Maryland Homeowner Kills Intruder in Latest Castle Doctrine Case

Police in Montgomery County, Maryland are investigating a new “Castle Doctrine” case after Harry Trueman Powell, 34, was shot and killed by a homeowner. Powell allegedly had been sleeping in the basement of the home for some time — a home that had its own firing range. Since there is no report that Powell was armed, the case is likely to raise Maryland’s Castle Doctrine defense.

The owner says that he confronted Powell outside of the house around 9 am and Powell allegedly came into the kitchen and lunged at him. He then shot and killed him.  The homeowner was reportedly on the phone with 911 when the incident occurred.  Powell had a criminal record including domestic abuse.

We have previously discussed Castle Doctrine laws or “make my day” laws, including other cases involving garage shootings or shootings off the property of the homeowner.  This includes the Montana case of Brice Harper, 24, who gunned down Dan Fredenberg, 40, in his garage. Fredenberg, 40, was coming over to confront Harper about having an affair with his wife, Heather Fredenberg. Harper cut the encounter short by shooting him dead and a prosecutor declared that the shooting cannot be prosecuted given the state’s Castle Doctrine or “Make My Day” law.

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 controversial 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.

In this case, there could be a conventional self-defense claim. Indeed, the common law allowed people to “stand their ground” under a rule ironically called in this case “the True man Doctrine.” (Some states later adopted a duty to retreat but others codified the right to self-defense with Stand Your Ground laws).

The Castle Doctrine laws are designed to effectively answer the question under the common law and establish that any intruder can be treated as a threat to life — warranting the use of lethal force.

I do not believe that Maryland has a specific Castle Doctrine statute. It is rather a common law doctrine supported by case decisions and a standard jury instruction. There is a law requiring retreat in self-defense outside of the home. However, the standard “castle doctrine” instruction makes clear “that a person in his own home has no duty to retreat before using reasonable force against his attacker.” The rule is

[p]remised on the common law principle that a man’s home is his castle, indeed his ultimate sanctuary, [and] permits a person who is without fault and is attacked within his dwelling or its curtilage, to stand his ground and defend himself, even if retreat could be safely accomplished.

Gainer v. State, 40 Md. App. 382, 388, 391 A.2d 856 (1978)  

That rule offers ample protection for a homeowner, particularly if police and prosecutors believe that he fired after the deceased lunged at him.

Outside of the home, there is a duty to retreat in Maryland. However, the homeowner in this case did say that he effectively retreated into his home. Once within the home, he is afforded added protections.

Thus in both criminal and civil proceedings, this homeowner is likely to have ample defenses.

49 thoughts on “Maryland Homeowner Kills Intruder in Latest Castle Doctrine Case”

  1. Of course, Prof. Turley meant to write “Joe Horn,” though the famous Tom Horn case from the old west is more interesting. 🙂

  2. To clarify, the news story linked in this post stated, “Police say the dead man, 34-year-old Harry Trueman Powell of D.C., had apparently been sleeping in the basement of the home for some time without permission.

    The homeowner was on the phone with 911. The dispatcher advised that the suspect was “banging on the windows.” Then, later, “Be advised, the suspect is in the house.” The homeowner shot a man who broke into his home while he was on the phone with 911.

    The yard sign about JFK is irrelevant.

    The suspect knew the homeowner was inside when he broke in. The homeowner does not need to passively lie down and see if the intruder means to murder him before defending himself. The act of breaking into a home is a clear and present danger to those inside.

    Of course there should not be any charges filed. This isn’t even controversial.

    If you want to live a long and happy life, then don’t break into other people’s houses, especially not when the homeowner is armed.

    A cop once told me that he’d never stopped a crime from happening. By the time he got there, the crime had already occurred. You have to notice what’s wrong (there’s an intruder breaking in), find a phone, call 911, explain the situation, the operator will dispatch police, who have to drive to the location, assess the situation, gain entry, and confront the intruder.

    That gives the intruder plenty of time to do what he or she came there to do. Plenty of time.

    If and when someone breaks into your house, you are on your own. No one is going to get there in time to save you. You’ve got to save yourself, and anyone else you care about in that house.

    A firearm allows you to stop an intruder without having to engage in hand to hand combat, or falling to their weapons. Most women wouldn’t have any hope of defending themselves from a man bent on harming them without one.

  3. What is lost on the debate about ‘stand your ground’ and ‘castle doctrine’ law, is how they come about.

    They are legislative (the people) responses to judges legislating from the bench. It is judges that took self defense away from the people. Prosecutors charged citizens for protecting themselves and judges ignored the rights of people to defend. Judges allowed prosecutors to argue a person is required to retreat. That is not a constitutional requirement, and there were no laws that required it. Precedent established in court rooms, ran by judges, created these standards.
    The people responded just the way they are supposed to. Elected representation that vowed to fix judicial overreach.

    1. Iowan2, I hadn’t thought about that aspect of how Castle Doctrine came about, but you’re absolutely right.

    1. The immediate future of America is worse than we thought.

      Where is Biden, aside from campaigning in Virginia for Terry McAwful?

      Energy crisis? What experts are saying as world faces historic energy-price crunch
      Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:38 p.m. ET

      ‘Revenge of the old economy’ after underinvestment in fossil fuels, analysts say

      Prices of fossil fuels around the globe are surging, leading some commodity pros to refer to the current condition as an “energy crisis” that could have far-reaching implications for American consumers.

      It also carries implications for energy policy as the U.S. — and the rest of the world — attempts to wean itself off crude oil and its byproducts and transition to renewable sources of power.

      ‘It will help marginally’ — Biden’s attempt to fix supply chain problems shows just how bad the issue is
      Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:37 p.m. ET

      Efforts to unclog the supply chain ahead of the holiday season would have been better coming three or four months ago, one expert said. The newly-announced (Biden) initiatives “will help marginally,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association, a trade organization for the toy industry, which was worth $32.6 billion last year. “It couldn’t hurt. It’s welcome news, it’s wonderful, but it’s not a full solution in any way.” There are skyrocketing shipping costs, plus a shortage of long-haul truck drivers once the goods arrive, he said.

      Toys, along with bikes and wedding invitations supply a three-act play illustrating the supply chain challenges in an economy trying to rebound from COVID-19.

      “We are in an unprecedented challenge in regards to the supply chain,” said Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. “There so many pain points, pressure points, constraint points,” he said. It could be 2022’s second quarter or later, before inventory flow for sports goods and apparel gets back to normal, he said.

      1. “as world faces historic energy-price crunch”

        The left cannot think more than one level deep.

        They want to reduce the use oil and gas because through their use the cycle of global warming is accelerated.
        They artificially reduce the production of natural gas.
        That causes the production of natural gas to radically fall.
        Prices for fuel rise dramatically.
        Natural gas becomes in short supply.
        The Chinese cannot get enough natural gas so
        The Chinese start burning more coal which accelerates global warming more than natural gas.

        The left has no idea of how to build. They only know how to destroy.

    2. Estovir,
      I’ve facilitated strategic planning for private, public and non-profit entities for 28 years. We would brainstorm ideas, affinitize the results into columns and then put a header on each column. At a high level these headers would become strategic goals. The original brainstorm session looks like a mess of random ideas until they get affinitized and that’s when the aha moment happens.

      If we were to list everything this current administration has done to date and affinitized the results, Right now it looks like chaos reigns, but I’m confident there would be an aha moment and it would be the answer to the question of What will this country be when the Democrats are finished fundamentally transforming it?

      1. I worry for this country a lot. I see Marxists behind every other street lamp. I just do. My parents used to say, when I was young, that the Communists had infiltrated America. As a young teen I used to write them off as being paranoid. I was wrong, they were right. It’s usually the immigrants, who fled oppressive governments, who believe in the greatness of America and see leftists as tearing it down.

        1. Estovir–

          It turns out that Senator McCarthy was right about many things except he underestimated the problem

          On the other hand, Whitaker Chambers saw it clearly and was very pessimistic.

          1. Estovir and Young, you are both right, Chambers saw it from the inside and the communists hated him for it. The left, NY Times etc, defended Hess until SOVIET ARCHIVES made the argument inoperative. The left defended the Rosenbergs for just as long. The left loved the Soviets and the Russians right up until they thought they cost them an election and ever since 2016 they hate the Russians. Of course this dovetails perfectly with the “harm America at all cost” because the left decides to hate the Russians (which I have forever since it is where my family came from there and I had common sense and a love of the United States) at the exact moment when it is no longer the Russians, or Soviets, that are our biggest threat. Just when we actually need a Russian counterbalance to the Chinese threat the left gets rid of the Russian leverage and gives a nice big kiss to our biggest enemy and the last standing communist threat. It is as though Walter Duranty is still writing for the Times.

        2. The thing is they are not hiding anymore. What is stunning is that the more visible they’ve become, the more blinded many in this country have become. If we could magically remove names and political parties associated with policies and outcomes over the last 50 years, it would be interesting to know how people would judge them. I am certain the majority of Americans would want our country to be energy independent, low unemployment, secure borders, no rioting, no racial divisions, low inflation, equal justice, equal rights, rule of law and so on. But the nanosecond political parties convince people to choose a side, those core American values become secondary to the party winning. The real tragedy is the only winner is the party.

    3. Inflation is a symptom of a growing economy. You’re saying you wish the US economy was contracting? Why?

      1. That must mean Venezuela’s economy was among the fastest growing in the world. You need to find a new hobby.

      2. “Inflation is a symptom of” a government debasing money.

        Anyone notice the Biden administration’s psychotic strategy?

        Proclaim, with a straight face, that your failures are successes. (See the Afghanistan debacle, the super-spreader event at the Southern border, the cratering economy.)

        1. Anyone notice the Biden administration’s psychotic strategy?

          Strategic? Yes. Psychotic? I don’t believe so. We have an administration that is working a strategic plan to fundamentally transform this country into something else altogether. It only seems psychotic because the American people haven’t grasped that reality. The Left knows they can’t just flip a switch on this change. What appears as one administration failure after another is actually calculated to change our culture. The gaslighting is necessary to buffer the shock and outrage long enough to make the change permanent. These people are sociopaths and I sincerely doubt they have not developed plans for the midterm election.

  4. It was often said in Miami during the 1980s and the Cocaine Cowboys, that if you shot someone who was entering your home, you had to make sure to drag their dead body into your house after you neutralized them. Made sense at the time.

    1. I remember that, but it is a bad idea because it is obvious and it looks like you are trying to hide a crime even though you were in immediate fear for your life and the lives of you family and were justified in shooting. I suppose, though, if the circumstances are sketchy it could be useful to remember that Florida has a lot of alligators.

  5. It’s interesting how what was commonly referred to as Castle Doctrine is now being referred to as a “Make my day (better) law”.
    Words mean things. By controlling the wording, you control the perception of an act.
    When a person hears the term Castle Doctrine, one almost immediately envisions a knight defending their castle from attack from the outside threat. When anyone born after the Dirty Harry movies hears the phrase, “Make my day.” you picture Dirty Harry pointing a pistol in someone’s face and making a snide remark about how ending a criminal’s life would make their day. One portrays a noble act, defending one’s property or livelihood. The other makes the “good guy with a gun” look like a vigilante.
    While the laws may offer the same protection, one vilifies a gun owner, the other doesn’t.

  6. The singular American failure has been, since 1860, and remains today the judicial branch, with emphasis on the Supreme Court.


    “Special Counsel Needs to Investigate Joe, Hunter Biden’s Possible ‘Influence-Peddling Operation’”

    On Wednesday, Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley called for a special counsel to investigate President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, for reportedly sharing a bank account. The younger Biden is already under federal investigation over his taxes.

    Turley said on “Fox & Friends” that money was reimbursed into the shared account from an individual associated with a company with ties to China and Russia. He cautioned that “there’s serious questions about whether the Biden family conducted an extensive influence-peddling operation.”

    “This undermines much of what the president has said, but it’s not the first time. You know, the president has repeatedly said he has no knowledge, no involvement in these investments. That has been contradicted by witnesses and emails,” Turley stated. “He’s referred to in some emails as ‘the Big Guy,’ and some of those emails indicate an actual percentage cut was discussed for now-President Biden. With these disclosures, we have accounts being used to pay both Hunter and Joe Biden and money being reimbursed to Hunter Biden from an individual associated with a company called Rosemont Seneca. Now, that’s a company that has been tied to payments from China and Russia, and so this is getting more and more serious.”

    “The question is why the Justice Department hasn’t considered the appointment of a special counsel,” he continued. “We know there’s a criminal investigation going on into the tax issues, possible money laundering, but there’s also serious questions about whether the Biden family conducted an extensive influence-peddling operation involving not just Hunter but his uncle and potentially the President of the United States, and what a special counsel can do is produce a report. And we really are in a position where we need an independent report to be done.”


  7. Breaking & Entering, Trespass, Assault … take your pick. All good legal justifications for showing Perp Harry Trueman Powell the Pearl Gates when he’s IN YOUR OWN HOME.

  8. Keep it simple…Home Owner confronts the Perp OUTSIDE “HIS” own Home….retreats to INSIDE “HIS” own Home….calls 911 on his own Phone to ask for Police help…the Home Ower is then attacked by the Perp who had illegally entered the Home Owners Dwelling while the Home Owner is on the phone talking to the Police 911 Dispatcher.

    Perps gets shot….dead….inside a Dwelling belonging to another person….and has no legal status to be inside the Dwelling much less reason to be attacking the legal Home Owner.

    What else is there to know?

  9. If the government leaves the Law rusting away in the gutter like a discarded tool eventually citizens will come along and pick it up out of necessity. Even liberals are buying weapons these days.

    1. Even liberals are buying weapons these days.

      Yeah, well, weapons are useless if you do not have ammo. Good luck finding some. The costs have been soaring for the past 18 months, particularly on the price per round metric for all calibers. Something about ANTIFA BLM riots COVID-19 causing violent crime increases.


      Fox News:

      “The United States experienced a nearly 30% jump in homicides in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to FBI figures released Monday, which made for the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking crimes. More than 21,000 homicides were reported last year, 4,901 more than in 2019, the biggest leap since the 1960s. Overall violent crime – which includes homicides, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – increased by 5.6 % and property crimes dropped by nearly 8%, according to FBI data. The agency compiled the figures using information voluntarily provided by nearly 16,000 of 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. “

      1. Estovir,

        I wonder if the ammo shortage comes down to the heavy demand for it in Chicago, particularly at ‘End the Violence’ rallies and funerals? They often sound like assaults on Pork Chop Hill. The Brothers do like to shoot. Aim better and waste less.

  10. No one should denegrate our former President by naming their kid “Harry Trueman” bla bla.

  11. Interesting case Tom Horn, I think there was mention that some other then Horn was actually the perp.
    More citizens have purchased more weapons and have obtained carry permits ever since defunding the police has been the cry. This will continue as the calls for police defunding and prosecution failure is the norm. Who will you call for help if there’s no police, Samuel Colt?

  12. Powell allegedly had been sleeping in the basement of the home for some time — a home that had its own firing range.

    Although it was easy to following the link JT provided to learn additional facts, for some unknown reason JT put the above sentence together while omitting a key fact.

    Police say the dead man, 34-year-old Harry Trueman Powell of D.C., had apparently been sleeping in the basement of the home for some time without permission.

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