Monday, August 20, 2018

"Twelve Minutes on Elm Street": castle doctrine case in Minnesota, on NBC Dateline


On Friday, August 17, NBC Dateline aired “Twelve Minutes on Elm Street”, about the killings of two teenagers by Byron David Smith in his home in Little Falls, MN on Thanksgiving Day, 2012. 

Little Falls is north of the Twin Cities and Princeton, on the way to the lake country up north;  I drove through it many times when I lived in Minneapolis from 1997-2003.
  
  
The two teenagers were an 18 year old girl and her 17 year old cousin.  They had broken into the home before.  The homeowner says he was terrified of repeat burglaries.

It is unclear from the broadcast why the teens did this, despite the mother’s commentary when interviewed. 
  
But the broadcast shows how Smith apparently made his home look empty by moving his van, and then waited for intruders, even talking to himself and recording himself. 
  
The case is said to be a test of the “castle doctrine”.  But under the law, Minnesota prosecutors were able to get a conviction for first degree murder.  Smith used gratuitous force, especially against the female.  He could have held them or wounded them and called police.
  
The case certainly can fit into the gun control debate, and particularly the question as to whether homeowners should have the absolute right to defend their property. In some states (like Florida), Smith probably would not have been convicted.

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