Missouri's new 'castle doctrine' at heart of murder case

Thursday, September 18, 2008 | 4:32 p.m. CDT; updated 6:47 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 18, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's new self-defense law known as the "castle doctrine" is headed for a test after a woman shot and killed her former boyfriend at her home.

A coroner's jury in Adair County ruled that Jackie Gleason committed a crime when she killed Rogelio Johnson after he climbed through a window at her Kirksville area home in May. Authorities say Johnson was under court order to stay away from Gleason.

But Prosecutor Mark Williams said the shooting may be justified under a new Missouri law known as the "castle doctrine," which allows a person to use lethal force against intruders. It was enacted last year at the urging of gun rights advocates.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said Wednesday that a review of the shooting is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The coroner's jury found that Gleason committed "death by felony," but Williams said he's not convinced that jurors fully understood the law. He also said he found juror misconduct because one juror said Gleason was guilty before hearing testimony.

The inquest before the six-member coroner's jury lasted two days. In most Missouri counties, coroners are required to investigate deaths that appear to be the result of foul play. When the circumstances of a death are particularly complicated or unclear, a coroner may call a jury to examine the facts of the case.

In a taped interview with a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer that was played during the inquest, Gleason said Johnson approached her with his hands clasped in front of him as if in a firing position, although no weapon was found.

Johnson was Gleason's estranged boyfriend and was under court order to stay away from her house. The front door was locked when he came in through the window, she said.

The castle doctrine says someone is justified to use deadly force if he or she "reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend" against the "use or imminent use of unlawful force" by another person.

The law also says the person does not have the duty to retreat from a dwelling or vehicle if the intruder enters unlawfully.


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