Ohio prosecutors warned that the “castle doctrine” would add an unwelcome page to the playbook of criminal-defense lawyers, says the Columbus Dispatch. The 2008 law, designed to protect the grandmother who shoots an intruder in her home in the middle of the night, increasingly is being used to defend murder suspects as not legally responsible for their deeds. The castle doctrine says people are presumed to be acting in self-defense when they use deadly force and injure or kill someone who illegally enters their occupied home or vehicle.
Critics say the law is silent about the appropriate level of force in response to threats, as well as the fault or criminal conduct of people who create situations that imperil themselves. “It was not made to protect drug dealers from drug dealers, but that’s how it’s being used,” Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said. In rural Pike County, a man who ripped off a drug dealer’s wares shot the dealer through the heart after he broke a window in an attempt to enter the defendant’s car. Defense attorneys contended that the man acted lawfully. A jury convicted him of reckless homicide rather than murder. In Franklin County, a man fatally stabbed an acquaintance who pushed his way into the defendant’s home during an argument. His attorneys said the law granted him an absolute right to defend himself with deadly force. The prosecution countered that the law “is not a license to commit murder.” Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who fears that the law is being used to “confuse jurors to think there was self-defense under the law when there wasn’t.”