This trial involved one of the first cases in North Carolina to be tried under the state’s new self-defense statutes (commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine). Under N.C.’s Castle Doctrine the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace isn’t required to retreat prior to using deadly force. The law presumes a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a home, vehicle, or place of business intends to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. The law also presumes a lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace reasonably fears imminent death or serious bodily harm to himself, herself or another when using defensive force likely to cause death or serious injury if:
- The person against whom defensive force was used was unlawfully and forcefully entering or had already entered a motor vehicle, or workplace, or if the person had taken or was trying to take another person against his will from the home, motor vehicle or workplace;
- The person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
This relatively new law went into effect December 1, 2011. For more information from the School of Government click here.
On the first day of trial, the original charge of Second Degree Murder was lowered to a charge of Voluntary Manslaughter. The trial lasted for more than a week and was covered daily by the local paper.
After all the evidence had been presented, Mr. Gay made his closing argument to the jury. He pointed out that in order to be found guilty of any homicide, the State must have proved that the Defendant committed an unlawful killing. If the Defendant was acting in lawful defense of himself, his home, or his brother, then he could not be found guilty for any killing that results from such acts. The relatively new self-defense laws enacted in December 2011 and found in N.C.G.S. §§ 14-51.2 – 51.4 recognizes ones right to use deadly force against a forcible, unlawful intrusion into a home or motor vehicle.
Mr. Gay had large demonstrative aids in the courtroom showing the jury the three defenses contained in N.C.G.S. § 14-51.2. These defenses shared the following components.
- Of a home, workplace, or motor vehicle
- A lawful occupant (Defendant)
- Is presumed to have had a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm to self or another
- When using defensive force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm (shooting of a gun) if both of the following apply:
- The person against whom the defensive force was used was unlawfully or forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered or that person had removed or was attempting to remove another person against the other person’s will, and (Perpetrator 1was the intruder, deadly force was used upon and he had no legal right to be at that home and had been repeatedly asked to leave. He entered the home with force and without permission.)
- The occupant knew or had reason to believe an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred. (Defendant was the occupant and was well aware of the unlawful and forcible acts by Perpetrator 1 and his friends). These statutes provide a presumption that one is acting lawfully when engaged in the defense of an unlawful intrusion of their home. These statues create the presumption that one acting in such defense has a reasonable fear of imminent death of serious bodily harm to themselves or others. In the case at bar, the State’s evidence show that the Defendant was attacked verbally and physically in his home as his life and the life of his brother were being threatened.
Mr. Gay went on to argue that the evidence showed the following:
- During the evening in question Perpetrator 1 became increasingly violent and aggressive with his language and behavior towards Defendant;
- Defendant attempted to avoid conflict with Perpetrator 1;
- Perpetrator 1 verbally attacked and threatened Defendant;
- Perpetrator 1 physically entered the home and assaulted Defendant;
- While he was being physically assaulted, Defendant retreated backwards in his own home, which he had no duty to do; and
- At the time the fatal wound was inflicted, Defendant was still being assaulted and had been backed into a corner of his kitchen. The fatal wound was a single shot and was inflicted from a close distance.
After deliberating for a couple of hours, the jury returned a verdict of NOT GUILTY.
Whether you’re charged with Murder or a speeding ticket or anything in between – GAY JACKSON & McNALLY, LLP is here to provide you with the very best possible legal representation and advice. If you need criminal law representation, call Mr. Andy Gay at 919-269-2234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.