TOPEKA, Kan. — The shooting of a Kansas City teen has the spotlight on “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old, was shot twice in Kansas City last week after the teen accidentally went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings.
Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old homeowner, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in Clay County, Missouri on Wednesday. Lester bonded out of jail the day prior.
At the time of the shooting, Lester told police he fired shots out of fear.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly weighed in on the incident earlier this week, raising concerns over “Stand Your Ground” laws.
“It’s very sad, and these kinds of things should never happen,” Kelly told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve always had some concerns about the ‘Stand Your Ground’ and how it gets interpreted.”
“Stand Your Ground” laws could come to the forefront of this case. Still, it’s yet to be seen whether Lester will claim self-defense in court.
Bob Beatty, a political analyst from Topeka, Kansas, said the law can be often misinterpreted.
“There’s some people who believe you can shoot somebody who’s trespassing on your land, [but] that is not true under ‘stand your ground,” Beatty explained.
In Kansas, the “Stand Your Ground” law doesn’t require someone to retreat before using force to defend themselves or someone else. The same applies in Missouri.
However, Beatty said it could be difficult to prove self-defense under these laws.
“One of the most difficult things about ‘Stand Your Ground’ and ultimately, juries have to decide this prosecutors and defense attorneys have to make these arguments, is that term ‘reasonable,’” Beatty said.
“What the law says is if somebody’s coming at you and you reasonably believe they’re going to kill you or attack you, self-defense might be in order.”