tried as a war criminal.”

    The suggestion from Wilkerson coincides with the release of Cheney’s new book, In My Time, which came out on Tuesday.

    Wilkerson signaled to Democracy Now! that he believes Bush administration officials should be held accountable when it comes to matters such as the authorization of warrantless wiretapping and the use of harsh interrogation techniques for terror suspects.

    “And I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due,” he said. “And I think that explains the aggressiveness, to a large extent, of the Cheney attack and of the words like ‘exploding heads all over Washington.’ This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will ‘Pinochet’ Dick Cheney.’

    (Augusto Pinochet, former Chilean dictator, was arrested for war crimes.)”

    And, yes, let’s get down to the business of exposing what’s taking place in the U.S…. things for which Dick Cheney is, at least, partially responsible.

  2. Texas seems like an unlikely place for this kind of ruling
    and it wouldn’t surprise me if it gets overturned. Along
    with owning a firearm and then using it ostensibly for self
    defense carries a certain amount of responsibility. Law
    enforcement officers are taught to only use deadly force if
    their lives are in imminent danger and are trained how to
    respond in these kinds of situations. Placing that kind of life or death responsibility in the hands of the average citizen may be more than he or she can handle.

  3. I love your statement that you may not have violated the law, but you are still NOT a law abiding citizen! That has to be one for the books! I find it absurd that those who break the law knowing of possible consequences should be exempt from those consequences. Why bother with democracy and laws at all? We should just do as we please.

    As for investment bankers, I think that they should be in prison and all their money taken from them. THAT will be worse than torture for them. As a matter of fact, I would like to see the whole class of such an occupation be banned.

    Most stories get taken from police reports or use them, and so it is NOT the job of the reporter or editor to delete major items such as identifying marks, race, sex, etc. I guess you also object to stories that cite the athletic team some player who is arrested plays for. I hardly think that who a person plays for is relevant too, but since you hate jocks, whites, and others who you disapprove of, it is OK to cite them. I have no problem with saying who the team the guy plays for, or what they do for a living, or their race or sex. I think that most people are smart enough to realize that NOT all who play for a team or are of the same race are the same as the crook. Unfortunately, YOU seems to be unable to do that, but your disability should not dictate how stories are writtern.

  4. I know this article started about Colorado. But since it veered to Texas, I just read at http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/shooting-hogs-helicopters-fishing-hands-five-perry-approved-170245980.html that new laws take place in Texas next Thursday.

    It will be legal to shoot hogs from a helicopter.

    It will be legal to keep a gun in your car while you’re at work.

    The speed limit will be 85.

    Texas strip clubs that serve liquor will charge a $5 pole tax.

  5. “I love your statement that you may not have violated the law, but you are still NOT a law abiding citizen!”

    Exactly where did I make that statement you attribute to me?

    “As for investment bankers, I think that they should be in prison and all their money taken from them. THAT will be worse than torture for them.”

    Nice sentiment but how does it relate to shooting someone stealing a car battery being justified?

    “Most stories get taken from police reports or use them, and so it is NOT the job of the reporter or editor to delete major items such as identifying marks, race, sex, etc”

    Are you a reporter or editor?

    “I guess you also object to stories that cite the athletic team some player who is arrested plays for. I hardly think that who a person plays for is relevant too”

    Where did I say I objected to citing a team in a player’s arrest story?

    “but since you hate jocks, whites, and others who you disapprove of, it is OK to cite them.”

    Why do you assume I hate jocks. I love all sports and have played many of them extensively. I am white, why would you think I hate them. I hate bigotry.

    “I think that most people are smart enough to realize that NOT all who play for a team or are of the same race are the same as the crook. Unfortunately, YOU seems to be unable to do that, but your disability should not dictate how stories are writtern.”

    You seem blithely unaware of the nature and history of bigotry, especially the fact that politicians get elected as “law and order” candidates which is
    code for suppression of minorities, due to the assumption that they are mostly criminals. Beyond that though as cited above, you seem to have a deficit in reading comprehension, in that you were unable to discern my meaning and responded falsely due to that. Finally, I merely pointed out something in what you wrote and I didn’t “dictate” anything.

    .

  6. Noah V,

    I too read that, boars are a problem not only in Texas but pert near the entire SE US….they get big…up to nearly a ton…and mean…and destructive…

  7. Those laws are NOT just approved by Perry, but most Texans since they are mostly common sense ones. Hogs are wildly out of control in the state and need to be killed off FAR more than they have been to date. I approve of shooting hogs from aircraft in Texas, while I am very much opposed to doing the same against wolves. There is NO reason to hunt wolves from an aircraft since they are not so numerous that they are any kind of a threat to humans. They DO prey on livestock to some degree, but the ranchers are too damn cheap to use an age old rememdy, shepherds. So they want to make ALL of their stock safe by killing off all the wolves.

    Many Texans have concealed weapons permits, so this is no big deal to let them keep their guns in their personal vehicles, again concealed. As for driving at 85 only those who do not live in the west would be against such a thing. The distances between cities and towns is massive out west and the roads are straight as an arrow, so this is a common sense speed. As for fishing without a pole, we do not have a dearth of catfish so no problem there either.

    The pole tax might run up against the Constitutional amendment against poll taxes, but the courts have ruled that they do not, so I have no problem with that one either. The REAL problem is that the money will be siphoned off from its stated purpose since Perry is an expert at bait and switch.

  8. To me if you shoot someone stealing your car battery, you are not a law-abiding citizen, even if you get away with it

    In Texas you definitely can do so since you will be following the law, thus you ARE a law abiding citizen. Call such a person a murderer, and you can and will find yourself on the wrong end of a suit for slander or libel and YOU WILL be guilty and pay accordingly. Your statement reminds me of a statement a conservative used when I pointed out that Houston is NOT a sanctuary ctiy since there are NO such policies in place for the city. Her comment was I don’t care if there are no written policies or facts, they are STILL a sanctuary city! Sort of says why juries in Texas are pretty bad when it comes to finding people innocent. If you are charged and on trial, you are obviously guilty, no matter what the evidence is. Your statement is of like kind, I don’t care what the law is you are still a crook for following the law.

    I was using your logic since you feel that if you write that a crook was black, you are obviously a racist. That was the same kind of logic I used tongue in cheek for saying you hate jocks etc.. All people who hunt, like guns, and think that armed self defense of property or persons is good are NOT racist conservatives
    .Where did I say I objected to citing a team in a player’s arrest story?

    I rather assumed that since it is verboten to mention a persons race, that mentioning who they work for or play ball for would not be relevant to any crime story. I fail to see why mentioning the sex or who a crook works for is relevant either. Maybe you can explain this disparity. My fault for thinking you would be consistent.

    Again since some politicians use some rants about law and order harldly means that lawlessness and disorder is a GOOD thing. The same goes for patriotism. I am all for it, and just because there are crooks who wrap themselves in the flag does NOT mean people should spit on it. I think that you need to think a bit more rather than reacting vicerally against things.

  9. “In Texas you definitely can do so since you will be following the law, thus you ARE a law abiding citizen.”

    Again a deficit in reading comprehension. I understand what the law IS. I disagree with it in this case and the shooter does not meet my definition of a
    “law abiding citizen”, merely a creepy killer. You on the other hand approve and blame the victim.

    “Call such a person a murderer, and you can and will find yourself on the wrong end of a suit for slander or libel and YOU WILL be guilty and pay accordingly.”

    If I state that in my opinion alone this act was a murder, then I’m guilty of nothing.

    “Your statement is of like kind, I don’t care what the law is you are still a crook for following the law.”

    My statement was my opinion of such laws, this case in particular and being cognizant of the law was in no way advocating any sort of further disposition in this case. That is what a discussion is about, though in your inability to read beyond your own pre-judgment you interpreted my words in light of your own belief system.

    “I was using your logic since you feel that if you write that a crook was black, you are obviously a racist.”

    I was asking you a rather obvious question as to your need to use the persons race in explaining a simple story that didn’t seem to have any racial connotation. You answered in embarrassment and tried to liken yourself to an impartial reporter. Your embarrassment was obviously due to the fact that there was no particular good reason for you to have mentioned a person’s race in relating your tale and you know it.

    “I was using your logic since you feel that if you write that a crook was black, you are obviously a racist. That was the same kind of logic I used tongue in cheek for saying you hate jocks etc.. All people who hunt, like guns, and think that armed self defense of property or persons is good are NOT racist conservatives”

    In truth you don’t have a clue about what I think, what you have is a set of assumptions/suppositions, based on stereotypes. Arthur, you don’t know me. If someone entered my house and threatened my family and myself, I would hurt or kill them if I had to and have no qualms about it. However, if I caught a burglar who was scared and ready to run away, I’d let him do so (without my property of course) and then call the police. I don’t think in stereotypes, but based on your writings you do.

    Your stereotypes are that those you deem “liberals” (which I am not) are sort of effete intellectuals who think themselves above most people. I like
    sports, can carouse with the best of them (in my younger days), have good outdoor skills, watch NASCAR and when I drink it isn’t beer but Tequila.

    “I rather assumed that since it is verboten to mention a persons race, that mentioning who they work for or play ball for would not be relevant to any crime story.”

    Again this is from you defensiveness and misapprehension. It is proper to mention someone’s race in a proper context. In the context of your tale it was gratuitous and therefore somewhat suspect. I’ve never played the
    “political correctness game”, which is why some leftists detest me, but you are aware, aren’t you, that the term “political correctness” stems from certain racist’s trying to defend their own words by deflecting criticism against the critic.

  10. Actually, the owners of this shop had been broken into twice before they shot the burglar. One of the big problems the shop owners had was that they bragged to the police that they were gonna get the next burglar that tries to rob them. This was BEFORE the attempted robbery. The law in Colorado is clear. There is a make my day law for homes, not businesses. What these guys did was against the law.

  11. He has tasted the sweets and bitters of life.Make yourself at home.I think I’ve caught a cold.l am vacuuming the floor now and have several shirts to iron.Keep it up!I’ll call a taxi in case of need.I’ll call a taxi in case of need.I agreeAll that glitters is not gold.What is your plan?

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