Man's Defense for Killing Teen: 'Castle Doctrine'

Markus Kaarma pleads not guilty to deliberate homicide

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2014 8:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – Markus Kaarma, the man accused of laying a trap and then shooting a teen in his garage last month, feels badly about killing German exchange student, Diren Dede, 17, his lawyer says—but that doesn't change the fact that it was justified. "It was so dark in there and there was a metal-on-metal noise and a fast-moving reaction. Markus didn't know if he was being charged, if he was going to be shot," Paul Ryan tells NPR. Authorities say Dede may have been "garage hopping"—a term used by local kids to refer to poking around in open garages to look for booze—when the shooting occurred. Kaarma, who is free on $30,000 bail, pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide yesterday, Reuters reports.

As for how Kaarma plans to defend his actions, Ryan says he'll use the "Castle Doctrine," a law Montana passed in 2009 that asserts a man's home is his castle and can be defended as such. It gives the homeowner the benefit of the doubt, placing the burden of proof for "justifiable use of force" on prosecutors. (Other states have similar versions.) Michele Keiffer, whose son-in-law was shot during an argument in a man's Montana garage in 2012, has been campaigning against the law. "I always thought you had to escape the perpetrator before you do any bodily harm," she says; but due to the doctrine, no charges were filed. The chief sponsor of the 2009 law, however, argues that backpedaling on it would eradicate "the fundamental right of self-defense ... That's just not gonna work."

This undated still image taken from video shows Markus Kaarma at his home in Missoula, Mont.   (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)
Markus Kaarma is followed into Missoula District Court by his girlfriend, Janelle, with their child on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 in Missoula.   (AP Photo/The Missoulian, Michael Gallacher)
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