Wisconsin’s “castle doctrine,” which allows homeowners to use force against intruders in their homes, is under attack. The law, which became effective last December, gives the benefit of the doubt to homeowners, who are not required to retreat before using deadly force if someone “forcibly or unlawfully” enters their property.
The case triggering the attack is the March 3 fatal shooting of Bo Morrison, a 20-year-old carpentry student at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Morrison was out on bail from four pending cases and was legally bound not to consume alcohol.
The night of the shooting, Adam Kind called police to the home of Tim Hess, his neighbor; Hess’ three daughters were having a party in the garage. The police saw beer cans outside, and smelled marijuana.
Unable to enter, the police called Hess’s wife at work, and got permission to enter, but the officers found the door locked and the party goers holding the door so the police could not enter forcibly. After unsuccessfully trying to awaken Hess at the front door for almost an hour, the police decided to withdraw and issue a citation against the Hess daughters the next morning. The police called Kind, who seemed appreciative and said he would give a statement in the morning, and Hess’s wife, telling her to alert her husband to wait for police before entering the garage.
But Hess went out to the garage, kicked in the side door, and informed the party goers to get out. The party goers fled. Morrison, one of the party goers, took refuge on Kind’s porch, which was a part of the house connected to the kitchen. Kind heard a banging and was concerned that someone was seeking to harm him for calling the police. He picked up his revolver and went out toward the porch, where Morrison was crouching between a refrigerator and a dresser. Kind said Morrison stood up, and when Kind asked him either “Who are you?” or “What are you doing?” Morrison raised a hand, whereupon Kind shot him.
Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen stated that the castle doctrine was unnecessary for the shooting to be legal, as Morrison had opened the door to Kind’s home, which constitutes forcible entry. Bensen continued that the late hour, the presumption that Morrison had broken in through a locked door in a room close to the home, and Kind’s family being present would support the castle doctrine’s use as a defense.
There are already those likening the case to Trayvon Martin’s and claiming that race was a factor, as Morrison was black. Supporters of repealing the law have organized a protest near the Washington County Courthouse for 5 p.m. Sunday.