Surely the state Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, never intended its 2006 Stand Your Ground law to be used by an alleged home invader.
But on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled on a case involving whether someone who claims immunity under the law can delay his or her trial via appeal. This someone happens to be one Greg Isaac, who in 2005 broke into an apartment in Richland County with another man. He shot the apartment’s occupant — the victim of the home invasion — as that man was chasing Isaac’s partner in crime outside the apartment door.
The Supremes noted a couple of key problems with his appeal: Strike one, the law wasn’t on the books when the crime was committed and it’s not retroactive.
And Strike two: the request for immunity under the law cannot be used to keep the case going forward. Because a defendant generally files for an appeal after a conviction, not before.
Two strikes for something that should never have gone to bat in the first place.
Just ask well-known defense attorney Andy Savage.
“It’s a ridiculous application of the law,” he said.
Savage has several Stand Your Ground cases pending right now, including the man who defended himself at the Cycle Gear shop shooting. His client didn’t go to the motorcycle shop with intention of committing a crime. But when somebody else started shooting, he used his lawfully carried firearm to protect himself and others from an imminent threat. In that chaotic situation, it’s unlikely that others would have acted differently.
Though all his pending cases have different elements, Savage says they all have one thing in common: “The law is intended for somebody who is in a location that he or she has is entitled to be in,” he said. That’s not the case if you’re breaking into someone’s house. The two people who broke in had no standing to stand their ground, Savage said, because they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.
Judge Clifton Newman said as much, when he not only denied Isaac’s request for immunity but said in court that intent of the act “is not to protect intruders and [afford] any immunity or protection to intruders or those who might enter the dwelling of another to commit a criminal act.”
That’s why Savage doesn’t think much will change with this particular state Supreme Court decision.“The law’s not to entitle criminal conduct — it’s to prevent criminal conduct.” And Savage said it’s effective if used properly. But it’s cases like the Richland County home invasion and others that he calls misapplications and bizarre interpretations of the law.
Of course, what gets lost in all of this is that there is another option.
“Rule No. 1 should be dial 911,” Savage said. That doesn’t take anything away from anyone’s rights of self-defense.
But as Savage said, force should only be used as a last resort, when there’s no other reasonable alternative. If you fatally shoot someone, “you can’t say you’re sorry the next day,” Savage said.
That’s probably the best takeaway of all from the court ruling.