Justified Homicide Or Just Bad Kaarma? Montana Man Accused Of Laying Trap In Killing German Exchange Student

article-2626808-1DCE739600000578-307_306x600I was recently interviewed about the highly troubling case involving the killing of German exchange student Diren Dede (left) in a Montana garage. The shooter was Markus Kaarma who has been charged with deliberate homicide after he allegedly set up a trap for Debe with bait, motion cameras . . . and the state’s castle doctrine law.

article-2626808-1DCE739E00000578-168_634x603Police say that the shooting was premeditated and unnecessary. Kaarma’s garage had been burgled twice because Kaarma and his long-time girlfriend (right) often left the door open to smoke. He had had enough and allegedly told his hairdresser that he was “waiting up nights to shoot some [f******] kid.” He installed motion detectors and a video monitor. He then reportedly left the door open with his wife’s purse inside. Within days, he had his pigeon. He saw Debe on the monitor and raked the dark garage with shotgun fire. Dede, 17, and Ecuadorian foreign exchange student Robby Pazmino were out walking in the Missoula neighborhood when Dede entered entered the garage looking for alcohol.

The Montana law reads:

45-3-103. Use of force in defense of occupied structure.
(1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.
(2) A person justified in the use of force pursuant to subsection (1) is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if:
(a) the entry is made or attempted and the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault upon the person or another then in the occupied structure; or
(b) the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.

History: En. 94-3-103 by Sec. 1, Ch. 513, L. 1973; R.C.M. 1947, 94-3-103; amd. Sec. 1644, Ch. 56, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 332, L. 2009.

As with many of these laws, Montana Castle Doctrine allows the use of force to “prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry.”

We ironically last discussed the law in another case of an alleged set up involving a husband and the lover of his wife.

As many on this blog know, I have been a vocal critic (if not one of the most vocal critics) against Castle doctrines laws that are often related to SYG legislation. I have written extensively against the Castle Laws currently in place in a majority of states and the SYG laws that extend these laws outside of the home. My argument for years has been that these laws are not necessary and encourage people to use lethal force with often disastrous results.

The common law does not impose a duty to retreat. It preexisted the Stand Your Ground laws in most states — as was discussed in the George Zimmerman case. If it didn’t, hundreds of thousands of cases of self-defense would have had different results after people defended themselves rather than flee. Indeed, this is a point that I often made in opposing these laws: you already have the right to defend yourself and not to retreat. There are slight difference in the jury instruction among the states, including Florida, but the Zimmerman instructions reflected the general common law standard for self-defense and the justified use of force.  If the President was referring to the no duty to retreat rule in his call for reform, he would have to change not the SYG laws but the common law in the majority of states.  This has been a rule either through statute or common law for a long time.  The change would require citizens to retreat or flee when attacked in most cases or lose the defense in the use of lethal force.

As I explained in my interview, the Kaarma case has remarkably close similarities to past controversies. Like the Tom Horn case, the shooter appeared eager to kill. It also bears similarities to the most notorious case involved the shooting of a Japanese student in Baton Rouge. The 16-year-old Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, was looking for a Halloween party and scared the wife of Rodney Peairs when he spoke a strange language and approached the house. Peairs shot him in the chest with a .44 Magnum handgun and was later cleared under a Make My Day law as mistaken defense of his home and self. It perhaps has the closest similarities to the earlier Montana case. All involved easily avoidable killings and two involved shooters who seemed empowered and enabled by the law.

One report says that Kaarma’s live-in girlfriend told neighbors that someone had previously stolen marijuana from the firefighter’s garage. Police Missoula police reportedly found a jar of marijuana in Mr Kaarma’s home the day he shot Dede and believe Kaarma ‘may have been impaired by alcohol, dangerous drugs, other drugs, intoxicating substances or a combination of the above, at the time of the incident.” They have taken blood samples pursuant to a court order.

In the end however the prosecutors are facing a law with sweeping protections, even in cases where there is an allegedly premeditated set up. He can still claim that regardless of any temptation created by him, he still had a reasonable belief “that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.” That is the problem of abandoning the long-standing common law rule — it removes elements of reasonableness and creates a sweeping immunity issue as the threshold and determinative question.

Source: Daily Mail

106 thoughts on “Justified Homicide Or Just Bad Kaarma? Montana Man Accused Of Laying Trap In Killing German Exchange Student”

  1. Killing for “stuff”? Insane. This guy needs to spend some serious time in jail. I’ve been burgled twice, lost some one-of-kind jewelry in one. Never considered getting a gun. Stuff is stuff and usually be replaced. The life of the teen is gone forever.

  2. Holy COW …. that POS that shot and killed the 2 teens that had entered his house and he recored the event…..

    Well…. he will be spending the REST of his miserable life in PRISON!!!

    Now, don’t get me wrong…..
    I am NOT that bleeding heart that I think kids should break into homes….


    This guy a deranged lunatic ……

    here are the tapes of 2 teens taking their last breath…..


    quite sobering……

    1. justagurl – there is no question that Smith deserves to go to jail for murder

  3. They were frustrated, on edge and felt someone in their neighborhood was watching them, Ryan said. The couple called police ‘and nothing was done,’ he said.


    Perhaps it was the smoking of pot that made him so paranoid ????

    even a passive pot smoker can get that “I’m being watched feeling” …..

  4. Karen, the boy’s friend admitted to petty theft, not robbery. Robbery is a much more serious crime and in most jurisdictions requires causing or threatening to cause personal injury in connection with the theft of property. The story here is that they were looking to steal some alcohol left in a garage, which typically might be a case of beer. I’m much less sympathetic to someone killed while trying to rob someone than I am to someone killed trying to steal a small amount of property.

  5. I think that this homeowner in this case could have pointed the gun at the
    kid and just said….. “get the Feck out of my garage”

    and given him a stern warning that this is the USA where people
    will shoot you for walking into their garage….

    There is just NO excuse to kill somebody for entering your open

    That could have been somebody looking for help….
    or somebody wanting to help….

    It REALLY makes me sad that people feel the need to shoot people
    FIRST and ask questions later….

    and NO, I do not think this is the same as breaking into a home….
    a garage is NOT IN your home…..

    This is just another whack job who wanted to kill somebody
    for taking a freaking hammer…

    If you don’t like people taking your hammer… LOCK your freaking garage….

    a hammer you can replace….. somebody else’s LIFE, YOU CAN”t replace….

    and the fact that he set the purse in the garage deliberately, setting a trap…
    then shot and killed somebody makes my skin crawl….

  6. What time did this occur, late at night? An honest person would never go into a stranger’s garage looking for something to steal. Dede made a costly mistake to say the least. Kaarma should be tried for entrapment and premeditated murder. This is coming from a gun owner that doesn’t want more gun laws. In Los Angeles it’s almost impossible to get a concealed carry permit, or to even have a gun in your car.

  7. Ohh…. and one time when I lived in Sacramento…
    I had just moved in with a good friend and I went out to celebrate
    my new home…
    LATE at night I came home after a few drinks….
    what I failed to do was remember my house number….
    It was one of those streets where EVERY house is IDENTICAL….
    I walked into the WRONG house…. OOppsss…..

    I realized it one I get a few steps in….. hehehehehe….
    I quickly and quietly backed out….
    Ohhhh am I ever happy that this neighbor was NOY standing there
    with a gun waiting for me….. 😀

    1. Bruce – since the police use bait all the time, hard to see entrapment. There was not a big sign that said Steal this.

  8. Justagurl – the boy’s friend admitted they had robbed garages before. Sounds like they fell into the category of boys doing stupid stuff that parents everywhere pray they grow out of.

    1. justagurl – I agree that kids do stupid things and sometimes they get killed doing it.

  9. Hi YOU all… I know Nick, I miss Idealist so much…. 🙁
    I hope you are doing well tho Nick….. GREAT to see you here…. 🙂

    Hi Annie…. It is MOST lovely to see you again…. I always enjoy reading your posts….

    as for this case….

    The homeowner left the garage door open and his wife’s purse
    in plain view from the street…….

    Now, what if that kid, in his looking for a soda, saw the purse
    and was looking inside to make sure that the female of the house
    was OK, that she had not fallen and injured herself and needed help??? ….. or maybe going to take the purse to the front door????
    Or even put it in her car, so that somebody else would NOT come along and take it…..

    I know we LIKE to assume that ALL people are bad….

    But, fact is… It is a LOT less bad people in the world than GOOD people….

    This guy set the wrong trap…… and potentially killed a kid who maybe was going to help them….

    I know ONE thing for sure, the kid TRESPASSED….. Nothing MORE….
    that is NOT grounds for murder……

    I had my car broken into a few times… 2 times to be exact….

    It NEVER dawned on me to want to kill who ever did it…..

    Yeah, I was mad…. BUT, I also blamed myself…

    WHY would I leave valuable items in my car???
    That is just silly……

    and in my youth…… I knew a LOT of kids who would take things from cars….
    some even vandals…..
    and today, some are lawyers….. and some are doctors…
    and ONE is an ex drug addict who never intended to hurt anybody…..

    Just boys doing stupid stuff…. and they grew out of it to become
    VERY much a part of society…

  10. Paul, I did not know that about the garage. If the kid had to break something get inside the garage, then that would give Kaarma a much stronger legal argument I would think. If it were just a matter of using some amount of force to lift the garage door, however, I wouldn’t think theft of property under those circumstances constitutes a “forcible felony.” Also seems like there might be an issue as to whether the garage was an “occupied structure” under Montana law (maybe depends on whether garage was detached or not?). These are just some musings, and I suspect Montana law provides more clarity on what constitutes “forcible felony” and “occupied structure.”

  11. randyjet – I’m a military brat. My father always counseled us never to trust our safety to a criminal, or give him the chance to rush at us or disarm us. If someone breaks into your house at night, when it can be assumed the family would be home, there is great risk that he means to harm you.

    My father stopped a man who was loudly, forcibly, trying to break into the house in the middle of the night simply by chambering a round. He did not say one word. There was dead silence for a beat, and then a heartfelt, “I’m very sorry, sir. I’ll just be going now,” could be heard through the door.

  12. Paul – hahaha! In my community all the people we know are gun owners. You just never hear about break-ins into the home when the owners are there. Usually it’s outbuildings that are hit at night. One would assume that criminals have a sense of self-preservation.

    1. Waldo – I am sure the terms have been either defined or litigated. 🙂

  13. Paul – I thought he left his garage wide open, with the purse in plain view for anyone walking by to just reach out and snag it. This sounds like less of a bait, but still a complicated issue.

    1. Karen – there seem to be several stories going around. They smoked in the garage, supposedly and left the bottom open to allow the smoke to go out. They had been robbed twice already and it appears that a gang or gangs of thieves were opportunistically targeting garages, etc. This one is likely to get messy by the time it is done.
      Missoula used to be a very Western town and then over the last 15-20 years people from the East and California have moved in yuppifying the community. It is also a university town which just adds to the problems. 🙂

  14. I was robbed while I was home. It affects your sense of safety in your own home for a good long while, even when you didn’t get hurt. It’s just plain scary to find out someone invaded your home.

    It’s the lying in wait and the open garage that I object to, and in other cases, shooting suspects when they are down, and no danger.

  15. randyjet:

    “The real conflict is between those who feel that deadly force in defense of property is wrong, and those who think it is right.” That’s a good point. Is deadly force allowed when you are not in fear for your life, but defending property? When you said you would not hesitate to shoot in a similar situation, did you mean the one where the woman shot robbers leaving her house with stolen property, or the Horn case?

    Animals are considered property, too. If someone was stealing or killing a pet or a horse you considered family, would that, too, be considered defending property? There have been grizzly killings of horses around the US as part of an underground horse meat ring. Not to get too graphic, but the horses met a terrible end, right in their stalls.

    I, too, support the second amendment and the right to defend yourself. I would not shoot someone running away with my TV, but I would defend my animals like I would my family. And if I found someone breaking into my home, with my family inside, I don’t know if he could convince me he meant us no harm.

    1. Karen, I would use deadly force in both those cases since it is perfectly legal and MORAL to do so. In both those cases I would do the same. In Horn’s case he had a chance to confront the crooks and gave them a chance to surrender. I would like to think I would do the same and it was daylight as well. In the case of the woman liberal Obama supporter I would also do the same since she was confronted by three men who could and would overwhelm and probably kill her if she advertised her presence, and it was dark. She would have had no hope of recovering her property had she not shot and tried to kill them. I would hope that I would have been a better shot and nailed all of them, but I can understand her miss of the third crook. I doubt if I could have nailed him either since it was longer range, a side shot and in the dark. It is too bad one more wasn’t killed, but I guess we can be grateful she got at least one dead,

      In the case of the horse killers, one can know that such crooks are armed at least with knives, and I would simply open fire day or night. I would not give them a chance at all to surrender since I would be outnumbered and in grave danger of death from them. Killing such people would be a service to society since they will simply continue their criminal careers and probably wind up killing people in the course of their crimes.

  16. IF he didnt want to be shot he shouldnt have gone into someones house

  17. Looking at statute, it seems like issue is whether Kaarma reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure. It doesn’t seem to me that stealing something out of a garage left open should be considered to be a “forcible felony” but would need to know Montana law better to render a considered opinion.

    Apart from any legal issues, I really hope the guy gets convicted and spends a long time in jail. I don’t want to encourage killing kids for minor crimes.

    1. Waldo – according to the photos, the family kept the garage open about 12 inches. For the kid to get in, he would have to force the door somehow, locked or unlock, I am not sure. On my electric garage if I have the door in the position, you have to use the keypad or force it from the outside.

  18. In most states baiting game is ILLEGAL. So how it can be legal to bait people is beyond me.

  19. Justagurl – you’re right – these loopholes can appeal to murderers.

    1. justagurl – some people don’t mind being burgled time and again. Some do. This is not killing because he wanted to see what it felt like. This was defending his property for serial thieves.

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