05 December 2007

No Duty To Retreat/Castle Doctrine Bill Gets Proponent Hearing Before Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee

Updated 12/6/2007 8:32 pm
As I noted below in the original post, the most compelling testimony came from Ryan Cundiff of Canton, Ohio. Ryan and his girlfriend were camping on family property on Sept. 17, 2001. Twice in the same evening, they were accosted by the same criminal. The second time, the drunken criminal assaulted Ryan physically, knocked his girlfriend to the ground slamming her head with a paving brick and his fists. Begging for her life, she also begged Ryan to help her. Ryan shot the assailant. Worse, as the crime victim, Ryan, was shortly thereafter arrested and charged with felonious assault with gun specifications.

He would not take a plea deal, and let his case go to a jury. He ultimately was acquitted. But to his horror, it did not end there. A civil lawsuit was filed that SB184 would have alleviated. To date he owes more than $30,000 in attorney fees and is working extra hours cleaning foreclosed properties. The case has not yet gone to trial. Read his full riveting testimony here.

Original Post 12/6/2007
I was asked to testify today on behalf of Peoples Rights Organization (PRO), where I am the elected secretary, as a proponent of Ohio Senate Bill 184, the vitally important "No Duty To Retreat/Castle Doctrine" legislation being considered in the Ohio General Assembly. A copy of my testimony on behalf of PRO may be found here.

Despite the inclement weather in Central Ohio and several inches of snow coming down outside, the hearing before the Ohio Senate Jucidiary Committee was attended by many. TV cameras were set up in the hearing room, but it quickly became apparent that reporters were far more interested in bleeding edge technology that can electronically alert the general public when a known sexual offender is in the vicinity.

Among the witnesses testifying today was Ms. Ellen Wickham, central Ohio educator, former PRO board member and occasional contributor to The Ready Line. She testified in support of SB184. In her testimony, she noted that she has a very rational fear of losing everything she has if sued by a criminal. Specifically, she said her Sharon Township home in Franklin County is protected by numerous locks and a 160-pound great dane named Henry. But should a bad guy get past those layers of security, her firearm is her last resort line of defense. Then she reminded the committee that if she were to use her firearm to defend her life, or that of a loved one, she still could be sued and be forced to defend her actions in civil court.

Here is an excerpt from her testimony:

"It is the people in the house that are important. The safety of those people: specifically, their well being. I have always felt it was up to me to ensure the well being of the people in my home. So I have built in layers of security to stop anyone who would mean to harm us. The first layer includes lighting, alarms, and locks on the doors and windows. The second is Henry. He is my beautiful 160 pound, 38" tall Great Dane. He is very protective of those he loves and anyone would be foolish to try to come into our home uninvited.

"And that is the point of my testimony. If someone were to enter our home uninvited, that person or persons would have had to defeat the several layers of mechanical security to gain access to our home. Once inside, they would have had to defeat a massive barking, growling animal to get to me and/or other family members. Based on the effort an intruder has to gone through to get into my home, I have no doubt he/she means to harm me. It is at this point, as the law allows, I will decide to take the appropriate action to keep my family safe. Of course I will call 911, but I won’t wait for the police to arrive. I, along with my firearm, am my first line of defense. Crime scene investigators are great photographers, but I prefer my pictures without blood and bruises.

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, did you know that according to the FBI and reported by our local CBS affiliate, WBNS-10TV, during the 6pm news on November 27th, Columbus has a higher rate of rape than that of New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Were you aware the majority of these assaults are happening in three geographic areas: the Near East side, the Franklin-Hilltop area and the Ohio State off-campus area. The report also showed that one third of the assaults are taking place in public areas. If someone sought me out as a potential victim, I would be just that: potential. I have the right under the law to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense so long as I fulfill the necessary requirements. I do have the right to protect myself should the need arise and I would. I, along with my firearm, am my first line of defense.

"So tell me, why if I have the right under the law to protect myself in my home and protect myself on the streets, if clearly I am the victim, does the current law make me a potential victim again? Why when someone forcibly enters my home, or forcibly holds me against my will, would I be held accountable for any injury I inflicted upon them. Why am I at risk for losing everything I have worked hard for if the criminal I defended myself against sues me in civil court? Who broke the law and who is the real victim?"

Nicely said. I will update this post with more details of those who spoke, including the compelling story of one man who has mounting legal bills because he defended his girlfriend against a thug who brutally assaulted her.

We learned in conversation after the hearing with Sen. Mason that many of Ohio's county prosecutors are opposed to this bill. Specifically, they do not like changing the definition of self defense. I will include more detail on this in the coming weeks as we better learn their particular objections.

Hearings will resume in January 2008 for SB 184 I expect a hearing for "opponents," then one or two more "interested party" hearings, where anyone else who wishes to be heard on this subject may testify.

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