In Franklin County, Tennessee, children may want to avoid the house of Dale Bryant Farris, 65, this Halloween . . . or houses near him. Bryant was arrested after shooting a 15-year-old boy who was with kids toilet-papering their principal’s front yard. Bryant came out of his house a couple of houses down from the home of Principal Ken Bishop and allegedly fired at least two blasts — one hitting a 15-year-old boy in the right foot, inner left knee, right palm, right thigh and right side of his torso above the waistline.
Tennessee is a Castle Doctrine state and we have seen past cases like the notorious Tom Horn case in Texas where homeowners claimed the right to shoot intruders on the property of their neighbors. I have long been a critic of such laws because the common law already afforded ample protections and the laws appear to encourage some people to use potentially lethal force. It is not clear if Bryant will argue that he was trying to stop intruders under the law, but it does not appear a good fit with the purpose or language of the law. The law speaks of breaking into a residence:
(c) Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury within a residence, business, dwelling or vehicle is presumed to have held a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury to self, family, a member of the household or a person visiting as an invited guest, when that force is used against another person, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence, business, dwelling or vehicle, and the person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.
The law does have a curtilage provision extending the range of a home: “Curtilage means the area surrounding a dwelling that is necessary, convenient and habitually used for family purposes and for those activities associated with the sanctity of a person’s home.” However, residence is narrowed to mean “a dwelling in which a person resides, either temporarily or permanently, or is visiting as an invited guest, or any dwelling, building or other appurtenance within the curtilage of the residence.”
Franklin County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess seemed to have such a defense in mind when he said “The problem is they were not on his property and they were not doing anything to his property. Some kids got out at a residence over there to roll it with toilet paper and this gentleman came out of his residence a couple of houses over and shot one of the teenagers who was rolling this other guy’s yard.”
Farris faces a charge of aggravated assault and another of reckless endangerment. He could also face civil liability from the boy’s family. This would include assault and battery. There is a privilege of both self-defense and defense of others. This privilege included reasonable mistaken self-defense or defense of others. This would not fit such a claim since he effectively pursued the boys by going to a neighbor’s property and there was no appearance of a threat or weapon since they were only armed with toilet paper.
As for more carnage, well its anyone’s guess according to Sgt. Guess: “Don’t do anything that would cause anybody distress or make them think you might do them harm.”
So much for the trick in trick and treating. That leaves threatening to read bad poetry or play Barry Manilow tunes on Halloween. (Actually, even I would be pushed to violence with the Manilow trick and no jury outside of Vegas would convict me). The good news is that Farris can now go to Halloween dressed as himself . . . once he posts bail.
Source: Times Free Press