Deadly force permissible under castle doctrine in Mississippi

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The death of a Tupelo man Thursday morning brought to the fore a legal principle that Mississippi law enshrines about the right to protect one’s home.
Questions were raised and confusion expressed by friends and acquaintances of the man who was killed outside a neighbor’s home about how it could happen without legal repercussions.
In Mississippi Code of 1972 Section 97-3-15, the law explains the circumstances under which homicide is considered legally justifiable.
The law, often called the castle doctrine, cites four instances in which it is justifiable for a “public officer” to kill someone and two instances where a civilian can, in an act of defense, kill someone.
Portion “e” of the law says a homicide, “when committed by any person in resisting any attempt to unlawfully kill such person or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling, in an occupied vehicle, in any place of business, in any place of employment or in the immediate premises thereof in which such person shall be,” is considered justifiable.
In portion “f” the law goes on to say a homicide, “when committed in the lawful defense of one’s own person or any other human being, where there shall be reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury, and there shall be imminent danger of such design being accomplished,” is considered justifiable.
Reed Marts, an Oxford attorney who specializes in self-defense and weapons issues, said these laws allow a civilian to use up to lethal force to defend against someone trying to kill him (e) or to repel a felony attack, like a rape or aggravated assault with a weapon, against themselves or someone else (f).
“What the law is saying is, when someone breaks into your house, you can assume they are there with malicious intent – to kill you or do bodily harm,” Martz said. “The home is not so much the interior walls as it is the curtilage, or nearby area. The law is saying a person resisting an illegal attempt to kill him in his home, vehicle or place of business is a justifiable homicide or use of force if death doesn’t result.”
Thursday morning, Brad Nance, 41, of Tupelo, was shot and killed on the back porch of 1208 Springdale Drive by the man renting the residence.
The renter told police that Nance advanced on him after being told to leave, at which point the resident fired a .410 shotgun at Nance. The shot hit Nance in the chest.
Tupelo Capt. Rusty Haynes said the resident, whose name has not been released, has been interviewed multiple times and his statements match up identically.
There were no other witnesses on the scene.
“There are no charges as it stands right now and won’t be unless someone brings new evidence forward or points out something that has been overlooked,” Haynes said. “Any charges will be up to the grand jury.”
The evidence of the shooting will be presented to a grand jury that can choose to indict the Springdale Drive resident but Haynes said all current evidence points toward self-defense.
Autopsy results, which will include a toxicology screen, could be returned at the end of next week.
jb.clark@journalinc.com