Now, back to our story...
Since AlanK-san didn't find the "castle doctrine" law in question, I did some digging... It's Chapter 278, Section 8A of the MGL. (You can find it online at: http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/278-8A.htm
it reads as follows:
<h2>GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS</h2>
<center>CRIMES, PUNISHMENTS AND PROCEEDINGS IN CRIMINAL CASES.
<center>PROCEEDINGS IN CRIMINAL CASES.
TRIALS AND PROCEEDINGS BEFORE JUDGMENT. </p>Chapter 278: Section 8A. Killing or injuring a person unlawfully in a dwelling; defense.
Section 8A. In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.</p>
(Gee, there's that wording again...
It should be noted that there is plenty
of "weasel room" in there. For example: What constitutes a dwelling? (case law in Massachusetts has found that a motor-home is not
considered a dwelling) What consitutes a person who is "unlawfully" in said dwelling? (abusive spouse, the pizza delivery guy, a friend of a friend?) And if it's an attack from a "lawful" occupant, does that mean that retreat is necessary? Then there's the "reasonable means" wording. What constitutes self-defense by reasonable means? Would that be an elderly woman with a gun against an unarmed young man? What about a person who's trained in martial arts against a teen-aged punk?
Also notice that there is no
right to protect property
Would this have helped Roberta Shaffer? That's a pretty good question. There's little doubt that she and her daughter were in danger. I got a call from my friend last night (who doesn't know that I'm discussing this on a martial arts forum) because he remembered something... He remembered that the perp was "some sort of a martial arts type, who had a history of using her as a human punching bag"!
He also remembered that that was not allowed as part of her defense at the time... As already mentioned, it was
~25 years ago and today battered women get listened to a lot
more. The real question is whether the perp would be considered a "lawful" or "unlawful" occupant. In Roberta Shaffer's case, taking out a 209A -restraining order- (under current law) would establish him as an "unlawful" occupant... and save her lots of jail-time and expense.
So under current MGL, you don't have a duty to retreat from your own lawfully occupied dwelling before you can defend yourself against an imminent threat of death or grave bodily injury. However
, that is not
of your own lawfully occupied dwelling! Outside of your home you have to retreat if it is safe to do so
, and failure to retreat if it is safe to do so in such a circumstance would probably mean that you would be unable to use self-defense as a defense. The judge might not even let your lawyer raise the issue during the trial, and you could face a murder charge with essentially no defense at all! If you're outside your home and there is a threat and
you can run away, the law in Massachusetts requires
you to do so. it does not
require you to run across route 128 at rush-hour in order to get away, that isn't safe. (Sorry, that's the only example I could think of...)
Having said all that, if you use deadly force against someone in your home, I believe you will more than likely still
face a criminal trial. The issue in the trial would not be whether or not you should have retreated, but rather whether or not you were actually in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm.
That brings us back to things like, "safe rooms" and living in "Condition Yellow" and understanding what the "safe retreat" provisions are and understanding the meaning of "disparity of force". All of these (plus the meaning of the phrase "imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm
") are necessary for people to understand ahead of time
and make into a subconcious decision criteria (just as we do in martial arts training), because you will not
have time to decide when the feces hits the rotating device on the street! (Trust me...
[This message has been edited by Panther (edited December 20, 2000).]