Criminal Justice

Shooter who invoked the castle doctrine is convicted in exchange student's death

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Jurors in Missoula, Montana, have convicted a homeowner who claimed the castle doctrine gave him a right to shoot and kill a 17-year-old German exchange student who entered his garage on April 27.

The homeowner, Markus Kaarma, was found guilty of deliberate homicide on Wednesday in the death of Diren Dede, 17, report the Missoulian and the Associated Press.

Prosecutors had contended that Kaarma was angry because his garage was previously burglarized, and he created a trap to catch the burglars. Kaarma left his garage door partially open and set motion detectors to alert him when someone entered, prosecutor Karla Painter told jurors.

Painter argued that Kaarma lost protections under state law when he grabbed his gun and left the house. “There was nothing in the garage worth stealing. He was defending his pride,” she had argued.

During the trial, hair stylist Tanya Colby testified that Kaarma told her during a haircut that he had been up three nights with a shotgun waiting to kill some kids. Colby said Kaarma told her, “I’m not kidding, you’re seriously going to see this on the news.”

Montana is among 30 states that have strengthened self-defense laws since 2005, the Associated Press reports in another article.

University of Montana law professor Andrew King-Ries told AP that state law allows homeowners to use deadly force to protect their property, but they must act reasonably.

“What the jury’s saying here is, you have a right to defend yourself, but this isn’t reasonable,” King-Ries told the newspaper. “Lots of people have guns here, and lots of people feel very strongly that comes with a responsibility to handle your weapon appropriately.”

Kaarma’s lawyers plan to appeal.

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