Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Is justifiable homicide ever really justifiable?

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Kristian Hammerstad

If a stranger breaks into your home, all bets are off.

If you were driving last Sunday near the corner of East Colorado St. and Charleston Blvd., you would have seen a group of people in hooded sweatshirts like a cool-weather Old Navy commercial. Except, these people weren’t selling cotton outerwear; they were protesting the February 26 killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by a crime watch volunteer who claimed self-defense. Martin was wearing a hoodie at the time. Three weeks after that shooting, a Summerlin resident shot and killed 19-year-old Demarcus Carter in the backyard of his home. The homeowner told police he believed Carter was attempting to break in. These incidents and others like them have put the spotlight on justifiable homicide laws, including those in Nevada, which say that a person has no duty to retreat and may use deadly force “in necessary self-defense, or in defense of habitation, property or person” against someone who intends violence or to commit a felony. If someone you don’t know has broken into your home, all bets are off. How can you fault a person for assuming an intruder is there to do them serious harm? Still, my family has been burglarized multiple times, and no part of me wishes we’d shot the guy who took my parents’ wedding rings or that I’d killed the kid who broke into my college house hunting for laptops. That kid’s life, even after he broke into my home, was worth more than a used Mac Book Pro.

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