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Informer: Justifiable homicide law last adjusted in 2006

Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 6:36 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

Editor’s Note: Informer editor Andrew Perzo is on vacation. The following column originally ran in April.

Louisiana is listed as one of the states having a “stand your ground law.” Is Louisiana’s law the same as Florida’s? If not, would you explain it in your column?

Aside from their wording, the “stand your ground” laws in Florida and Louisiana are more or less the same.

Both allow residents to use deadly force to prevent burglaries and carjackings if they “reasonably believe” they may be in danger of being killed or severely injured by an intruder. And both states allow people to use deadly force in public to defend themselves and others.

But Louisiana law contains a caveat not found in Florida’s statute: “The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.”

Additionally, neither state imposes on residents a duty to retreat from danger, authorizing each person “to stand his or her ground and meet force with force.” Louisiana’s statute, however, goes a step further than Florida’s, forbidding courts from considering “the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining” whether a killing was justified.

Louisiana has had a “shoot the burglar” provision on the books since the mid- to late 1970s. It was modified in 1983 to make it easier for residents to justify deadly force — removing the burden of proving an intruder intended them harm and introducing the “reasonably believes” language.

The law received international attention in October 1992 when a Baton Rouge man shot and killed a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student who had mistaken the man’s house for the site of a Halloween party.

When the boy, Yoshihiro Hattori, and Webb Haymaker, a member of his host family, rang the doorbell, the man’s wife answered the door. Haymaker said, “We’re here for the party,” and she shut the door and called for her husband to get his gun.

The boys walked to the sidewalk, but headed for the carport when they heard the door there open. As Hattori, who was costumed in disco-era clothes, approached the homeowner, the man, Rodney Peairs, 30, ordered him to “freeze.”

Hattori, who spoke little English, continued to move forward, and Peairs, armed with a .44 Magnum handgun, shot the boy in the chest at close range. He was acquitted of manslaughter, but a civil court later ordered him to pay Hattori’s family more than $650,000 in damages.

Louisiana lawmakers in 1997 added a “shoot the carjacker” provision to the justifiable homicide law. They again amended the statute in 2003, barring people committing drug crimes from using justifiable homicide as a defense for killing someone. The law, R.S. 14:20, was last added to in 2006, when the no-retreat provisions were adjusted.

A section of Louisiana’s statute:

There shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry ... or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave ... if both of the following occur:

(1) The person against whom deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.

(2) The person who used deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.

Online: www.legis.state.la.us; www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes.

• • •

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

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