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Trial, Conviction & Sentencing of Police Officer Who Mistakenly Shot Legal Resident After Entering Wrong Apartment Highlights Power of Castle Doctrine

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The nation closely watched the trial of Amber Guyger—the police officer who mistakenly thought that she was entering her apartment and, upon doing so, fatally shot the man who legally lived there, accidentally thinking that he was an intruder—during the month of October. The trial was unique in that, while a number of criminal cases around the country assert self-defense and/or ‘stand your ground’-like defenses, this case presented the first-ever application of the castle doctrine (the justification that one has the right to use lethal force against a trespasser in their own home if they fear great bodily harm or death) to argue that the trespasser had the right to shoot the individual who was legally in their residence because they reasonably feared great bodily harm or death.

While Guyger was ultimately convicted, she was only sentenced to 10 years in prison with the possibility of parole after five, indicating that the doctrine could very well have had an effect on the defendant’s sentencing. In addition, the judge simply allowing the jury to even consider the Castle Doctrine in the case—given the particular circumstances and the fact that the shooter, not the victim, was the trespasser—was a surprising decision to the nation, and could lead to a revolution in how the doctrine is used as a defense in criminal cases.

What About Racism in This & Other Stand Your Ground Cases?

The case also brought up racial-related issues when it comes to the success of using stand your ground defenses (depending upon who is using them): According to one study, when black defendants in Florida cited stand your ground in cases involving white victims, they were convicted nearly 100 percent of the time, while white defendants were acquitted approximately 10 percent of the time. Of course one of the highest profile stand your ground case involved that of Trayvon Martin; an unarmed teenager fatally shot by neighbor George Zimmerman for what many considered to be unjustified reasons.

There were also accusations presented during trial that Guyger had racist motives associated with the crime. Guyger is a white female police officer, while her victim (Botham Jean) was a black male.

The Law in New York

New York has its own version of the castle doctrine: While a shooter has a duty to retreat if they know that they can avoid using deadly force by doing so, they are under no duty to retreat if they are in their own dwelling and not the initial aggressor.

Contact Our NYC Criminal Defense Attorney with Any Questions

Presenting the very best criminal defense—from the outset of being charged with a crime—is absolutely crucial in terms of preserving your rights. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime in New York, contact our experienced NYC criminal attorneys at the office of Mark I. Cohen, Esq. today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ssqu.12402

wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/amber-guygers-conviction-and-argument-self-defense

cnn.com/2019/10/01/us/amber-guyger-trial-castle-doctrine/index.html

https://www.markicohenattorneynyc.com/criminal-defense-attorneys-petition-us-supreme-court-to-hear-famous-adnan-syed-case-for-the-sake-of-criminal-defendant-rights-everywhere/

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