There is a surprising plea deal in Georgia this week where Philip Sailors, 69, (left) was accused of responding to Rodrigo Diaz (right) pulling into his driveway by mistake by shooting him in the head and killing him. Sailors has now been allowed to plead out on a single misdemeanor for involuntary manslaughter with no jail time. He was facing a murder charge. Under the plea bargain, Sailors will serve 12-months’ probation and pay a $500 fine. What is equally striking is that Sailors declined to say a word of apology to the family of Diaz when he appeared in court to accept the plea bargain of lifetime. We previously discussed this case.
Diaz appears to have pulled into the wrong driveway while following a mistaken GPS in January 2013. He was trying to find the driveway of his friend across the street to go roller-skating. When Sailors saw a strange car, he came out shooting: firing once in the air and once through the windshield of the car. The second round struck Diaz in the head.
There was evidence that Diaz was pulling out of the driveway when Sailor killed him.
What is also astonishing is that District Attorney Danny Porter said the family agreed with the plea deal. He said that “[t]hey are not in a position where they want to have Mr. Sailors sent to prison for the rest of his life.” OK, but where is the state in this emotive “position” on a person killing someone without cause and not going to prison? Porter said that the only thing that the family wanted was to make clear that Diaz “was not engaged in any unlawful activity, was not engaged in anything even improper.”
It is true that the victim’s father Rodrigo Diaz Senior is quoted as saying that he did not want to destroy two families. Yet, Sailor did not even offer an apology in the courtroom or even address the family. The father asked him why he was using a special type of ammunition that was more damaging on impact. He got no answer. Sailor stayed silent and just walked out.
The family did sue Sailors and there was a settlement. It is not clear if that settlement influenced the family’s position on sentencing.
According to news reports, Sailors is a retired BellSouth employee and active church member who has traveled internationally on missions.
As discussed earlier, the state law protecting homeowners in the use of lethal force may have weighed heavily on the prosecutor. His attorney has already said that Sailors thought he was defending his home and that he was going to be run down, even though the fatal bullet was fired when the car was moving away from the home and Sailors. The comments suggest a type of mistaken Castle Doctrine defense. Georgia is one of the states with a Castle Doctrine law. The Georgia law states:
O.C.G.A. § 16-3-23
Use of force in defense of habitation
A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation; however, such person is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:
(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence;
(2) That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using such force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred; or
(3) The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.
Thus it is based on a “reasonable belief.” The defense lawyer was quick to point out that another neighbor had recently been burglarized. However, that would not be enough for a reasonable belief. Then there is the question of the use of the law for a driveway.
The decision to charge “malice murder” is interesting since it requires a higher level of intent of scienter. However, in the use of the Castle Doctrine defense, Sailors had to still show a reasonable belief of danger. Here the evidence suggested that Diaz was pulling back though his lawyer suggested that he was initially in fear of being run over.
Kudos: Michael Blott