Seventeen-year-old Diren Dede lost his life Sunday, while in Missoula, Montana on a high school exchange program from Germany. He was shot dead at the home of Markus Kaarma, after Kaarma set a trap for intruders by intentionally leaving the garage open and placing a purse in clear view.
After motion sensors detected someone in the garage, Kaarma shot Dede. And while he has since been charged with first degree murder, he is already invoking a Stand Your Ground-like defense.
Kaarma is not the first to claim he was justified in killing someone after setting a trap. A Minnesota jury rejected Byron Smith’s argument that he was standing his ground when he made it look as though he wasn’t home, and waited in the basement with food and water until two teen intruders descended, and he shot them dead. Audio recorded by Smith depicted him toying with the victims after he shot them, according to the New York Daily News, saying “you’re dead.” He also likened them to “vermin.”
Both men said they had been victims of burglaries, and were aiming to protect themselves. And while Kaarma may fail in his attempt to claim that eliciting an intruder constitutes self-defense even under expansive self-defense laws that remove any duty to retreat, the emergence of traps is the latest example of the sort of vigilante justice individuals are attempting to justify under expansive self-defense doctrines.
While Stand Your Ground laws have proliferated since Florida passed its notorious law in 2005, the self-defense law that predated it was known as the Castle Doctrine, and authorized deadly force to protect one’s home. These laws derive from the old English common law concept that individuals have a right to defend their own home. But in many states, the Castle Doctrine has since been expanded both by statute and by court decisions to encompass more behavior, and courts in many states presume that fear was reasonable when if an individual is unlawfully entering one’s home.
Montana is no exception. An NRA-backed law passed in 2009 not only added a Stand Your Ground provision; it also expanded the Castle Doctrine that allows self-defense inside the home. While it once only authorized deadly force against an intruder who was acting in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner,” the new law allows deadly force by an individual who “reasonably believes” the force is necessary to prevent assault or a forcible felony. The 2009 law also shifted the burden of proof and presumes that the shooter is innocent, according to Gary Marbut, a Montana gun lobbyist who has written model state laws.
Since the shooting Sunday, state lawmaker Ellie Hill has already proposed a bill to repeal some provisions of that law. More than two years after the shooting of Trayvon made these laws famous, not a single state has successfully repealed a provision.