Oklahoma Mother Calls Dispatch For Approval Before Shooting Intruder — Accomplice Then Charged With Murder

There is an interesting case out of Blanchard, Oklahoma involving the “Make My Day” or “Castle doctrine” laws, a subject that we have repeatedly discussed over the years. In this case, Sarah McKinley, 18, asked a dispatcher on New Year’s Eve over the phone whether she could shoot an intruder in her home. The dispatcher told her that she should do what she needed to do. She did. Justin Shane Martin, 24, was shot did and his alleged accomplice will be charged in his death.

I have long been critical of the Castle Doctrine laws as unnecessary in either tort or criminal law to protect homeowners from liability. Instead, it has been used in many cases to justify or attempt to excuse unnecessary (here and here and here) or mistaken killings.

This is a good example of why these laws are not necessary. Martin was armed with a knife, which would have been sufficient under any definition of self-defense even without a Castle Doctrine law. No jury would convict McKinley in the use of lethal force in such a case. While Oklahoma is a Make My Day state, she is allowed to act in self-defense and is only required to act reasonably in the face of a threat. In the call, McKinley tells the dispatcher that her 3-month-old son was with her and says “I’ve got two guns in my hand. Is it OK to shoot him if he comes in this door?” The dispatcher responds “Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself. I can’t tell you that you can do that, but you have to do what you have to do to protect your baby.”

McKinley has had a very tough month. Her husband died a week earlier on Christmas Day from lung cancer. Adding to the nightmare for McKinley is that the men continued to breakdown the door for 20 minutes after she barricaded it with a couch.

What is interesting (and not unheard of) is the charge against Dustin Louis Stewart, 29, with first-degree murder. Stewart simply ran away after the shots were fired.

The men were believed to be after prescription drugs.

I have no sympathy for either man, including the dead man. However, is this a fair use of a felony murder provision? Here one of the culprits was killed in a justified use of lethal force and the defendant apparently was not armed and fled the scene. Breaking and entering an occupied home already comes with a heavy sentence. He should get such a heavy sentence, but is felony murder justified?

Source: ABC

30 thoughts on “Oklahoma Mother Calls Dispatch For Approval Before Shooting Intruder — Accomplice Then Charged With Murder”

  1. Why it took so long for police to respond —

    I live in Oklahoma, and the OKC media is reporting that the reason it took so long to respond was due to multiple reasons. First, this lady lives in a very rural part of the county and lives in a trailer, which are often not clearly location-identified at 911 centers. Secondly, she called 911 on her cell phone. Unfortunately her call was intercepted by a tower and the 911 center of an adjoining town and was routed to a county Sheriff, not Blanchard Police. Once they finally figured out where she was, they transferred her to the 911 center in Blanchard and dispatched police, who were on scene within six minutes but by then it was already too late. Contrary to what previous posters have said, Grady County is a rural community and is not one of the largest counties in Oklahoma. The largest counties are all clustered within/around OKC, Tulsa, Norman, and Lawton.

    It’s sometimes funny to joke about ‘cops and donuts’ and things like that, but the reality is that, according to media interviews, the police and city employees in Blanchard are very distressed by this and are looking into ways to improve their 911 system so that this doesn’t happen again. They deserve our sympathy, not ridicule.

    On whether or not charging the accomplice with murder is legal —

    It’s funny, this law has been on the books here in OK a while. If I remember correctly several folks have been charged and convicted under this law, not just plea bargains. At the time the law went into effect a few years ago my reactions were similar to some on this board. If you guys really think this might be contrary to other law or unconstitutional, then realize this is why many in the general populace have little faith in our lawyers today. Laws are passed, things happen, and no one notices… maybe for decades… until someone finally gets around to ‘setting things straight.’ Not a great system.

  2. “When seconds count . . . Cops arrive in minutes”. Yeah, just in time to call the coroner and wrap the house in yellow crime tape. No thanks. They were probably busy shooting someone’s poodle during a drug bust or tazing a homeless dude. Less than worthless.

    Praise Allah, I live in a very gun-friendly state (AZ) which allows concealed carry and also has the Castle Doctrine. It makes it quite convenient for me to wear my Gene Pool Lifeguard badge as I go about my daily life. Trust me, if I ever have to defend myself or my loved ones from violent thugs I will not hesitate nor will I require ANY counseling sessions afterward. Lawyer is on speed dial. [Note to self: never talk to cops.]

    What makes me shake my head is that this women felt it necessary to ask permission from the 911 dispatcher to defend herself with lethal force.

  3. I don’t see what the problem is. This is something that is done regularly. If someone is killed during the commission of a crime (whether it is the intended victim, accomplice or even a by-stander) then the perpetrators or accomplices can be charged with murder/manslaughter or whatever the local/state/fed law allows whatever their involvement (although, DAs often make deals and simply use that as leverage in plea deals).

    I see it as perfectly reasonable. They took part in the commission of a home invasion. I don’t know that I’m really sold on the Castle Doctrine (I agree it has its flaws), but generally support it. Probably would in this case. Don’t know all the details, but sounds completely appropriate to charge the accomplice with felony murder. He should be thankful he’s only going to spend many years in jail and delay his trip to a coffin like his friend.

    Now that wouldn’t mean I would think it is appropriate in every single case, but most, yes.

  4. Prairieblue said:

    “In another case out of NY, a purse-snatcher was charged with felony murder after his elderly victim fell, was taken to the hospital, and died due to errors by the attending physician. But the felony murder charge stuck because the courts determined the purse snatcher had a violent history.”

    And some wonder why I yammer so.

  5. Those questioning response time must not be familiar with the joys of living in remote areas. Our county has a five thousand foot elevation change in several areas. If the county were ironed out flat I suspect it would be the size of Massachusetts. At any rate, we have only a few hundred square miles and a thousand miles of roads. It can easily take a half hour to get anywhere around here. The sheriff does not have that many units on the road at any given time, and they stay pretty busy. Auto wrecks around here tend to look more like plane crashes.

    We have had several home invaders shot here in the past couple of years. One intended victim was an elderly gentleman in his 80s, but he had a shotgun and knew how to use it. He did not shoot to kill, but did make the intruder a candidate for a Darwin Award by removing him from the gene pool. Seems the close range shot hit the guy squarely in the groin, separating him from the body parts contained therein rather messily.

    Deputies and an ambulance arrived quickly enough to keep the perp from bleeding to death, although someone commented that he had one less reason to live anymore.

  6. Charging the co-burglar with his accomplice’s death as murder sounds like something out of an Iranian court.

    Blanchard, OK is right on the border of two counties. If the responding officer had started on the other side of the county, and had to drive 20 or 30 miles on country roads to get to the scene, that could easily take a while. Slow emergency response time is one of the tradeoffs for living in a low population density area.

  7. anon nurse
    1, January 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm
    “how in the heck it can take 20 minutes for police to arrive?” -rafflaw

    They stopped for doughnuts?


    Smart-ass 😉 … have you been hanging out with pete?

  8. “how in the heck it can take 20 minutes for police to arrive?” -rafflaw

    They stopped for doughnuts?

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