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Shooting Death Reignites New York’s ‘Castle Doctrine’ Debate

A 26-year-old graduate student was recently shot to death while trying to enter an apartment he mistakenly thought was his.

The student was coming home after a night out and accidentally pushed the wrong elevator button at his San Francisco apartment building. He got off on the third floor but believed it to be the fifth. He entered the apartment that he thought was his, when the 68-year-old resident shot and killed him.

The shooting death has reignited a controversial debate in New York about the appropriateness of deadly force in rules referred to as ‘duty to retreat,’ ‘stand your ground,’ and ‘castle doctrine’ laws.

In New York, a person who lawfully has a deadly weapon in his or her home may use it if he or she believes that another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling or building, but only if he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of such burglary.

The law is much different from situations where the person with the weapon is not in her or her home. In that scenario the person has a duty to retreat, in efforts to avoid a deadly confrontation.

No matter where you stand on the debate, you have to admit that it is pretty devastating for a mother to bury her son because he made a seemingly-minor mistake.

Criminal proceedings aside, victims of shootings may have legal resource through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. These cases can be as legally complicated as they are emotional, as issues of inadequate security and landlord liability may be in play.

Source: New York Post, “Student Killed After Mistaking Home For His Own,” May 5, 2014

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