Illinois Man Convicted Of First Degree Murder In Use Of Spring Gun in Shed

There is a new spring gun or man trap case in torts. I teach such cases as part of intentional torts starting with the famous case of Bird v. Holbrook in 1825. William Wasmund, 48, was convicted of rigging a shotgun (a favorite choice of spring gunners) and killed a neighbor. He was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the death of Jeff Spicer, according to The Southern Illinoisian.

Wasmund tied a top to the shotgun and the door of a shed. It worked. Spicer was killed at the shed on Spet. 16, 2018. His lawyers insisted that he had been the victim of multiple thefts and that Spicer entered by breaking the lock with the intent to steal from them. They also noted that he had signs reading “no trespassing” and “do not enter.”

The common law has long barred the use of lethal force to protect property. The Bird case involved the use of a shotgun as a mantrap in the garden to protect valuable tulips. The court cited not only the lack of notice of the gun but Christian values in placing the value of human life above that of property.

The facts are strikingly similar to Katko v. Briney in Iowa (183 N.W.2d 657 (1971)). Marvin E. Katko was shot by a 20-gauge spring shotgun rigged by Edward Briney in an abandoned old farmhouse or shed. The building largely contained old bottles and other low value items. A jury awarded damages and the Iowa Supreme Court agreed that there was no legal privilege to use potentially lethal force in an uninhabited structure. Most states ban the use of spring guns or mantraps.

Illinois is one such state with an express criminalization of “spring guns.”

31 thoughts on “Illinois Man Convicted Of First Degree Murder In Use Of Spring Gun in Shed”

  1. “The common law has long barred the use of lethal force to protect property.”
    — J.T.

    Then how come cops routinely kill robbers, including times when said robbers are fleeing the scene, not seeking to engage in a shootout? And all the cops need do to escape prosecution is work into their statement some variant of the standard phrase “I was in fear for my life”, even if it wasn’t remotely applicable.

    Wusses. But wusses who kill, and can get away with it. That’s a danger to law-abiding citizens, and to democracy itself.

    1. under illinois and most states law, it is lawful to terminate the commission of a forcible felony with lethal force

      that goes for both cops and citizens.

      a forcible felony generally actually includes breaking and entering (with the intent to commit another felony)

      mere trespass is not enough. ….. that was the old decision making matrix, not sure if that is the current reading of the law but it was a ways back when i looked into it in detail

      http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=1876&ChapterID=53&SeqStart=8200000&SeqEnd=9700000

      (720 ILCS 5/Art. 7 heading)
      ARTICLE 7. JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE; EXONERATION

      (720 ILCS 5/7-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-1)
      Sec. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.
      (a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.
      (b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
      (Source: P.A. 93-832, eff. 7-28-04.)

      (720 ILCS 5/7-2) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-2)
      Sec. 7-2. Use of force in defense of dwelling.
      (a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling. However, he 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,

      riotous, or tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or
      (2) He reasonably believes that such force is

      necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.
      (b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
      (Source: P.A. 93-832, eff. 7-28-04.)

      (720 ILCS 5/7-3) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-3)
      Sec. 7-3. Use of force in defense of other property.
      (a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with either real property (other than a dwelling) or personal property, lawfully in his possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his immediate family or household or of a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
      (b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
      (Source: P.A. 93-832, eff. 7-28-04.)

      (720 ILCS 5/7-4) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-4)
      Sec. 7-4. Use of force by aggressor. The justification described in the preceding Sections of this Article is not available to a person who:
      (a) is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping

      after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
      (b) initially provokes the use of force against

      himself, with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant; or
      (c) otherwise initially provokes the use of force

      against himself, unless:
      (1) such force is so great that he reasonably

      believes that he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and that he has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
      (2) in good faith, he withdraws from physical

      contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
      (Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

      (720 ILCS 5/7-5) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-5)
      Sec. 7-5. Peace officer’s use of force in making arrest. (a) A peace officer, or any person whom he has summoned or directed to assist him, need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest. He is justified in the use of any force which he reasonably believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest. However, he is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or such other person, or when he reasonably believes both that:
      (1) Such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and
      (2) The person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony which involves the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay.
      (b) A peace officer making an arrest pursuant to an invalid warrant is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the warrant were valid, unless he knows that the warrant is invalid.
      (Source: P.A. 84-1426.)

      1. the key thing about “spring guns” is that there is no discrimination possible since the device is mechanical.
        the device has no “reasonable belief” about anything

        there is an interesting parallel to land mines and possibly drone type devices but that gets into the law of war

        it’s all based on Christian theology, St Augustine and St Aquinas, just war theory

        1. I have a problem with first degree because of lack of specific intent

          i have no problem with reckless homicide nor aggravated battery

    2. Biologist – the police do not, actually, routinely kill robbers. Otherwise, there would be tens of thousands of police shootings annually. If they use deadly force, and it is found to not be justified, then they are charged with a crime.

      That said, if it was an armed robber who was shooting at them, or at civilians, or reached for a gun, then, yes, he might get shot.

      Perhaps you should do a few ride-alongs with your local police to learn more about the process.

      Take a look at this video. A prominent activist accepted an invitation to participate in police training exercises. In one of the scenarios, he “shot” an unarmed man. In another scenario, someone he thought was unarmed “shot” him. After the exercise concluded, he said that he had no idea how important complaince is, but he does now. I respect people like him who make an effort to understand the other side. From that position, they can make more informed suggestios, in the spirit of helping rather than hate.

      https://youtu.be/yfi3Ndh3n-g

      If you don’t want to get hurt by a police officer then don’t break the law, and obey instructions. Save your complaints for an IA investigation later, or address it with the watch commander. Get in a physical fight with an officer, or rush him, and you might get hurt.

      When my siblings and I learned how to drive, my father went over what to do in the event we get pulled over. Hands on the wheel at 10 and 2. Don’t go fishing around in the glove box for registration until the cop asks you to do so. Just sit quietly, because you are a total stranger to the cop. He has no idea if you’re a bad person or not. Yes, sir, no sir, and obey instructions. If anything goes wrong, get a badge number and address it later.

    3. Biologist – Arizona got rid of the “Common Law” a long time ago. Everything is statutory or Constitutional.

  2. This hardly qualifies as defense of self or defense of others. The owner was not being personally threatened by the intruder. While perhaps a lesser charge, such as voluntary manslaughter might have been applied, the prosecution was not out of line.

    1. SR – I agree. The shooting was not justified. Repeated thefts can be very frustrating, and be a hopeless problem, but you can’t set a lethal trap to catch them.

      Perhaps one of those exploding blue dye packs they use with bank robbers would have been better.

  3. Wasn’t there a line from a movie “some men just need killin'”? Not disagreeing that the penalty for burglary is not death, just trying to remember the movie line.

    1. FFS – wasn’t that A Time to Kill where Samuel Jackson’s character defended lying in wait to kill the rapists and attempted murderers of his little girl, who had gotten off Scott free?

      1. I don’t know, Karen. Seems like it was a Western. Like Clint Eastwood-type. Doesn’t matter, except that it will bug me for days. 🙂

  4. I disagree. I think some human life is basically worthless. For example, what if someone was about to kill your cat or dog. They are outside, and have an axe raised, and are about to whack the animal. Now me, I think it is time to shoot the SOB, or DOB. And kill them dead. I think if you are a victim of multiple thefts and break-ins, it is OK to whack the thief. They need killing.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. A first degree murder charge for an ordinary person using excessive means to defend his property is obscene. If there were any justice in Illinois (there isn’t), that would not have been on the bill and the jury would have convicted of a lesser included offense. Now it’s in the Governor’s lap. With few exceptions (Mike Huckabee was one), governors show little interest in executive clemency. This is one case where it should be exercised.

    1. The defendant fully planned and intended the murder. How is that not 1st degree? That he couldn’t be sure of who the victim would be – it could have been a kid or someone who couldn’t read – doesn’t mitigate that fact. In any case, the verdict is not “obscene”, though arguable.

      1. The defendant fully planned and intended the murder.

        The victim was burgling his property, quite self-consciously and deliberately. Those are the consequences of criminality.

        Your sympathies in this matter reflect your arrogance and your degeneracy.

    2. Hey, TIA x 13. I gave you my “living wage” definition, and you never got back to me.

      What’s up!? Too good to respond. Just kidding.

      I am sure you just missed it.

  6. “… his lawyers insisted..” That phrase follows reference to dead guy. So “his” refers to dead guy not the guy being charged with killing dead guy.

  7. Instead of a spring gun you must build a “spring outhouse” just inside the locked door. When junior breaks the door and walks in he steps on a slice of fabric which looks like the floor around it and drops into a pit about 20 feet below. There is ten feet of wet cow manure or pig manure in the pitt. There is no way to climb up and out the slick sides of the pit. When the thief drowns fill the pit with some dirt and put a large driveway plank over the top. Leave the door locked.

    (music)
    Just got in from Ill in Nois!
    Lock the front door… Oh boy!
    Got to get down to the itShay down below.

  8. If I can suggest an alternative – rig a paintball gun up to the door, instead, along with one of those $25 wifi security cameras that activate on motion, to give the police a clue of who to look for

  9. As frustrating as losing possessions to burglars is, no object anyone owns justifies the loss of a human life. My two rancher uncles might have disagreed, our parish cattlemen’s association called for the death penalty for rustling to be revived, but…

    1. Under the law, an animal’s life is not worth a human’s. They are considered property…objects. They have a dollar replacement amount. This reflects the perspective of animals as livestock. Cattle rustling seriously damages the rancher’s income, and if it’s breeding stock, his entire breeding program. It’s as if someone stole your 9-5 job.

      I don’t think the law takes into consideration that many animals are pets, and it also does not give sufficient value to breeding livestock that are keystones to a ranch’s breeding program. For example, if you lost a bull that was a direct descendent of Bodacious, the most famous bucking bull that I know of. Sure, you could buy another bull, you can’t just pick up those genes. This is especially true of horse breeders, particularly Arabians. There are so many irreplaceable strains with nuanced differences, some of them going back to the Prophet Mohammed.

      There have been too many instances of horses and other equines being killed in their corrals. One guy has had his horses and zebras shot for months. The last I checked, it was an unsolved crime. That’s the thrill kill or even revenge. Then there are the meat poachers. Some cultures eat horse meat. Occasionally, there will be a rash of killings where someone will come out to the corral to find their beloved horse slaughtered, butchered, and the meat packed out. Horses are not pigs, and when they are hurt, they try to stay quiet. A tragic number of horses are kidnapped from their homes and sold to slaughter.

      I think the law should protect people who defend their pets from psycopathic killers.

  10. They cannot catch the killers in Chicago, but they got this guy. Who has the dead and injured count for Chicago for this weekend?

    Bobby O’Rouke would be pleased with this decision.

    1. Karen says: “Under the law, an animal’s life is not worth a human’s.“ In the Old West, men were lynched for stealing a horse but not always for killing a man cuz some men deserve akillin’ but no horse deserves bein’ stolen…

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