Alabama Man Under Investigation After Capturing Burglar and Then Tying Him To Tree . . . Only To Later Find Him Dead

tree1n-1-webThere is an interesting case out of Leroy, Alabama where Nathanial Johnson, 68, is facing an investigation after subduing and trying a burglar to a tree.  By the time, he returned with the police, the man, Cleveland Jones Gully, 31, was dead and Johnson could go from the victim to the accused in a criminal case.

Johnson admitted that he was hiding in waiting for the burglar after being the victim in prior burglaries.  He parked his car at a neighbor’s house and turned off the light.  When someone knocked around midnight, he did not answer.

tree1n-3-web

Johnson’s mobile home about 60 miles north of Mobile.

The man went to the back of the house and broke the lock.  Johnson sprang out of hiding and tackled the man, who fell off the back steps.  Gully lives nearby and has a history of burglaries.  He then put duct tape over the man’s mouth and tied him to a tree with a mix of electrical wire, rope from a clothesline and masking tape. He then went to his neighbor’s house to contact the police and insists that Gully was alive when he left him.  However, he was very much dead when he returned with the police.

Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer says that he does not believe that there was any intent to harm and that Johnson merely wanted to capture and hold Gully.

Johnson was held for 72 hours but not charged pending an autopsy on Gully.
This falls into a long controversial area of torts. The common law does not allow the use of force calculated to cause serious bodily injury or death in protection of property. In famous cases like Bird v. Holbrook, 4 Bing. 628, 130 Eng. Rep. 911 (1825), courts have ruled that “[n]o man can do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.” Not only are such devices viewed as immoral (because human life is more valuable than property), but dangerous because such devices cannot tell the difference between friend and foe. The case however also has been cited for the long-standing rule that no property is viewed as more valuable than a human life. That does not mean you cannot take steps to protect your property and a case of protection of property can become protection of self (with the right to use higher levels of force) when the suspect resists or attacks.

However, there are Castle Doctrine laws or Make My Day laws. I have been a long critic of Castle Doctrine laws. The title refers to the old adage that “a man’s home is his castle,” which is not a common law doctrine of criminal law or torts but rather an aspirational statement. 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.

Alabama is a castle doctrine state and the law is included below. Johnson’s laying in wait is not a violation of the conditions of the law nor is his initial use of force. The question will be whether, after subduing Gully, Johnson used the tape or restraints to effectively smother or strangle Gully. This would turn on a question of intent, which would likely be hard to prove. The law gives Johnson significant protections and the sheriff’s public statement undermines allegations of intentional harm. There could also be a question of preexisting conditions that would be unknown to Johnson.

Section 13A-3-23
Use of force in defense of a person.
(a) A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he or she may use a degree of force which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose. A person may use deadly physical force, and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another person pursuant to subdivision (4), if the person reasonably believes that another person is:
(1) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.
(2) Using or about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling while committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling.
(3) Committing or about to commit a kidnapping in any degree, assault in the first or second degree, burglary in any degree, robbery in any degree, forcible rape, or forcible sodomy.
(4) In the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or federally licensed nuclear power facility, or is in the process of sabotaging or attempting to sabotage a federally licensed nuclear power facility, or is attempting to remove, or has forcefully removed, a person against his or her will from any dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle when the person has a legal right to be there, and provided that the person using the deadly physical force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring. The legal presumption that a person using deadly physical force is justified to do so pursuant to this subdivision does not apply if:
a. The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner or lessee, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person;
b. The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used;
c. The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
d. The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his or her official duties.
(b) A person who is justified under subsection (a) in using physical force, including deadly physical force, and who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), a person is not justified in using physical force if:
(1) With intent to cause physical injury or death to another person, he or she provoked the use of unlawful physical force by such other person.
(2) He or she was the initial aggressor, except that his or her use of physical force upon another person under the circumstances is justifiable if he or she withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his or her intent to do so, but the latter person nevertheless continues or threatens the use of unlawful physical force.
(3) The physical force involved was the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.
(d) A person who uses force, including deadly physical force, as justified and permitted in this section is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the force was determined to be unlawful.
(e) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force described in subsection (a), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.
(Acts 1977, No. 607, p. 812, §610; Acts 1979, No. 79-599, p. 1060, §1; Act 2006-303, p. 638, §1.)

Kudos: Michael Barry

34 thoughts on “Alabama Man Under Investigation After Capturing Burglar and Then Tying Him To Tree . . . Only To Later Find Him Dead

  1. Off topic. But a good topic for the blog. The head of the Public Defenders Office in Missouri has the authority, as do judges, to appoint lawyers who are members of the Missouri Bar, to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases. The public defender funding is lame. So the head of the Missouri Public Defender Office appointed the Governor, Jay Nixon, to represent an indigent client. The story is on Slate and other websites.

  2. @NickS

    It is strange. Usually he is beating his chest and sobbing uncontrollably about one oppressed group, or another. But he has good sense on this issue/ Just FWIW, I would not have shot the robbers in the Tom Horn case just for stealing. But knowing that you run that risk, is a good deterrent.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  3. is now of the benefits sort, including Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, school lunch programs, etc.

    About 6.5% of all blacks receive federal housing assistance. He was a working-aged adult without children in residence; about 2% of the blacks who fit that description receive federal housing assistance. WIC and school lunch programs are inconsequentially small, and unless his children were in residence, he wasn’t seeing any of that, either.

    About 1/3 of Medicaid spending is devoted to nursing home care. Prior to the advent of Medicaid, that sort of client was lodged in community hospitals or state asylums. This man was not a nursing home resident and there’s no indication that his father was either. In any case, Medicaid is crucial for people cut down in ways which require long-term care; that applies all up and down the social scale. Elder lawyers advise people how to take advantage of the program.

    As for medical care paid for by Medicaid, the utility of the program is contingent on the circumstances of the beneficiary. The man may have been in wretched health, but as a rule, 31 year old men are in the demographic which spends little on medical care. The healthier half of the population accounts for about 3% of all medical spending; such people consume a mean of about $600 in services a year.

    While we’re at it, if you’re not going to begrudge a trashy single mother her TANF check, I don’t know why you’d begrudge Cleo Jefferson a visit to the emergency room to get his broken leg set.

    As for Food Stamps (now SNAP), that’s an income supplement, not a substitute for wage income. Low ranking soldiers used to qualify for Food Stamps, and may still. A typical household on Food Stamps gets about $4,000 in grocery subsidies.

  4. @Artdeco

    The root of your problem is that you don’t believe there are high times in the hood when the benefits arrive. You might want to check out the “Swipe yo EBT” video, here:

    http://stuffblackpeopledontlike.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-free-swipe-your-ebt.html

    This is also available on youtube. If you do watch this, there is a 3 part interview with Chapter Jackson, where she discusses her life, and the things she put in the video. It’s about an hour overall, but if you think the video is just baloney, you need to listen to her.

    FWIW, there is also a “holiday” among too many blacks when their income tax refund check comes. You don’t hear much about it, but it happens because I have seen it with my own eyes. Some will quit their jobs, like being aids in nursing homes. They work about 9 months, and get a huge refund due to the earned income tax credit. Then, they quit for a few months and whoop it up. (Or, they blow the money on crap.) A few months later they re-apply for their old job, and get it, Because there is always a need for warm bodies at these jobs.

    It is just something that employers get used to down here.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter,
    the link you posted just validates my conclusions that, along with your chosen moniker, that you are a narcissistic sociopath.

    Anyone who believes that you are sincere in your delivery of such a small sliver of ethnocentric drivel presented as indicative characteristics of a whole race of people is truly a simpleton.

    Please continue to post your tripe, because your posts just like theBattle flag of the Republic, which I believe, should NEVER be banned, which represents an opportunity to identify and and locate people with severe ideologies that I don’t agree with, very conveniently allows monitoring and an opportunity to study these discursive social viewpoints.

    Your postings on this blog allow me to follow and interpret your words, giving me a complete reference point of which to use as a barometer for gauging just what the hell is out here as far as a lucid delivery vehicle for perverse ideas is concerned.
    Please post away. Post away. Previously I have suggested ignoring you, however now I am intrigued by your consistency of thought.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Love you child.
    RPC

  6. @Roscoe

    Hmmm. Did you watch the video? And if so, did you listen to the interview?

    Because you don’t get to a 75% illegitimate birth rate when only “such a small sliver of ethnocentric drivel” occurs. You get there when it is a HUGE SLICE! And you don’t get 13% of the population committing 52% of murders, when only “such a small sliver of ethnocentric drivel” is going on.

    I suggest that you leave your gated community, or your ivory tower, and take a drive through the hood!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  7. The root of your problem is that you don’t believe there are high times in the hood when the benefits arrive. You might want to check out the “Swipe yo EBT” video, here:

    The root of your problem is that you fancy someone might be livin’ large on $4000 per annum in grocery subsidies. It’s not a problem of which I can cure you.

  8. @ArtDeco

    No, I don’t think they can live large on food stamps. Except for a few days after they come in. Because they can be used for all kinds of things besides groceries! What did that old black poet say, something like, “oh to be a Negro on a Saturday night”. I wish I could recall the exact line. I think it was Hughes. But I can’t recall.

    Anyway, no they can’t live large on welfare, But they can’t live without it, either. That is the trap they are in. And the Democrats want them in that trap – – – barefoot and pregnant. Blacks walk into that trap all on their own, but it’s a trap nonetheless. That’s one reason why the Dems bring in millions of illegal aliens. To keep wages depressed. Keep people poor. And, when the illegals vote, to stuff the ballot box.

    But, listen to the Chapter Jackson three part interview. Put it on in the background while yo are doing something else, if you have to.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  9. SFGR,
    You have no idea what I do for a living. My observations are my own based on my reality on a daily basis.
    Every day I interact with the people you mock with your pseudo intellectual brand of snark and never ending questionably conclusive “evidence” that supports your over reaching suspicions about minuscule parts of a population of a country of 325 million people.
    NIce try.
    Keep posting.
    I love your consistency.

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