KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Even before Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson announced charges against 84-year-old Andrew Lester on Monday in the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, a local criminal defense attorney discussed the rights defendants have when someone’s on their property.
“It comes down to, ‘Did the homeowner act reasonably under the circumstances?'” John Picerno said in an interview with FOX4 Monday.
Picerno is not representing Lester. He discussed the “Stand Your Ground” law Monday though. According to state statute, it states, “A person does not have a duty to retreat.”
When it comes to the castle doctrine, a person may use physical force if a person “attempts to unlawfully enter private property that is owned or leased by an individual.”
“Not just the home, not the dwelling, but private property, as long as he has a right to be there,” Picerno said.
“He could be the owner. He could be the lease. He could be somebody who is house sitting. Ringing the doorbell or having the mistaken belief, you’re not unlawfully entering.
“If the homeowner says, ‘Get off my stoop. What are you doing there? I don’t know who you are,’ and you remain as is spelled out in the statute and you remain, then under the Castle Doctrine, the homeowner would have some level of protection.”
During Thompson’s news conference late Monday afternoon though, he said Lester fired through a glass door. According to court documents, Yarl did not enter the home.
Stand Your Ground laws started to spread after Trayvon Martin’s death. The Castle Doctrine has been around for a longer period of time.
“The idea goes back centuries,” UMKC criminal justice professor Ken Novak said in an interview with FOX4 Monday. “‘A man’s home is his castle, and he has the right to defend it’ type of thing.”
Novak said the legal question will be whether Yarl unlawfully tried to enter the property in order to get his siblings. Thompson would not say whether Yarl knocked on the door or rang a doorbell.
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“The person may be on that person’s private property,” Novak continued. “Whether there was a safety risk because this person was trying to enter such that force would be necessary. That’s going to be the question that I think that a jury is going to have to try to determine.”
Thompson would not comment on any specifics on the case when it comes to Stand Your Ground laws or the Missouri Castle Doctrine.