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?