Castle Doctrine law promotes justice by bullet: The disturbing death of Bo Morrison.

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5PM Sunday March 25, on the corner of Schmidt and Hwy 33 near the Washington County Courthouse in West Bend there will be a gathering to protest Castle Doctrine law and to stand by the family of Bo Morrison. Read more at the facebook event Protest/Justice for BoLink to MAP

In the early morning hours of March 3, 2012 in the
Village of Slinger, Wisconsin Bo Morrison ducked into a 3-season porch after fleeing an underage party. Bo Morrison knew he was breaking the law by drinking at 20-years-of-age and he knew the police were en route. Bo hid between a refrigerator and a dresser on the porch of the very same man who called the police with a noise complaint earlier.

According to the gunman – whose identity still is not available – he heard a noise, retrieved his handgun, loaded it, and then went to explore his house and check the locks. As he came upon his 3 season porch, he smelled a wet smoky scent and saw movement in the corner of his eye.

According to the gunman’s wife, he yelled “What are you doing
in my house?” two times. She also heard her husband say “Stay where you are”

According to the DA’s report Bo “raised a hand towards the homeowner and took a step towards the
homeowner”. The gunman “already had his firearm straight out in
front of him with his arm extended and aimed at the individual”. When Bo took a step, the gunman fired a single shot.

Bo was unarmed. Why would he move forward like that? Why wouldn’t he raise both hands in surrender? We only have the shooter and his wife’s account. Bo was in a dark room perhaps unaware that a gun was pointing straight at him. At autopsy it was discovered that Bo had a blood alcohol level of 0.190.

A lot of people discussing Bo’s death and grieving for him believe that because he was unarmed his shooter should face a criminal charge. They’re also confused about what Castle Doctrine law is. Bo’s sister Kayla Morrison created a change.org petition that seems to draw on old Wisconsin law to explain Castle Doctrine. She says that “Castle Doctrine has a few stipulations. .. The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death upon an occupant of the home.”

Things have changed.

Under Wisconsin’s former intruder law, it wasn’t “reasonable” to shoot an intruder to defend your stereo (your property). In the past you were only “reasonable” to shoot an intruder to “defend against imminent death or substantial harm” [Section 939.48(1).]

Now under Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine law, your use of deadly force to halt an intruder is presumed “reasonable” under all conditions assuming also that you are in or on your property and that the break-in is forcible and that you are not engaged in a criminal act or shooting at a “public officer”. I believe that this sends two messages: that even if somebody came in to rob you of property and not harm your person, that you would be within your rights to kill. The justice system has less power to convict me for murder if I kill on my property / The justice system has less power to convict my killer if I am murdered on his property.*

What is “forcible” is also quite important. In his explanation for why he pressed no charges, Washington County DA Bensen said that though Bo entered two unlocked doors, his entry was forcible by the definition of several previous Wisconsin court cases. But do we know what a jury would consider “forcible” in the case of Bo Morrison – Wisconsin’s first victim of a self defense shooting under Castle Doctrine law? No. Bensen admits this himself when he writes,
“The bottom line is that no one cannot predict precisely how a court would define “forcibly”
under the Castle Doctrine, nor can anyone predict whether a court would simply instruct a jury
that the term “forcibly” should be given its common meaning as understood by the jury.”

Under Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine law, the court is not allowed to consider a property owner’s ability to flee or retreat before using force.[Act 94 Section 3] Even what is a “Dwelling” is expanded. We’re now talking driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, terraces, patios, fences, porches, garages, and basements.

So in the past, if a gunman were frightened of what made a noise on his porch, we might ask if it weren’t more reasonable to retreat – locking a door between the interior of the home and the porch. We might wonder if given the fact that the gunman knew the police were still on the street outside his house as is the case with this tragedy), that he could consider waiting behind the door and allowing the police to come and do the task of investigating the noise on the porch. Such thinking is not bolstered by Castle Doctrine law. (We might also argue that such thinking is not bolstered by the aggressive sale of handguns). Is there anything in Castle Doctrine to compel a homeowner to lock the door and step back? No. Castle Doctrine gives protection to the property owner who wants to step forward, gun in hand.

Family and friends have demanded that the District Attorney of Washington County charge Bo’s shooter and make him endure the fullest scrutiny of the justice system.

The DA refused, coming to the conclusion that a “reasonable” jury would not convict the shooter of a crime. He’s written a substantial 28 page report to explain his case. In so doing, he takes the place of the prosecutor, the defendant, and the jury and also does not allow for the public to fully witness how it is that a Wisconsin jury treats Castle Doctrine. Not only does it protect the gunman from being raked over the coals of public opinion, it also protects the Castle Doctrine law itself from our collective examination. District Attorneys make these judgement calls. This is a very unpopular one and I think it’s the wrong one.

From his report:
“Under a reasonable view of the evidence the homeowner acted reasonably in his use of force
based on the facts and circumstances of which he was aware when he encountered an unknown
intruder (Mr. Morrison) in his residence at 2 a.m. on March 3,2012. Therefore, the homeowner
acted lawfully in self defense when he fired a single shot at Mr. Morrison. In addition, our office
recognizes that the presumption of reasonable use of force under the Castle Doctrine only applies
in a limited number of situations. Under the facts of this case, it appears that all of the
requirements have been met. Therefore, our office concludes that the presumption of the
reasonable use of force would apply in this case. If the homeowner had been charged in this case
and a trial ensued, the homeowner would have been entitled to a jury instruction on the
presumption. While the State could seek to overcome that presumption if sufficient facts existed,
in this case, our office concludes that there are no facts which could be utilized to overcome the
presumption. Since there are no facts in this case to overcome the presumption in this case, no
reasonable jury could convict the homeowner of any crime for his actions on March 3,2012.”

Wisconsin actually has no history of a “reasonable” OR unreasonable jury deciding on a Castle Doctrine case or getting instructions on it. Bo Morrison’s case would be the first. Consider if you will that DA Bensen uses jury instructions prepared for Tennessee to draw conclusions on what a Wisconsin jury would face. It has a very similar Castle Doctrine statute to Wisconsin’s.

With Castle Doctrine on the books, any Wisconsin DA can defer to property owners to dispense justice. Justice is now less likely to be held by a jury of peers and is more likely to be held by lone shooters.

There is a book in my home by Bill Leuders called, “Watchdog”. Leuders has written for years about criminal cases and he’s been confounded by the lack of citizen outcry over decisions made by district attorneys, prosecutors, police:

“Already, we give these people vast powers – to arrest, to prosecute, to overlook transgression, to deprive of liberty – and immunize them from most lawsuits when they screw up. And then, on top of that, we spare them the bother of having to explain themselves.”

The opposite is true here. An increasing number of people are stepping forward to press very hard for justice in Bo’s tragedy and to repeal Castle Doctrine law.

The news report below starts with, “A fatal shooting and the shooter walks free” and includes a brief interview with the DA.

Contains brief interview of the DA:

Resource:
DA’s report on Bo Morrison shooting.

State Bar of Wisconsin: Castle Doctrine (UPDATE): Expanded self-defense bill on its way to Gov. Walker’s desk by Joe Forward

Read more:
PRWatch – ALEC Ratified NRA-Conceived Law That May Protect Trayvon Martin’s Killer

Castle doctrine legislation passed by a 27-6 vote in the Wisconsin Senate on Nov 3, 2011 and by a 71-24 vote Nov. 1, 2011 in the Wisconsin Assembly. Scott Walker signed Act 94 into law on Dec. 17, 2011. It was published on Dec 20, 2011.

From Root River Siren: “The Castle Doctrine was brought before the Wisconsin State Senate by former law enforcement officer, Van Wanggaard. It is strikingly similar to ALEC model legislation proposed in the past – and under the perfect storm of GOP control it passed with ease – by a number of Democrats as well – most notably, Gubernatorial Candidate, Kathleen Vinehout.”

Shows a huge table of handguns at a gun show in Houston, TX. Image appears courtesy of M Glasgow of flickr. Creative commons license.
Gun show image is from M Glasgow. Creative commons license.

*I got to thinking a little more on it, and well, there you go. I wrote two versions – me being the killer or the murdered because I want readers to step into both of those roles.

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  7 comments for “Castle Doctrine law promotes justice by bullet: The disturbing death of Bo Morrison.

  1. DD
    March 28, 2012 at 6:14 am

    I applaud this man and the DA!! For FAR to long have we bowed down to the criminals and worthless scum of the earth. Burglars are allowed to sue if they are harmed on your property while trying to rob you, punk worthless kids drown in your GATED pool on YOUR property yet you get the blame. WTF is wrong with the world?!?!?? Teach your bastards to STAY OUT/OFF OF OTHER PEOPLES SHITE!!!!!! Must I endure a rapist coming into MY home and raping me without defending myself simply because he doesn’t have a weapon??? Should any have to endure pieces of shite coming into/onto what is theirs??? It was NOT his home!!!! He should NOT have been on the property of someone else for ANY reason!!! They should bring this law back everywhere!!

    • Gomez
      March 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      There is nothing wrong with the world. It’s just the way God wants it. And, the “worthless scum” and “bastards” and “pieces of shite” you speak of; let me remind you “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” That would be Genesis 1:27. When defending Himself against the charge of blasphemy Jesus said “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalm 82:6)
      And you want to bring back this law. When this law prevailed career criminals recruited kids (some as young as 4) to break into houses. 100’s of children died horribly each year in mantraps, by gunshot, by beating, by being thrown on broken glass, by being thrown to dogs to be devoured while still alive.
      Nobody even hints that you are not allowed to use justifiable force in self defense. Speaking of rape; Did you know that Henry Fielding, founder of one of the earliest police forces (the Bow Street Runners) was tried for abduction and rape in his youth.
      If you’d like I can provide a list of things Republican Presidents did in their youth. And yet they rose above their past to become leaders. Just as Bo Morrison may have become a great leader if not senselessly killed by a bullet.

    • Ludwig1251
      November 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      Calling a human being something less than human makes it SO easy to justify blowing him away. People who do that are scum.

  2. Wendy
    March 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I live and work in Slinger where this happened. Very quiet, very low crime. I know we are not immune to crime and threats of violence anywhere, but the chance of real danger walking in to our homes is extremely low. I believe the shooter acted recklessly. Had he not known about the party, interacted with the teens and young adults there literally minutes before, and been surprisingly awakened by the noise, even then I believe he should have taken a split second to determine a real threat before shooting. The door was unlocked, it was a porch, the police were outside, get real! A young man is dead! DEAD! Because he was young and making an error with the lack of judgement of youth. I also know he had never been to the home where the party was in a garage behind and between homes involved. I am 54 yrs old, have just driven by there an hour ago, and I could make the same mistake. I don’t always live in the beautiful and quiet country setting of Slinger, WI. I have also lived and still own property in the inner city of Milwaukee, where there is crime and much more of a chance of danger, but I refuse to be an alarmist and so paranoid that I wouldn’t take all precaution to believe a threat is real before I protect myself. I would rather die making sure I didn’t make the mistake this man did. I truly mean this. And I have been in a situation where I had to fight for my life, and I am glad there wasn’t a gun and we both survived. I won’t fight anyone’s right to bear arms, just always protect and respect other’s right to live and be responsible with our actions. Basic hunting courses never teach to shoot first, figure out if it is the animal you are hunting later and I believe this man shot first and now our laws protect his right TO KILL WHEN THERE IS NO REAL THREAT. BARBARIC!

  3. Jesse D
    March 26, 2012 at 2:41 am

    My motto: “It’s a voting system and I’m voting for ME everytime! I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6″

  4. Jesse D
    March 26, 2012 at 2:37 am

    Good article but I think you’re missing the point. You stated: “The DA refused (to file charges)……District Attorneys make these judgement calls. This is a very unpopular one and I think it’s the wrong one.”

    The DA is not filing any charges based upon what the law states. The DA’s job is to make that call, not public opinion. No law was broken. What you seem to forget, under the “old law”, highly unlikely charges would have been filed either.

    Sadly, the young boy chose to hide in someone’s house. Granted, the young man would have better odds of not being shot, if the home owner was trained like a cop or maybe even if guns were not allowed. Fact is, he went into someone’s home uninvited. The boy obviously felt he had the right to enter someone’s house without consent.

    It appears there was a conversation between the two. It’s not like he just went in shooting. I have been robbed at gun point while sitting in my truck. I have also been robbed at gun point in my own driveway. It was not a warm fuzzy feeling being at your own safe home and being violated. For the grace of God, no one was harmed. I now carry 24/7. I do not want to shoot anyone, but I now will.

    • Gomez
      March 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Jesse, why yes, I have been robbed at gunpoint, just want to get that out of the way.

      You’ve already decided that you will shoot someone. Doesn’t that make you a killer in search of a victim? Aren’t we all entitled to defend ourselves against you?

      In your self-defense scenario do you see yourself facing an unarmed teenager? A single armed assailant with his/her weapon already drawn? Two armed assailants with weapons at the ready? Are there ever any innocent bystanders?

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