A hunter in Arkansas, Dale Williams, is under criminal investigation after shooting 72-year-old Jane Rust when he mistook her for a deer. As we discuss in torts, such accidents are relatively common and often do not result in criminal or even civil liability.Some states recognize “buck fever” defenses, particularly for young hunters who shoot people in their eagerness to bag a deer. For a prior column, click here. We have previously discussed such hunting accidents (here and here and here and here and here and here and here) and “buck fever” cases.
What is notable in this case is that Rust reportedly walked outside of her house to take a picture in the woods. Much will depend on the distance from the house. Arkansas mandates that it is illegal to hunt within 150 yards of a residence without the written permission from the owner or occupant.
Local juries can be highly sympathetic to hunters in such accidents. Take Maine hunter Donald Rogerson. Rogerson mistook a 37-year-old housewife for a white-tailed deer, Rogerson shot and killed her. Locals insisted that the victim (who had recently moved from Iowa) was to blame because she was wearing white mittens during deer season. And a Bangor, Maine, jury cleared him of manslaughter.