Murder or Self Defense

Consider this scenario:

A robber breaks into what he believes to be an unoccupied house. He is interrupted by the homeowner while rifling through the silver in the kitchen. The homeowner, incensed at the intrusion, grabs a knife from the block and charges at the intruder. The robber, finding quite a bit more than he bargained for, beats a hasty retreat. The homeowner pursues him put onto the front lawn, where he catches the thief and fatally stabs him.

So does the homeowner have a case for self defense, even though the robber was in active retreat?!

If the struggle had resulted in the homeowners death, would the robber have a case for self defense. After all, he was trying to get away.

Assume all forensic evidence supports the facts as given ( it can be proven via video surveillance or whatever that the robber was attempting to flee and that it was the homeowner that engaged).

I also realize the answer may vary by jurisdiction, so qualify your answer if need be.

Depends on the state or local law and legal interpretation. As such this should probably be moved to IMHO.

Stand your ground laws
Felony murder laws

In no sane jurisdiction is that scenario self-defense. He chased him onto the lawn and deliberately murdered him, and at no time did the intruder threaten the homeowner.

If you’re chasing an intruder down and stabbing him to death from behind in a fit of rage, it’s not self-defense.

As I understand it, the stand your ground laws means you have no duty to retreat, that is. You have the right to “stand your ground” and defend your property. But in my scenario, the robber is actively retreating, the property is no longer in danger. Does stand your ground still apply? What if instead of the front lawn, the final deadly confrontation happens in th he street, off of th he homeowners property.

I also understand the felony murder rule…I believe making the case of self defense ( in the instance where it is the homeowner who is killed) is much harder, seeing how it was precipitated by the felony of robbery. But again, he is in active retreat, does that not provide any mitigating circumstances?

I would rather this not be moved to IMHO as I am more interested in the fact, but feel free to share your opinion on what you feel the outcome SHOULD be.

For example, my opinion is ( for the first example where the homeowner kills the robber) that the homeowner should not get off Scot-free, maybe some form of manslaughter rather than murder. In the second case ( where the robber kills the homeowner) I again have a hard time seeing that as murder ( but not do I think he should escape all consequences).

What I am curious about is if the law supports this or not.

I think it really depends on the race of the homeowner and the intruder.

Well I wish you were wrong about that but sadly I dont think you are.

In 2013 in Texas, a man who hired an escort for $150 but didn’t get the sex he thought he was entitled to, so he followed the woman and shot her dead. He was found “not guilty”. So I really don’t think your scenario is even remotely questionable in Texas at least.

Eta: the bolded bit exactly covers your scenario. In Texas at least, if someone breaks into your house, you are legally entitled to track them down and murder them. At least, as of 2013.

See? That was a response entirely within GQ boundaries.

While this may have some truth in practice, the OP is looking for the facts of the law.

This thread may get moved if this turns out to be more legal opinion than legal fact, but while this is in GQ let’s leave race and political issues out of the thread, please.

It’s a whole different story in Kentucky:

From an older article about the incident:

Yarnell said he was scared, but also admitted that he followed the suspected burglars off his property as he fired.

“I seen my front door kicked open, so then I drew my gun immediately, you know what I mean?” Yarnell told police.

He said he acted in self-defense, but Louisville Metro Police said it was murder.

Yarnell fatally shot Deandrae Murphy, 18, on Aug. 8.

Police said Murphy was one of two men who broke into Yarnell’s house.

But prosecutors said Yarnell cannot claim self-defense in this case because the victim wasn’t on his property when the shots were fired.

But in the OP there is no mention of any property that the potential burglar is escaping with.

Not in the UK, whatever the tabloids screamed:

Does the homeowner know that at the time of the attack?

I recall a similar case - Edmonton, Alberta, I think, in the 1980’s? The pharmacy owner had just been held up for the second time, by a man on bail for last week’s robbery, and he chased him outside and shot him in the back. The crown attorney charged him with murder, but the jury failed to convict him.

The law is clear. Self-defense is when you are in imminent danger (IANAL). But if you create that situation yourself, you have less claim that you were, as you can and possibly still can back off. Certainly a person fleeing is no threat to you. Also, the law considers human life the ultimately more valuable thing - so shooting someone because they are fleeing with your property is certainly not allowed, let alone empty-handed. Your property can be retrieved or replaced (usually). A life cannot.

This is the same logic that forbids setting traps - causing injury or death is far more serious than any potential loss of property.

The caveat being, of course, that juries are not terribly impartial - they can be swayed by emotion or biases. And as any lawyer will tell you, if you entrust your fate to a court, and even to a jury, there are no guarantees.

It used to be joke in Texas, that if you shot the intruder in your front lawn, you should at least drag him into your house before the police get there.

Isn’t the burden of proof on the prosecutor to prove that the homeowner had no reason to fear, beyond any reasonable doubt ?

If so, then all the defending lawyer has to do is ask : How can the prosecution be sure that the robber was not going to go get backup or lethal weapons from his car ? (And this question should be answered from the frame of mind the homeowner was, at the time of the robbery).

I don’t think you can base (or win) a defense on the idea the robber might be planning to come back. It would have to be evident they would.

Here’s another similar case from the UK, which also lists some more examples at the bottom:

Their sentences were reduced on appeal.

I’d think this would be affirmative defense issue. It would be up to the defense to prove that the defendant at least believed so.