huh. Maybe I AM right wing...
February 26, 2003 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Justice is served. A career criminal, high on cocaine breaks into a bar that has been fitted with a security system that turns out to be lethal. The bar owner installed the system after the 3rd break in in the past month, and posted numerous signs outside warning of the danger. The criminal is electrocuted to death, and this being America, the widow of the bar's owner (who has passed away during the years of litigation over this issue) is forced to pay $75,000 to the family of the robber, who understandably need the money now that the breadwinner is no longer around to provide for them via a life of robbery.
posted by jonson (129 comments total)
 
"You can't set these type of traps because property isn't worth a human life," Winters said, adding that the booby traps might just as easily have been tripped by firefighters or police officers answering an emergency call at the bar.

These things don't tend to be black and white.
posted by gwint at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2003


I agree; I'm overwhelmingly against the thought that property theft should be punished by death, believe me. I still think this is a little harsh...
posted by jonson at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2003


The bar owner should be liable for creating a lethal trap. As enthusiastic as we are about capital punishment, you don't get to issue your own death penalty in the U.S. At least not until John Ashcroft gets around to implementing the idea.
posted by rcade at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2003


Glad to see the court followed basic common law principles that have been around for at least 100 years. Talk to any lawyer, there are many cases that have been decided this way over the last century.

Breaking and entering for the purpose of theft does not merit the death penalty.
posted by mygoditsbob at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2003


last I checked, there's this little felony called "Maintaining Boobytraps"

a roommate of mine in college got wacked with that one when a cop noticed the pungi sticks he had around his pot plants on a hillside...
posted by badzen at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2003


We don't know enough about the details of this case to really say, do we? Or should we just cut-and-paste rants about our litigious society etc.?
posted by argybarg at 10:27 AM on February 26, 2003


I have no liberal bromides to shovel out on this one.....

One question though - aren't there non-lethal options available, or was to point to kill someone?

And if lethal defense of property rights were made legal, wouldn't the practice be extended front lawns or even private beaches? (In the US, that is) And wouldn't an awfull lot of children and pets - unschooled in or incapable of comprehending the "private property" concept - wind up dead?
posted by troutfishing at 10:29 AM on February 26, 2003


Juries can basically make up amounts to award people -- I think that's the real kink in the system, not the fact that even criminals can sue for wrongful death. As every law professor in the land will tell you, "Bad cases make bad law" -- this one will surely inflame tort reform types and talk radio callers (hmmm, I'd love to see the Venn diagram on that bunch), but the fact remains that we don't want people booby-trapping their homes and businesses. what sucks is that the booby-trapper has himself died, so now his poor wife has to deal with all this. sad.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:30 AM on February 26, 2003


Hmmm... so no one's troubled by this? Innocent widow forced to pay $75K to family of coked up career criminal? Man... we really ARE plagued by lefty groupthink. Where's that fucking nut Hama, he'll side with me on this one!
posted by jonson at 10:30 AM on February 26, 2003


I don't think warning signs are good enough, and nothing really could be. They don't serve as warnings to the illiterate or vision-impaired, not to mention the stoned or stupid. Nobody should be breaking in your windows, but a potentially lethal booby-trap seems like a Bad Idea.

On preview: also not to mention children and pets.
posted by Songdog at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2003


Also: jonson, it's not that I'm not troubled--I don't know that punishing the widow with inherited civil penalties is much better than allowing the original bar-owner to punish intruders with death--it's just that I don't think it's right to leave a non-discriminating killing machine lying around.
posted by Songdog at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2003


Wait, so what if I train a German Shepherd to rip out your throat when you enter my property, clear with signs that say "BEWARE OF DOG!" (Is there a precedent for this? I'm sure there is, I really don't know.)

Also, whenever I see that phrase I pronouce it as "Joistice is Soived!"
posted by Stan Chin at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2003


I agree with the latter part of the sentence - it'd been a shame to see emergency personnel injured through a crude home-made booby trap. But on the other hand, having to pay 75 grand to the family of a habitual criminal because in part the jury wasn't told that he was drunk, on cocaine, and had done time on similar charges does tend to obfuscate the issue.
My question is - to what degree are you allowed to protect your property? We've established in prior cases that:
- As a property owner, you stand a good likelihood of paying damages to criminals who get injured on your property while committing a crime.
- As a property or business owner, you can be considered partially liable if a criminal gets injured or killed by an active security system while committing a crime.
- As a property or business owner, you can be considered in criminal violation if you don't follow the rather complex rules involved with personal defense while attempting to prevent a property-related crime (i.e., you need to prove intent to bodily harm if you shoot a burglar coming in; you have less burden of proof if you shoot a burglar leaving your property, ideally with something stolen.)

What, exactly, can you as a property owner do? Posting "No Trespassing" signs is apparently useless - if you don't, you're almost automatically liable. If you do, the plaintiff's lawyer can simply claim the criminal didn't see them and you stand a good chance of being liable.

(OK, enough trolling - I agree they're not black and white, but why does it seem that the burden of proof is almost always on the person attempting to prevent a crime and not on the person committing the crime?)
posted by FormlessOne at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2003


a) in this case, the sign would have to read:
"Beware of dog that will rip out your throat"

and b) the intent was not to kill criminals, merely to severely deter.

But lest I completely abandon my lefty roots, I agree with you all, it's neither right nor legal to leave booby traps around. My problems here are the civil judgement against the widow, and the money going to the family of the criminal.
posted by jonson at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2003


Argybarg, I thought that's what blogs were for? ;-)
posted by FormlessOne at 10:40 AM on February 26, 2003


Someone stole my chinese food (about $25 worth) out of the fridge in my residence and believe me I thought about setting some sort of booby trap. Then I envisioned the perpetrator getting killed in various scenarios.

That said, property isn't worth a life and you really shouldn't be setting up these sorts of traps. I don't see why money should be paid to this guy's family though. Charge a person with setting up these traps and if someone gets caught in one, charge them with murder (or whatever), but I don't see the point in compensating for the loss monetarily if it was a robbery.
posted by ODiV at 10:41 AM on February 26, 2003


What has cocaine use got to do with it? Unless, of course, drug use somehow lessens the value of somebody's life.
posted by holycola at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2003


what if I train a German Shepherd to rip out your throat when you enter my property, clear with signs that say "BEWARE OF DOG!"

Sure, that's fine and dandy when your dog kills the mean bad coked up burglar. What about the kid next door that's too young to read and wanders over to get their kite? Or the firefighter too busy saving your house to read your silly little signs. The fact is your home is not your absolute domain, and it's wrong to set lethal traps of any kind for any interlopers, because you can't control who they might be or what they might be doing there. And "I warned you" just doesn't cover all the possibilities.
posted by freebird at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2003


Does anyone know what the penalty is for maintaining boobytraps? Would that have been more appropriate to apply than a civil judgement against the widow? Probably...
posted by FormlessOne at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2003


It sounds "unfair," I know but this sort of thing happens all the time, and that is why a policeman will tell you that if you kill an intruder, make sure you stick a bread knife near the body--self-defense.
posted by Postroad at 10:44 AM on February 26, 2003


I think the bar owner's widow should countersue for "theft of electricity".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:46 AM on February 26, 2003


The widow isn't being punished exactly. She's liable only in as much as she is apparently the representative of the estate of the late bar owner. That's how it goes; your estate bears responsibility for things which occurred prior to your death.

My problem with this decision is that the jury decided that the criminal was only 50% responsible for his own death. I'm not sure how that follows. He ignored (or incapacitated himself to the point of not being able to notice) warning signs and committed a felony. Seems to me if he'd chosen not to commit a crime or had been sober enough to read the warnings and had chosen a different target, he wouldn't have died that night. Any number of life-threatening things could've lain on the other side of the window that he broke -- he could've landed on the guard dog who ripped his throat out, or fallen in on glasses or bottles that broke and cut him to ribbons. That was the risk he assumed when he decided to be a crook too dumb or too high to notice signs that warned of consequences for breaking in.

I wonder how much responsibility the jury would've felt he bore for his death had the late bar owner been waiting inside with a shotgun and had blown the guy's head off and claimed "fear for my life" instead of "protection of my property" as his justification. I bet he would've gotten well more than 50% sympathy then.
posted by Dreama at 10:52 AM on February 26, 2003


Jurors weren't allowed to be told that Harris was drunk and on cocaine, nor that he had served time in prison for two burglary convictions.

This, in particular, bothers me. In general, the total amount of "damages" one suffers are supposed to be apportioned by relative "fault." It seems to me that being drunk and on cocaine might have impacted the amount of fault attributed to the burglar, particularly in light of the warning sign that he apparently had to climb over to get in the window.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2003


And actually, my point goes along with what Dreama said immediately above -- I think if the jury had been told that he was drunk and on cocaine, they might have attributed more than 50% of the fault to him.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:55 AM on February 26, 2003


Seems to me that you close up at night, and let the insurance company take care of it afterwards. Isn't that the American way? Seems that the route the bar owner undertook, cost him(his wife) more in the long run. As much as you always want to catch the scumbag, in this day and age it just isn't worth it. Leave him to the cops and file with the insurance company.
posted by a3matrix at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2003


A great deal of discussion has erupted over the signage used by the tavern owner. Children may not understand it, emergency personnel may ignore it, the wording may not be right, etc.
Why isn't that logic applied to other signs? Because we spent a great deal of time establishing the cultural significance of certain signage. Take stop signs, for instance. They're shaped and colored consistently, specifically to attract attention and also to ensure that children, mentally disabled, vision impaired, etc. can recognize and understand a single concept - you see this sign, you stop. People who ignore this sign are held liable for the accidents they cause and ignoring this sign is itself considered a minor violation. If a child too young to understand a stop sign is injured, it's typically the parent or guardian who's held liable - not the authority who put up the stop sign. We hold those who ignore stop signs as mildly stupid or dangerously ignorant - we don't blame the stop sign itself.
So why does this all go out the window with "No Trespassing" signs? Simple - we don't teach any form of cultural significance for them. They're inconsistently designed, they require that the viewer understands English, and tend to be wordy or poorly worded.
I seriously doubt emergency personnel would ignore a biohazard sign while attempting to put out a fire or rescue someone - why would they ignore a similar sign for trespassing and/or an active security system?
As an aside, some idiotic professor apparently tried to fight a traffic ticket "on the grounds that the word "Stop" is too vague and that stop signs don't have standards of calibration or testing." Ask yourself about your personal reaction to this - then wonder why that reaction doesn't apply to "No Trespassing" signs...
posted by FormlessOne at 11:00 AM on February 26, 2003


"Hmmm... so no one's troubled by this?"

I have a big problem with wrongful death awards in general. But I don't have a better solution either. In this case I think the business owner should have been prosecuted and the family should have been SOL. But codifying that into law seems like it would be equally problematic.

Having said that, I think property owners should be allowed to set lethal traps as long as they make every effort to post notices and keep out people who are just minding their own business. And if someone wants to do things like that they should also have to live with the fact that paramedics, firefighters and UPS drivers aren't going to help them.

Probably not workable in reality. But then reality sort of sucks.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:00 AM on February 26, 2003


"We're never going to know Larry's intent, but we know Jessie's intent," Winters said, noting that, after installing and testing the security system, Ingram then boosted its power to 220 volts from 110 volts. "There was a clear intent to cause harm."

Where's that fucking nut Hama, he'll side with me on this one!

I really think MattD is your man on this sort of outrage.
posted by y2karl at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2003


It's wrong that the bar owner's family has to pay, but it's even more wrong that somebody had to die, no matter what condition they were in at the time. The way I see it, unless the owners were in direct and immediate danger, they shouldn't have set up a lethal alarm system, warning or no. I'm actually surprised that the bar owner didn't end up with manslaughter charges himself.
posted by ashbury at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2003


The widow bears responsibility for the estate. It's as simple as that.

And $75,000 isn't nearly enough. In fact, to set a precedent and curtail such an "accident" from happening again, the verdict should have involved punitive damages. It's perfectly reasonable for an owner to maintain a security system. But it was the owners' primary responsibility to maintain a system that didn't electrocute people to death.

Concerning the 50% responsibility question, the telling sign here is that the booby trap was "homemade" -- i.e., one that was neither implemented by a professional security company nor tweaked by one. Clearcut negligence.
posted by ed at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2003


"Wrongful Death" was what they sued for. Criminal charges are something all together different. The bar owner knowingly set up a system that's intention was to harm or kill a person, that in itself is criminally and civilly liable. He owned a business, a business is a target of crime. Nothing in the law prevents someone from setting up a security system, alarms, cages, gates, locks, steel doors, etc. but you must not kill or maim someone with your system or yes, you are liable. When the owner died, property ownership and thus responsibility for the bar turned over to his widow, thus she was liable for the actions taken by that bar. Whether she deserved punishment or not, the bar's security system was what killed the man and she now owned the bar and all the liability and responsibility associated with it and its practice of having a booby trap that killed someone. She won't really be paying the charge, the estate of her husband will be. Yeah, it sucks, this guy was a moron, but so was the bar owner.

Ever seen the holes cut in construction site, they are there because a construction site is what is called an "attractive nuisance" (much like myself) in other words it is very dangerous but yet very interesting to check out. Without the fence every kid in town would be all over the site and somebody would get killed regardless of how many warnings you put up (construction contractor and property owner liable), however if they can't look in then the kids will climb the fence and fall and get killed no matter how many signs you put up (construction contractor and property owner liable round two), so they cut the holes for people to look in, but they put up the fence to keep them out, this covers both bases, of course that doesn't prevent stupidity or criminal acts.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2003


Again, see Ed's post above.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2003


"It seems to me that being drunk and on cocaine might have impacted the amount of fault attributed to the burglar"

I am setting up a booby trap right now for the next person who uses "impact" as a verb. You have been warned.

And yes, of course that information might have had an impact on the fault attributed to the burglar, but it would have been more prejudicial than probative. It's more likely to have biased than informed.
posted by Outlawyr at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2003


ah yes, the old "spring gun" cases. Ohmygodbob is right--this isn't even mildly controversial from a legal perspective. People have been recovering damages for being hurt or killed by deadly booby traps for at least a century. Civil damages is a deterrent, a form of punishment, and compensation for the family of the dead criminal. I'm sure if he wasn't a burgler he would have gotten way more than $75K.

Also, it's "hard cases make bad law." ; )

on preview: ed, it was probably homemade because no security company would install a lethal security system, because they are illegal. So, unless the guy didn't mean for it to cause death or serious injury, it's not negligence but an intentional tort.
posted by boltman at 11:11 AM on February 26, 2003


The criminal has to be responsible for his actions... whatever the consequences may be. therefore, the family of the dead dude shouldn't get any money. But, setting up a lethal booby trap is just wrong. So the bar (the estate, the woman, whoever) must pay a fine... since there's no one to put in jail. If the bar owner was still alive, he should go to jail for manslaughter and pay a fine.
I don't blame the guy for wanting to protect his business though. Maybe other scumbags will learn a lesson from this and then we can all thank the dead bar owner for his creativity.
posted by Witty at 11:12 AM on February 26, 2003


Impact - v.

1. To pack firmly together.

2. To strike forcefully: meteorites impacting the lunar surface.

3. Usage Problem. To have an effect or impact on: “No region... has been more impacted by emerging demographic and economic trends” (Joel Kotkin).

I think you mean as in case three, Outlawyr, no? Better check that booby trap we don't want any dentists getting killed for talking about wisdom teeth!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:15 AM on February 26, 2003


If you're killed in the process of committing crimes at the expense of others, mourners should be hard to come by. We don't have any affection for parasites in the rest of the animal kingdom-- why is it different if they walk on two legs?

I'm not suggesting that setting lethal traps is ever a good idea, but there wasn't any harm done in this case. If I had her address, I'd send a check to the bar owners' widow.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:16 AM on February 26, 2003


Property owners should be allowed to set lethal traps? Are you insane? Next you'll want them to be able to leave lethal weapons (like guns) lying around the house.


oh, wait....
posted by sic at 11:22 AM on February 26, 2003


So, unless the guy didn't mean for it to cause death or serious injury, it's not negligence but an intentional tort.

Exactly, its not negligence because he did not neglect to prevent injury, he fully intended to hurt or kill someone. He didn't forget not to hurt the guy, he sought to kill him. Its not like the guy was coked up, slipped on the freshly mopped floor because the owner didn't put up the "caution wet floor" sign because he left for the night and closed and thus sued for getting paralyzed, this guy made a security system that electrocuted people when they entered his establishment!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:23 AM on February 26, 2003


Any properly designed kill-o-matic should include lasers, buzz-saws, a shark tank, and/or lots of other unreasonably tricksy details. First, it should trap the intruder, then play a long recorded message of you gloating and carefully describing the mechanism that will kill him. Then it shuld play adrenalin-building incidental music as the death-wielding machinery (or whatever) slowly goes into action.

If all this doesn't allow the intruder to escape, he must not have been a good guy and no jury in the world will convict you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2003




This case is why I favor gay marriage. If this burglar had been homosexual, his lover would be barred for suing for wrongful death damages.
posted by quercus at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2003


Mr. Wiggin: This is a 12-story block combining classical neo-Georgian features with the efficiency of modern techniques. The tenants arrive here and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort, past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these...

Client 1: Excuse me.

Mr. Wiggin: Yes?

Client 1: Did you say 'knives'?

Mr. Wiggin: Rotating knives, yes.

Client 2: Do I take it that you are proposing to slaughter our tenants?

Mr. Wiggin: ...Does that not fit in with your plans?
posted by ed at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2003


It would seem a bit more fair if the award went to some charitable org instead of this petty thief's family winning the lottery.
And liberal as I may be, (at least that's what I hear) I'm all for shooting anyone that enters my property through the window.
posted by 2sheets at 11:39 AM on February 26, 2003


YES! YES!
posted by Witty at 11:41 AM on February 26, 2003


Hmmm... so no one's troubled by this? Innocent widow forced to pay $75K to family of coked up career criminal? Man... we really ARE plagued by lefty groupthink.

Sadly, you are correct.

Don't steal my property, I won't kill you. My years of hard work is worth FAR more to me than your life is to me.
posted by eas98 at 11:49 AM on February 26, 2003


I have no liberal bromides to shovel out on this one.....

And liberal as I may be, (at least that's what I hear) I'm all for shooting anyone that enters my property through the window.

Yeah, suggesting that property rights are anything less than absolute is so utopian! How dare you people think that peoplecan expect a minimum of personal and public safety without having earned it.

On preview: we're obviously getting to the sarcastic part of the thread.
posted by rschram at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2003


And if lethal defense of property rights were made legal, wouldn't the practice be extended front lawns or even private beaches?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, I'm too lazy to do the search, but I believe that this IS the case in our favorite lethal state of Texas.

I remember hearing a law along the lines of, "If somebody enters your house without your permission you are within your rights to pop a cap in his ass" (though maybe not that exact writing)
posted by KnitWit at 11:57 AM on February 26, 2003


Um, I may be wrong, but if someone broke into your property in the middle of the night, it is your legal right to defend it with firearms, which may even result in death. I dont' see the major difference here (manual vs automated)...
But this being metafilter, I am sure someone will point it out to me (I don't mean that in a bad way... be gentle.)
posted by dig_duggler at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2003


there wasn't any harm done in this case.

Don't steal my property, I won't kill you. My years of hard work is worth FAR more to me than your life is to me.


Conservative - 2

Compassionate - 0

How much is a human life worth to you anyway? Apparently not that much. I've often wondered why conservatives also tend to be pro-life, wouldn't it at least save you the "hard earned" expense of bullets, welfare checks and electric chairs if we could kill the unwanted before they were even born? Oh, I guess because I don't value money over a human that makes me a leftist tree-hugger?

I may be wrong, but if someone broke into your property in the middle of the night, it is your legal right to defend it with firearms, which may even result in death. I dont' see the major difference here

You are wrong, you would have to prove intent to cause harm to you or your family (unless you are in Oklahoma) so if you do shoot someone, be sure you kill them so they can't testify against you at your trial.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2003


I don't think it's "winning the lottery" to get $75k in exchange for losing a loved one and that loved one's earning potential. Think about how much it would cost to compensate the family of a fireman or innocent high-earning patron who could have been fried with the same system.
posted by subgenius at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2003


FormlessOne, I have a few problems with your argument about signs. While I agree that claiming ignorance or confusion over stop signs is ridiculous, I don't think this argument extends to "no trespassing" signs. Stop signs and similar roadway signs are intended to be observed by licensed drivers, who are tested on their ability to recognize these signs. Children, etc, are not supposed to operate motor vehicles on these roads.

"Walk" and "don't walk" signs at roadway crossings are intended for all pedestrians and some even have noisemakers for the visually impaired, but drivers are generally expected to stop for pedestrians no matter what. Parents and guardians are, of course, responsible for keeping small children out of the street, but drivers are expected to go slowly enough that they can stop.

Where I grew up you'd see a lot of "No hunting" signs on private property. Again, you had to have a license to hunt, and you were required to watch for these signs (which had to posted fairly close together along a property line). Claiming that you didn't see the sign was not a reasonable excuse. Only observant, sober people should be allowed to fire guns at things in the woods.

I do believe that people should be able to protect their property against theft, invasion, and so on, but I don't think killing or maiming intruders is the best idea, particularly when, as I said, it's done without discrimination. It's one thing to shoot the coked-up burglar coming at you with a knife. It's another to electrocute anyone coming through the window. I just don't think adding warning signs to your booby trap is sufficient legal defense.

Isn't this case a little like a policeman shooting a deaf suspect who doesn't stop running when ordered to?
posted by Songdog at 12:08 PM on February 26, 2003


...so if you do shoot someone, be sure you kill them so they can't testify against you at your trial.

Believe me, I will. I don't want to end up having to pay for that moron's legal bills, too.

How much is a human life worth to you anyway?

I respect other people's right to life completely. As long as they don't fuck with others. Then, perhaps, they forfeit that right.

I don't have to have the same bleeding heart attitude everyone else has. It would be nice if we could all be peace-loving, pot-smoking hippies, but life is no fairy-tale.
posted by eas98 at 12:08 PM on February 26, 2003


therefore, the family of the dead dude shouldn't get any money.

The problem with law is that you have to come up with a rule that is fair across many different fact situations. Would you be willing to apply this to all trespassers? What it is a friend that was breaking in to get money that he lent the owner but the owner refused to pay back? What if it was a rival shopowner that was breaking in to recover a neon "coors" sign that the owner had previously stolen from him? What if it was the landlord (illegally) breaking in to change the locks because the guy hadn't paid his rent in a year? What if it was a 14 year old kid that was demonstrating his lockpicking skills to his friends, who were egging him on? How about if a store owner created mechendise tags that exploded if they were taken out of the store without being removed to kill shoplifters? How about outdoor booby traps to get trespassers (many of whom are likely to be kids, lets say), like homemade mines or spiked pits covered with leaves?

Unless you think that none of these hypothetical people's families deserve any recovery for being killed, you have to come up with a legal rule that allows recovery for some of these criminals but not our burgler.
posted by boltman at 12:08 PM on February 26, 2003


I didn't see any mention of what the bar owner died from. It'd be nice if some sharkish attorney could prove he died from emotional distress over this lawsuit . . .
posted by MetalDog at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2003


Actually if the jury awarded $75,000-the widow only pays $37,500-reducing the award by the plaintiff's percentage of fault. Myself, I probably would go 95-100% fault on the burglar, but the jury probably compromised on that figure.
posted by quercus at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2003


You are wrong, you would have to prove intent to cause harm to you or your family (unless you are in Oklahoma) so if you do shoot someone, be sure you kill them so they can't testify against you at your trial.
part of my point, if I shot someone dead in my house in the middle of the night (and given that they broke in illegally), besides some initial probing, not much would come out of it as far as me being charged with a crime. again, not a whole lot of difference between this and the lethal booby trap (I'm not weighing in on the right/wrong aspect, because that tends to get people a little too inflamed here, but just logistically speaking I don't see the glaring difference, except one is legal and one is seemingly not).
posted by dig_duggler at 12:11 PM on February 26, 2003


On preview-comparative fault is that system Boltman-e.g. if a responding fireman had been killed as opposed to the burglar- I would put no percentage of fault on the fireman.
posted by quercus at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2003


I understood that the legal status of defending your home with a gun involved deterrence, not simply slaughtering an intruder out of hand. In a defense of property situation, you generally need to be able to show that you demanded that the other party desist. The use of firearms first constituting a threat of action, not the action itself.

To say, "I'm allowed to use a firearm to defend my property" does not presuppose that you may simply silently and even automatically just kill an intruder out of hand. You either have to show that you told them to get out, or establish a reasonable belief that you were in such immediate personal danger that you had to act instantly. In the latter case it's self-defense, not defense of property.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2003


How dare you people think that people can expect a minimum of personal and public safety without having earned it.

I'd say that stealing from another is not akin to not earning the right to public safety. It's more like taking a watery shit on it.

Pollomacho, Don't assume that everyone who's unsympathetic is in the conservative camp. Leftists can also recognize that everyone is responsible for their own actions and that thievery is inexcusable. As for the value of life, people of any human worth don't support themselves through the direct exploitation of others.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:15 PM on February 26, 2003


comparative fault is that system Boltman

Right, but people here don't seem to like it much, so I'm curious whether people really believe that a contributory fault rule is preferable.
posted by boltman at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2003


I have read of plenty of cases where there was a shoot first ask questions later attitude where an intruder was killed. A risk you certainly take in demanding someone to get off your property if that they might have a firearm and use it on you, and this argument has been used effectively (at least to some extent) to validate this approach. It would depend on the town and the police force you are dealing with I will grant. But I don't think it is that uncommon, and again, my whole point, not all that much different from lethal traps.
posted by dig_duggler at 12:22 PM on February 26, 2003


How much is a human life worth to you anyway?

First flip answer: Human lives are produced in great quantity every day. The supply is far greater than the demand, thus the price is naturally low.

Second flip answer: Whose life are we talking about here, exactly?

electrocute people to death.

Hello, I'm from the department of redundancy department, and I'm here to electrocute you to death, just to make sure you're all the way dead.

[Signs] don't serve as warnings to the illiterate or vision-impaired, not to mention the stoned or stupid.

Third flip answer: Maybe people should try a little harder not to be illiterate, stoned, or stupid, then. (I'll spot you the blind; the signs should be required to be in Braille!)
posted by kindall at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2003


not all that much different from lethal traps.

I have to disagree -- they are crucially different. In the cases you're referring to, there's still the implication that the defender felt personally threatened. This does not apply to booby traps, where the defender is not even present to be threatened. Booby trapping is causing premeditated harm, indiscriminately, where no threat to the defender exists.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2003


not all that much different from lethal traps.

well, presumably you wouldn't shoot a family member or friend or a seven year old kid or the mailman, while a lethal trap would not have any qualms about killing them.
posted by boltman at 12:26 PM on February 26, 2003


good points. But we've heard about daddy shooting jimmy in the middle of the night b/c he thought he was a robber. I am not saying this is right. But there seems to be precedence...
posted by dig_duggler at 12:28 PM on February 26, 2003


What eas98 said.

Pollomacho, I'm getting that you're an attorney. So my question would be, what should the bar owner have done?

I mean, besides resigning himself to being robbed on a regular basis. Or perhaps closing up shop - perhaps contributing to the continuing slide of the neighborhood.

I realize this isn't legally defensible, but I don't subscribe to the "sorry, you're screwed and that's just the way it is" theory. And one wonders what might have happened if the criminal had lived; lord knows, the award might have been 10 times as much, as the jury - not permitted to hear of his prior criminal convictions and the fact he was wasted on that particular night - did get to hear all about his underpriveleged childhood.
posted by kgasmart at 12:30 PM on February 26, 2003


dig_duggler: The difference is, someone HAS to be there to pull the trigger, to make a decision, to weigh the circumstances of the situation. A booby trap doesn't.

boltman... all of the examples you listed are all illegal. So I still stand by my statement. A criminal is fully responsible for his/her actions, regardless of the consequences. If he or she dies, then that was a risk they were willing to take to commit the crime. The surviving family shouldn't get money for that. And I find it hard to believe that this guy had any earning potential... at the rate he was going.

But I also think that it's unreasonable to allow a person to indiscriminantly kill with a booby trap, and therefore, he must be punished. But the family shouldn't benefit.

Pro-choice conservatives do exist.
posted by Witty at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2003


Shouldn't the headline read, "Justice is served, well done?"
posted by grefo at 12:36 PM on February 26, 2003


I have to disagree -- they are crucially different. In the cases you're referring to, there's still the implication that the defender felt personally threatened. This does not apply to booby traps, where the defender is not even present to be threatened. Booby trapping is causing premeditated harm, indiscriminately, where no threat to the defender exists.


Excellent point. But an argument could be made as well that he felt personally threatened as a reason for the booby traps.. Not that strong of an argument, I know, but I've seen a good lawyer driver weaker ones home.
posted by dig_duggler at 12:37 PM on February 26, 2003


Good lawyer... or just a desparate one?
posted by Witty at 12:39 PM on February 26, 2003


I don't have to have the same bleeding heart attitude everyone else has. It would be nice if we could all be peace-loving, pot-smoking hippies, but life is no fairy-tale.

Wow, three non-sequiturs in two sentences! Impressive!
posted by Ty Webb at 12:40 PM on February 26, 2003


Some people think that the stuff that they own and stuff that they want to own is worth more than the lives of others (heartless bastards). Others do not (bleeding heart crybabies).

This is the crux of the problem. Everything else is just detail.
posted by moonbiter at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2003


The problem is these juries are mad up of twelve people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.

(come on, it was a joke... lighten up!)
posted by Hugh2d2 at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2003


Some people think that the stuff that they own and stuff that they want to own is worth more than the lives of others (heartless bastards).

Not really. I think these people are just sick to death of constantly being ripped off and paying for it.
posted by Witty at 12:46 PM on February 26, 2003


Human lives are produced in great quantity every day. The supply is far greater than the demand, thus the price is naturally low.

Not exactly, Mercedes Benz cars are produced in great quantity, exceeding demand even, that doesn't mean I'm going to get one for twenty bucks though does it? Besides, when exactly did we start thinking about human life in terms of cash value, oh yeah, back during the slave trade days, I forgot. Let me just remind you, PEOPLE ARE NOT OBJECTS TO BE BOUGHT AND SOLD, life is not a commodity, your TV is, your couch is, your VCR is, NOT your life.

Whose life are we talking about here, exactly?

Why does it matter. Just because someone uses coke and leeches money off another person, that means they are forever worthless? I guess by that logic our President would be pretty worthless, since he leeched off daddy and snorted his fair share!

Maybe people should try a little harder not to be illiterate, stoned, or stupid, then.

I guess its ALWAYS the person's fault if they are learning, mentally or physically disabled, I guess their life is pretty worthless too? How exactly do you try and not be stupid? You either are or not, no? I can understand the stoned thing and maybe people can try a little harder in school, that is if they have the opportunity to go to school, I guess because the education budget gets cut that makes those who will no longer get school funding are worthless humans.

Don't assume that everyone who's unsympathetic is in the conservative camp.

Touche, point taken. I made an ass of u and me, mostly me. It was a reaction to:

we really ARE plagued by lefty groupthink.

Sadly, you are correct.


Sorry. Don't like people automatically labeling something opposing as liberal or leftist any more than conservative. Point was definitely taken.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:51 PM on February 26, 2003


*flush*
posted by mcsweetie at 12:53 PM on February 26, 2003


kgasmart: "So my question would be, what should the bar owner have done?"

a physical barrier (bars, steel shutters, etc.) would have impeded entry without inflicting physical damage.
posted by erebora at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2003


Apparently no one told the bar owner about Illinois' moratorium on capital punishment.
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2003


what should the bar owner have done?

Not sure, put up a steel door, a metal cage, hired an after hours guard, made sure that nothing worth stealing was in the bar after hours? I don't know, but putting up a death trap was certainly not the best or most legal answer. If he really wanted to kill the guy he should have spent the night in the bar and shot him himself, at least then he could have claimed that he was defending himself.

How about this, maybe as a dealer of addictive intoxicants he was only asking for an intoxicant addict to do him [financial or otherwise] harm?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2003


There are several states where you are allowed to use even deadly force in defense of property.

The point here is that you cannot delegate the use of that lethal force to any sort of gadget or trap, because they cannot distinguish the difference between a legitimate target (Mr. Burglar) and an innocent party (lost child, firefighter, etc.).

This is why the law punishes those who do set lethal traps, and the verdict here is justified in that regard.

Admittedly, I don't like the deceased's family getting the proceeds; I think it would better be defaulted to a state's victim's rights program or other such fund.
posted by John Smallberries at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2003


Some people think that the stuff that they own and stuff that they want to own is worth more than the lives of others

Some times those people are called muggers, sometimes they are bar owners, usually they have their priorities in the wrong place.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:04 PM on February 26, 2003


The point here is that you cannot delegate the use of that lethal force to any sort of gadget or trap, because they cannot distinguish the difference between a legitimate target (Mr. Burglar) and an innocent party (lost child, firefighter, etc.).

Exactly.
posted by Songdog at 1:09 PM on February 26, 2003


kindall: Redundancy is often necessary to inform the hard-liners here that the suffix "cute" isn't an adjective that describes a kitten.
posted by ed at 1:18 PM on February 26, 2003


I suspect there is a double standard. It seems well established that a property owner cannot defend his property with lethal force. What if state or federal government owns the property?

Say I decide to burglarize a federal nuclear weapons storage facility. Something tells me that I might be killed, either by a firearm or by radiation exposure. Either way I doubt my family will be collecting $75K from the federal government.

How about a example without national security concerns. Say I decide to burglarize a federal prison (to "steal" a couple of my buddies). I would guess there is a high probability that I would be mamed or killed by a boobytrap (electric fences, dogs, razor wire, ...) or a prison guard. Yet I doubt the government would be held liable like this bar owner was.

Or am I totally off base? Is the federal government liable for the injuries I incure while burglarizing a federal facility?
posted by gruchall at 1:20 PM on February 26, 2003


Redundancy is often necessary to inform the hard-liners here that the suffix "cute" isn't an adjective that describes a kitten.

It can! From a pet care site I was looking at just now:

Unfortunately electrical cords are very attractive chew toys for cats and dogs; a strong bite on one of these may electrocute your cat (and burn your house down!)
posted by Pollomacho at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2003


Hmmm... so no one's troubled by this? Innocent widow forced to pay $75K to family of coked up career criminal? Man... we really ARE plagued by lefty groupthink. Where's that fucking nut Hama, he'll side with me on this one!

johnson, I would have sided with you on this one, but I've actually been swayed by the booby-trap argument: you can't delegate (or rather) automate the use of deadly force. If you could, and it became common, you'd get a hell of a lot more respect for private property, but the loss of innocent life wouldn't be worth it. Keep your guns and defend your person, leave some ex-lax brownies in the fridge, and maybe RF-ID your valuables, but don't have a contraption to automatically kill someone who steals your alcohol.

gruchall: the state gets a lot of double standards. It can legally kill, for one thing, and run indefinitely at a deficit. This is troublesome sometimes, and we probably ought to ask the questions sometimes to keep an eye on it, but it may well be sometimes there are things a society has to do that an individual shouldn't be allowed to do to other individuals.
posted by namespan at 1:43 PM on February 26, 2003


Is the federal government liable for the injuries I incur while burglarizing a federal facility?

Just like any property owner, however there are the criminal and national security concerns. Breaking out of a Federal (or State) prison is a crime, a prisoner would be shot for doing so, I can only imagine that you would be too. Say you burglarize the Department of Labor building for some odd reason, you fall down the stairs because of a faulty hand rail, then the government could be deemed negligent for having a faulty hand rail. If they had a lethal booby trap, then they could face more serious charges like the bar owner. I'm not sure about the razor wire, I suppose it would be pretty hard to get around the fact that reasonably you would be expecting razor wire to cut you or for a guard to shoot you if you entered a prison, however a crack head breaking into a bar would not and lawfully should not expect to be electrocuted, drowned or exterminated to death. Cops do have a very different standard, they can shoot fleeing suspects, they can hold you against your will and/or deprive you of life, liberty and property unlike the rest of us. I don't see that being a huge problem though, I mean we'd probably have thought that the bar keeper was a little sick if he'd caught the crack head in the act, cuffed him, tossed him into his car, taken him back to his house and locked him in the bathroom while he typed up a report on the situation, then interrogated him, tried him and then determined to keep him in the bathroom for 23 hours a day for the next 3 years, wouldn't we?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2003


Pollomacho, I'm willing to sacrafice a few orthodontists in my crusade.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:57 PM on February 26, 2003


If he really wanted to kill the guy he should have spent the night in the bar and shot him himself, at least then he could have claimed that he was defending himself.

Pollomacho, a bar owner in Atlanta did just that and was charged with aggravated assault. His bar had been broken into before (see Jan. 12, 2002) by armed robbers, so he spent the night in his bar and shot one of them when he broke in FOR THE THIRD TIME!
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:58 PM on February 26, 2003


Wait, I meant "sacrifice" . . . aaaaaaaaaagh! [insert sound of booby trap here]
posted by Outlawyr at 2:00 PM on February 26, 2003


And yes, of course that information might have had an impact on the fault attributed to the burglar, but it would have been more prejudicial than probative. It's more likely to have biased than informed.

Gotta disagree with your 403 analysis there, outlawyr (no matter how matter-of-fact you stated it). I would argue like hell that the probative value was not substantially outweighed by the potential for prejudice. After all, intoxication is routinely allowed into evidence in auto accident cases in order to apportion fault.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2003


Wasn't this a bar? Isn't some amount of intoxication implied by the very nature of the business, what if a patron forgot his hat and decided to go through the window to get it, ZAP, too bad he was too drunk to read the sign or think rationally about his actions. Does the fact that he was drunk bias towards the bar owner (he was acting irrationally), the deceased (he was too drunk to see the sign), both or neither?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:21 PM on February 26, 2003


...a crack head breaking into a bar would not and lawfully should not expect to be electrocuted, drowned or exterminated to death.

I think it'd be a perfectly fine thing if would-be criminals expected pAiNfUl eLeCtRiC dEaTh should they be so foolish as to put their greedy desires into action. I rather suspect a lot fewer of the scum would be so casual about their theivery.

The value of a human life? Well, if we're talking about my life, it's pretty damn valuable to me. If we're talking about your's, it's less valuable to me.

If we're talking about a criminals, then it is a negative value -- a cost -- to me. In which case I'm all for swapping that negatively-valued life for some disadvantaged positively-valued life, like perhaps some starving Iraqi kid who could use a second chance.

posted by five fresh fish at 2:21 PM on February 26, 2003


Pollomacho, a bar owner in Atlanta did just that and was charged with aggravated assault.

Charged with, so what. I'm curious to know whether he was convicted. Unfortunately a search on Factiva (a service similar to Lexis-Nexis) turned up nothing beyond the original report with the same info as the story linked by Frank Grimes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:35 PM on February 26, 2003


We don't know enough about the details of this case to really say, do we?

News is like that, you see.

Moral of the story: Thou shalt not steal.
posted by hama7 at 2:48 PM on February 26, 2003


Why is everyone acting like the family won some sort of lawsuit lottery? $75,000 would not compensate me for the loss of my brother, even if he had, over his 37 years of life, committed 2 prior burglaries and done cocaine.

Heck, if I had such a brother, I might still be hoping he could someday become president. (Sorry, couldn't refuse the Bush-bash, sure to make those republicans who feel that this guy's life was not worth much reflect upon their president's life of crime, and correct their apparent hypocrisy.)

But, seriously folks, $75,000 is not a high price to pay for bumping up the juice from 110 to 220 (220, 221, whatever it takes) to fry someone.
posted by kcmoryan at 2:53 PM on February 26, 2003


DevilsAdvocate, I'm wondering the same thing. I couldn't find anything more than what I posted. Here's the bar's contact information:

Treehouse Restaurant and Pub
7 Kings Circle Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30305
404-266-2732

I'm tempted to call and ask if the case has been heard yet.
posted by Frank Grimes at 2:54 PM on February 26, 2003


Moral of the story: Thou shalt not steal.

Man, that's disappointingly lucid, hama. I may have to revise my user page, dammit.
posted by jonson at 3:05 PM on February 26, 2003


Gee. Without private property, there's no theft, and no tresspassing. To wierdoes like me, there's just murder here.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:07 PM on February 26, 2003


But there is... so I guess just being weird will have to do.
posted by Witty at 3:15 PM on February 26, 2003


kaibutsu - you don't own private property? If I pay for shipping, will you send me a list of our communal possessions, so that I can have some of them stay over at my place for a while?
posted by jonson at 3:19 PM on February 26, 2003


Sometimes when we are about to do fun, legal things, we are asked to sign release slips/consent forms acknowledging that we will hold no one else responsible if something unfortunate happens. Yet, if we're going to do something illegal and dangerous, under the law we can assume we're *not* responsible if something crappy happens to us? Oi vey.

Back in my Universe, if you break into someone's property, you do so with the expectation that you could get in deep doo.

What next? The poor rapist who catches a disease from his victim and sues her because she didn't tell him she had the clap/AIDS?
posted by NorthernLite at 3:33 PM on February 26, 2003


We don't know enough about the details of this case to really say, do we?

News is like that, you see.

Moral of the story: Thou shalt not steal.


Whoohoo! jonson gets his predicted support from hama7, and Metafilter even gets a few more potential taglines!

Metafilter: We don't know enough about the details
Metafilter: News is like that, you see
Metafilter: Moral of the story

(Thou shalt not steal is well-taken, of course, but I think I can also believe thou shalt not kill or maim via unattended automated means.)
posted by namespan at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2003


Sometimes when we are about to do fun, legal things, we are asked to sign release slips/consent forms acknowledging that we will hold no one else responsible if something unfortunate happens.

Of course, you're assuming that those slips would stand up in court, which may or may not be the case depending on the specific facts in question. For example, if the bar owner made his employees sign an agreement that they wouldn't hold him liable if they were accidently killed by his little booby trap I can assure you that it wouldn't be worth the paper it was written on in court.

Yet, if we're going to do something illegal and dangerous, under the law we can assume we're *not* responsible if something crappy happens to us?

Well, if he hadn't been killed by the booby trap, he would no doubt have gone to prison. The award that his family received was also cut in half from what it would have been if he had been a law abiding citizen. So I'd say he was held responsible. He just wasn't totally cut off from recovery because we as a society feel that burglary generally does not deserve death.

As far as the razor wire example goes, I'm pretty sure that there is a significant legal distinction between devices that are designed to kill (and maybe maim too) and devices that will merely injure. Of course, I can't remember exactly what it is. But I doubt you'd get far if you tried to sue for being injured by barbed wire or razor wire while trying to break into somewhere.
posted by boltman at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2003


Thou shalt not steal.

Uh huh. That's number VIII. Number VI is "Thou shalt not kill." Not, as far as I know, "Thou shalt not kill, unless you think someone's about to break number VIII with specific regard to your stereo."
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2003


Ugh - I fucking cannot beleve this.

My property means mine - if you are stealing it, breaking into it, on it, or using it without permission, it is a crime - period. And I have a right to protect whats mine.

Essentially, it's self defense.

If i come after you and harm you, im to blame. If however you are potentially causing harm to me or attacking me, i am allowed to defend myself.

The establishment didnt attack the man, the man attacked the establishment - after hours - when he was not to be there - like anyone else.

So if I steal something from a store that says "shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law" do i get to sue whom i stole from to return the wages to me and my family for time i've spent in court and while incarcerated?


this is pure fucking stupidity - don't want to get fucked up? dont fuck up.While I agree that this man could have done something a little more realistic in terms of defending his property, it is very apparent that the law was doing absolutely nothing -- he protected his property, and the criminal made the *conscious* decision to take the risk.

If i jump of a bridge and die, can my family sue for not putting signs that say "caution - shallow water" hell, i could sue if it said "no jumping" by your rationale --

WHERE THE FUCK IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS COUNTRY?!?!?
posted by cuomofied at 6:56 PM on February 26, 2003


This doesn't even surprise me. And it should.
posted by cinematique at 7:21 PM on February 26, 2003


What does it say about the overall politics of Mefi, or the reactionary nature of discussion, or maybe just the time perionds that certain people are reading/posting that this discussion started off so overwhelmingly leftist, and ended up so far on the right?
posted by jonson at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2003


My property means mine - if you are stealing it, breaking into it, on it, or using it without permission, it is a crime - period. And I have a right to protect whats mine.

Okay, since we're venturing into absurdity anyway, here's my hypothetical: RIAA figures out a way to kill people that download copyrighted music. (say they hire an independent crime syndicate to track down and murder illegal P2P users, or, if we want to get all sci-fi, they come up with some sort of sound pattern that induces a lethal seizure in a certain percentage of listeners). They take this step because they feel that the threat of bodily harm is the only way to protect their property from theft (probably not far from the truth). Would you still agree that the families of the victims should not be able to recover any damages from RIAA?
posted by boltman at 8:05 PM on February 26, 2003


What does it say about the overall politics of Mefi, or the reactionary nature of discussion, or maybe just the time perionds that certain people are reading/posting that this discussion started off so overwhelmingly leftist, and ended up so far on the right?

That the practice of slapping simplistic labels on people on the basis of very little information isn't serving you very well?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2003


The idea of radically changing a rule of law that has persisted for about a hundred years may be right-ist, but it seems to be a stretch to call it "conservative". :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:58 PM on February 26, 2003


My point was that the "fuck 'em, he got what he deserved" attitude was conservative, in it's hard line anti crime pro tort reform stance, and the "wait, let's not rush to judgement, this guy DID have a lethal system in his house and it could have killed a child or a firefighter" is liberal in it's soft on crime stance. I kind of don't understand George_Spiggott's point, and the question still stands. Why did this discussion run from predominantly in favor of the ruling to predominantly opposed? Is that just how these discussions generally go, is that a group dynamic of opposing viewpoints, that once they reach a critical mass in one direction they swing in the opposite direction as a result of backlash from the fed up, silent up until now counter viewpoints?
posted by jonson at 11:05 PM on February 26, 2003


I'm gonna pipe up again.... I think there may be something to the idea that at some point in a discussion, especially one that seems to have reached consensus too soon (ie, w/o broad consideration), you're likely to have a number of disruptors appear to try to force the consideration of alternatve points of view. I often end up playing a somewhat similar role in real-life discussions.

And I waded into this discussion prepared to be incensed that the thief's family had received a benefit extracted from the bar owner's estate. It doesn't seem right. But after reading the comments, I was persuaded: burglary isn't punished by death under the law, and while you certainly might be authorized to use force to defend your property, you can't use deadly force, and you certainly can't delegate that judgment/ability to an automated contraption.

The argument evolved well and convincingly. I think only the diehard disruptors -- or those who hadn't gotten a chance to get their licks -- were left after it set. And I'd disagree that the thread veered back to sympathy for the bar owner... just some last gasps by holdouts.
posted by namespan at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2003


namespan - 'after reading the comments, I was persuaded: burglary isn't punished by death under the law, and while you certainly might be authorized to use force to defend your property, you can't use deadly force'

If only the British public shared your humility.
Tony Martin shot a 17 year old burglar in the back, without warning, killing him. His sentence was reduced from life to 5 years, plus 3 for wounding another man.
posted by asok at 3:13 AM on February 27, 2003


Yes, asok. Those who seek to kill others to protect property - not themselves - are murderers. I don't want to live in a vigilante society.
posted by Summer at 5:24 AM on February 27, 2003


Essentially, it's self defense.

I can't believe people keep equating their property with themselves. You are not your stereo.
posted by rcade at 5:33 AM on February 27, 2003


I'm just in utter shock.

I can't believe it.

I just can't believe that Ashcroft was mentioned by the 3rd post and not one person rose to take the bait.
posted by bwg at 6:17 AM on February 27, 2003


is liberal in it's soft on crime stance.

All right that's just insulting, so calling someone a murderer because he fucking killed someone means I'm a liberal AND "soft on crime"

WHERE THE FUCK IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS COUNTRY?

This case is a great example of personal responsibility. You kill someone, you are responsible for their death, you pay the cost.

If however you are potentially causing harm to me or attacking me, i am allowed to defend myself.

Yes, you can defend yourself. As rcade put so well, "you are not your stereo." You may not agree, but you have the law to contend with on that.

The establishment didnt attack the man

I guess his death was a phigment of his family's imagination then.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:10 AM on February 27, 2003


All right that's just insulting, so calling someone a murderer because he fucking killed someone means I'm a liberal AND "soft on crime"

let's not kid ourselves, Pollomacho, you certainly are liberal, unless there's a sarcasm tag that I'm missing in your comments here (and elsewhere). As for soft on crime, I've no idea, I wasn't referring to you or any one person, but rather the traditional liberal stereotype of being less black and white, pro death penalty, more prisons, tougher sentences, etc that are the traditional provence of the right wing. Would you disagree?
posted by jonson at 10:57 AM on February 27, 2003


Would you disagree?

I would certainly. remember it was a "liberal" supreme court that reinstated the death penalty before Gary Gilmore's execution. It was the "liberal" Quakers that built the first prisons in the US in the first place. The "liberal" paradise of California has a 3 strikes law. Slapping labels on people or positions on a particular topic is not really a great idea. After all I also feel that the bar owner may have been guilty of 1st degree murder in that he pre-meditated the murder of the burglar, that's 25 years to life. I own guns, I know how to use them. I would use them without hesitating to defend my person or my family. Does that then mean I'm "conservative." I got called out for this earlier by Mayo Curley, and I was wrong then. Its not so black and white, liberal and conservative are just terms we like to throw around to group people. Sometimes those groups make it easier to talk about differing points of view, but when we get chained to those labels we get in trouble. You are right though that generally those in the "liberal" camp look for reform rather than punishment from the prison system and "conservatives" want the opposite, but its never universal, it doesn't make anyone "soft on crime" (that term is a politician's insult to win scare tactic votes, it is, I promise). I'm not dogging, you specifically, its something that gets done all the time here, and I do it too.

Check out this thread if you haven't, there's some interesting tid bits in there.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2003


This is not a right/left, pro/anti tort reform, hard on/soft on crime issue.

If you study the underlying rationale of the jurisprudence that leads to the result discussed in the article, you will find strong public policy arguments for the imposition of monetary penalties for the use of a lethal trap to protect property.

Note that the intruder was not entering occupied premises so the only interests at stake are property interests. The is no justification for the use of deadly force to protect property alone.

The real issue is the use of an automatic killing machine. The law so frowns on such a contraption that it will impose tort remedies and criminal sanctions to discourage its use.

Right/left, conservative/liberal, we all recognize the rule of law.
posted by mygoditsbob at 1:46 PM on February 27, 2003


...I also feel that the bar owner may have been guilty of 1st degree murder in that he pre-meditated the murder of the burglar...

Nahh... That assumes that he KNEW FOR SURE that this particular person was coming to burglarize his business.

I think everyone agrees that burglary doesn't deserve death as a penalty issued by the state. But burglary is a crime that COULD result in death... which it did. He could have been shot. He took that risk. It may be a wrongful death, but not an innocent person. Therefore, I don't see how the family of the criminal should benefit. The estate should be punished though.
posted by Witty at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2003


So if I steal something from a store that says "shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law" do i get to sue whom i stole from to return the wages to me and my family for time i've spent in court and while incarcerated?

No, it's more like, if you shoplift a Bic pen from my store, and I come after you with an ax and decapitate you, your heirs can sue me for wrongful death.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:09 PM on February 27, 2003


You'll just have to decapitate his heirs, then, won't you? Problem solved.

There's no problem that doesn't have a simple solution!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:45 PM on February 27, 2003


There's no problem that doesn't have a simple solution!

Certainly not if you're willing to bring decapitation into the discussion!
posted by jonson at 3:33 PM on February 27, 2003


Or chainsaws.

From the reknown Arrogant Worms:

Billy solves his problems by calling up his Mom
Heather solves her problems with drugs and Alcohol
Daniel solves his problems with a doctor and the law
But Malcolm's got his own way and it's better than them all
Chorus
'Cause Malcolm solves his problems with a chainsaw
and he never has the same problem twice
Whether it's a bill or a cheque arriving late
Rancid marble cheese or a steak that's second rate
Awful TV programs or a broken Elvis plate
Or his fiancee who dumps him because he's gaining weight
Chorus
vruum vruum (with accompanied screaming)
Problem solved!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:07 PM on February 27, 2003


I read this thread yesterday afternoon before heading home from work. On the way to the train I picked up the latest City Paper and flipped immediately to News of the Weird where I found this...

"Retired Belgian engineer Louis Dethly was accidentally blown up in November by one of the 19 deadly booby traps he had rigged in his nome near Charlerois to prevent his ex-wife and 14 children (with whom he was feuding) from legally taking ownership of the house."

As sad as any death is, the bloke who blew himself up had an interesting last name.
posted by terrapin at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2003


The bar owner in Atlanta was cleared of shooting the man who broke into his bar.

The district attorney's office dismissed the charge against Kourkoulis on Jan. 30, Friedly said. Apparently Bryant was trying to take Kourkoulis' gun away from him when Bryant was shot, Friedly said. "The investigation showed that the victim had grabbed for the defendant's weapon, and that is what caused the discharge," Friedly said.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:29 AM on March 6, 2003


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