There is a truly bizarre case out of California this week in which A 90-year-old California man Jay Leone was shot during an alleged burglary by a methamphetamine addict. The addict, Samuel Cutrufelli, 31, has now sued Leone for negligence. It is the type of case often referenced by legislators in support of Castle Doctrine or Make My Day laws — laws that I have long opposed. Indeed, this case is an example of why such laws are not needed. The case appears meritless and will likely face dismissal by the court.
Cutrufelli entered Leone’s home and put a gun to his head. He then tied up Leone with a belt and began to ransack the home. Leone wiggled free his hands and then convinced Cutrufelli to let him use the bathroom. He promptly grabbed one of five handguns in the house and confronted Cutrufelli in his closet. Cutrufelli then shot Leone in the jaw. Leone fired his gun and hit Cutrufelli but Cutrufelli was able to wrestle it away. He then put the gun to Leone’s head and allegedly pulled the trigger. However, the gun was now empty.
Cutrufelli, who is the father of two and charged with two counts of attempted murder, claims Leone caused him “great bodily injury, and other financial damage, including loss of Mr. Cutrufelli’s home, and also the dissolution of Mr. Cutrufelli’s marriage” from the negligence of his conduct. The lawsuit was filed on his behalf by his father and his criminal defense attorney
Cutrufelli’s lawyer, Sanford Troy, said Cutrufelli is a methamphetamine user and that the incident was part of a drug deal gone sideways. He says that Leone shot his client in the back when he was trying to flee. What is curious is that the defense has not linked Leone to the alleged drug deal and it is assumed (though not clear) that the allegation is directed at tenants living in the house. If true, that would be a rather attenuated claim.
Cutrufelli previously lost a motion to dismiss the charges due to the fact that the insurance company hired a “residential disaster reconstruction” team to clean up the blood-spattered house as well as claims of the interference with counsel in the hospital. Cutrufelli has a criminal record involving a prior conviction for attacking a pedestrian who complained about being nearly hit in a crosswalk. Cutrufelli responded by breaking a bottle over the 22-year-old victim’s head and using a folding knife to stab him four times.
We recently discussed the Castle Doctrine laws in a disturbing case out of Montana. There are likely to be many who will cite this case as a further justification of such laws. The Castle Doctrine is a generally a reference to the modern trend of legislatively empowering homeowners to use lethal force solely on the basis of a home invasion.
Under the common law, there was not “fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others” so long as you acted in reasonable self-defense or even “reasonable mistaken self-defense.” In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense.
The common law has long offered ample protections even for reasonable mistakes. These laws are based on an urban legend that people are routinely prosecuted for defending their homes from intruders. The laws have produced perverse results as in the infamous case of Tom Horn in Texas. Yet, the popularity of these laws have spawned “Make My Day Better” laws that extend the privilege of lethal force to businesses and cars. Montana’s law had been invoked in workplace shootings.
This case does not show that such laws are needed. To the contrary, anyone can file a negligence lawsuit, but the chances of success of such an action is exceptionally remote. Even if this man went to the home on a drug deal with third parties, Leone was acting under the privilege of self-defense.
25 thoughts on “Ninety Year Old California Man Sued By An Addict Who Shot Him In His Home”
I certainly don’t hold myself out as expert in matters of government. My belief that “voter privilege” by basic education and legal residency, would be a far more enlightened – and to my mind, more effective way to run a complex nation – than what we have now, stems from an assembly of these observations:
1. There appears to be no universally-accepted definition of democracy. It’s basic feature seems to be the capacity of individuals to participate freely and fully in the shape of their society.
2. The term “democracy” strikes me as shorthand for such elements as pluralism; equality in the eyes of the law; the right to redress grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights.
3. The fact that when this country was founded, one needed to be rich, white & male to vote – is itself a testament to the advantages of improving on what was already a pretty good start. We saw the inherent flaws and we corrected them.
I submit we need to continue fine-tuning, and not just assume that what worked in the past will work in the future. It won’t, because there are far more of us now than ever.
I would point to the “18-years-or-older” rule as an accurate example of a limitation that does not – in itself – fly in the face of “democracy.”
Neither would proof of citizenship, nor proof that our votership is brighter than a 5th grader.
As any of the attorneys here will tell you, anyone who can come up with a filing fee can sue anyone for anything. I was sued once. It was an adjudicated child molester who sued me because he blamed me for not being able to have unsupervised visitation with his five year old daughter. She was the victim of his crime. He wanted $1.2 million dollars. Go figure.
The judge threw out the case with prejudice.
Bill above is probably right but I would like to see this particular meth head shot on sight. Suing a 90 year old man. His lawyer must be doing the meth too.
ALL drugs have the potential of being used as the reason for bad behavior.
Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, TV, gambling, shopping…where do you stop, and
who should have the right to label something as a dangerous drug? YOU?
Why should your opinion be more important than John Doe’s opinion?
While I understand your underlying frustration at the general civic ignorance possessed by most Americans (many of whom don’t even know there are three branches of government or why), the idea that voting should be a privilege (and ergo restricted) is not only contrary to the Constitution but simply anti-democratic. What you end up with is express oligarchy which is just as bad as the tacit oligarchy we are getting right now under the ever encroaching corporatist fascism that is eroding our democracy. It’s simply a bad idea and harmful to the idea of restoring both the Constitution and protecting our civil rights.
Now taking civics? Should be mandatory. Having a refresher course every three years? Should be mandatory. But free and fair elections are a fundamental characteristic of democracy. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
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