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View Poll Results: You're on the jury. Do you acquit or convict based on the story below?
Acquit. A man's home is his castle. 18 24.66%
Convict. Send him up the river. 44 60.27%
I can't serve on a jury. I'm crazy, I'm telling you. CRAZY! 11 15.07%
Voters: 73. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-04-2013, 12:49 PM  
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Murder or Castle Doctrine?

A case not too far from my hometown.

http://www.therolladailynews.com/app...8&refresh=true

Slaying case may hinge on property rights


STEELVILLE, Mo. James Crocker had grown weary of the partying canoeists and rafters who encroached on his neatly kept property along Missouri's Meramec River. When he caught a man about to relieve himself on a gravel bar by his yard last month, a nasty confrontation ensued that ended with one person dead and Crocker accused of killing him.

The case against Crocker is the latest to put a spotlight on "castle doctrine" laws, which allow the use of deadly force to protect property. Missouri is among at least 30 states that have enacted the statutes, which supporters say protect gun rights but others insist promote vigilantism.

Crocker's attorney, Michael Bert of St. Louis, said that Crocker was defending himself and his property.

"Here's a man in fear for his life and fearful he might suffer bodily injury," Bert said.

Prosecutors see it differently. Witnesses who testified at a hearing this month said Crocker was angry and raging, shooting into the crowd of people, narrowly missing two others before killing 48-year-old Paul Dart Jr. of Robertsville, Mo. Crocker has been charged with second degree murder.
Even some supporters of the doctrine say the violence seemed avoidable.

"The smart thing is to back away, and nobody seemed to be willing to do that," said Kevin Jamison, an attorney who lobbied for Missouri's castle doctrine bill as a member of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance.

Crocker, a 59-year-old plastics plant worker with long hair and a thick goatee, lives in a small white frame home on a shaded gravel road about eight miles west of Steelville, the self-proclaimed floating capital of the world. Tens of thousands of people come to the region every year to raft, canoe or kayak down the Meramec and nearby rivers.

Drinking is sometimes part of the outings, resulting in bawdy behavior that doesn't sit well with owners of land that touches the river. Many have complained for years about loud parties, trash left behind and crude behavior.

Herb Smelser, 77, who lives three houses down from Crocker, said it isn't uncommon to find people using his yard as a restroom. The problem was so bad, he said, that he let his grass grow high to discourage trespassers.
Crocker, though, kept his yard trim and tidy "like a park," Smelser said. To keep out the unwanted, Crocker posted "No Trespassing" and "Private Property" signs along the hill that slopes down to a gravel area along the meandering river.

On July 20, Dart, a carpenter, and around four dozen other members of an extended family gathered at a campground for their annual float trip along the Meramec. A few hours into the trip, Robert and Regina Burgess stopped their canoe on a gravel bar. Robert, who had drunk about three beers, decided to relieve himself, he testified at the preliminary hearing.

Crocker confronted Burgess and other members of the party. When happened then is in dispute, and will be a crucial part of the case.

Burgess and his wife testified that Crocker was immediately agitated and aggressive, firing two shots in their direction Robert said one hit the ground near his feet. Another bullet hit Dart in the face.

Burgess said it was only after Dart was shot that members of the party picked up rocks to defend themselves against Crocker, who was armed with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

"I'm standing there unarmed and the guy's got a gun," Burgess said.
Crocker didn't testify at the hearing, but his attorney gave a different account.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Bert said Crocker politely asked the float trip party to leave. "The response he got was angry and profane," Bert said.

Crocker and those in the float trip party argued over whether the gravel bar was public land or Crocker's. Eventually, the men picked up "softball-sized" rocks and began pelting Crocker, Bert said. He said Crocker suffered head injuries, then fired his gun to defend himself.

"When people say is this a case of the castle doctrine I say, 'yes, kind of,' but more importantly these people were armed with what I would consider weapons," Bert said.

Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Joseph Peart testified that he saw no evidence that Crocker was injured.

Police said Crocker told them, "I just shot the one closest to me."

Whether or not the floaters were on Crocker's property may be an issue in the case since Missouri law isn't clear on where private property along a waterway begins. Some experts say it starts at the vegetation line; others say property rights extend to the center of a river or stream.

"That may be a critical question," said Jamison, of Kansas City, Mo. "If (Crocker) reasonably believed the man was on his property and he wasn't, I'm not sure that's enough."

Missouri's castle doctrine statute, enacted in 2007, gives residents a legal right to defend themselves and their property against intruders. Supporters of such laws cite a number of cases in which homeowners were able to fend off burglars or other criminals without fear of prosecution. But Florida's law gained notoriety after a neighborhood watch activist, George Zimmerman, fatally shot teen Trayvon Martin, and was acquitted of criminal charges.

A 2012 Texas A&M University study found that homicides ruled justifiable rose by 8 percent in states with "stand-your-ground laws.

In the Missouri case, Crawford County detective Zachary Driskill said he asked Crocker if he could have called police instead of taking matters into his own hands.

"I guess I could have, but it's my property and I was going to protect it," Crocker responded, according to case documents.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:05 PM   #16
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Was he in his house? No. He was outside? It's murder.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:08 PM   #17
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Some experts say it starts at the vegetation line; others say property rights extend to the center of a river or stream.
This is the way it works in Kansas.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:11 PM   #18
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Yeah, that's gong to be a tough one given the time it likely took to get law enforcement there. Maybe they can get credit card receipts to see how much beer was bought that weekend.
The dead guy's should be pretty easy to determine.

Other than that pretty much any part of either story would be hard to determine.

The only thing I know is when some crazy bastard with a gun tells you to get off their property you do it. Right or wrong - leave...
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:13 PM   #19
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Yeah, that's gong to be a tough one given the time it likely took to get law enforcement there. Maybe they can get credit card receipts to see how much beer was bought that weekend.

This is an interesting he said/she said case. Will there be any witnesses who saw drunk boaters, and does it matter? And if there are no witnesses, do you convict the guy because there's a dead body, or do you acquit him because you can't prove whether he was being attacked by a bunch of drunks?
On 2nd degree murder? Seems to me you have to acquit him.

But if the jury believes the testimony of the others in the group, then you have proved that he wasn't being attacked by a bunch of drunks, in which case you can convict.

Witness testimony is sufficient proof. Well, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. The key for the prosecution is to establish that the parties that are testifying on behalf of the prosecution have no legal motive to lie; they're not on trial here. Meanwhile, the guy that shot someone in the face certainly has a motive to fabricate the events. And frankly, it's a whole of witnesses vs. 1 here.

Though I feel like the media's screwed up the Castle Doctrine again (and I'm convinced they'll never get 'stand your ground' right). The defense here isn't going to be a Castle Doctrine defense; at least it shouldn't be. Rather, the defense should be simple old self defense. His story is that they were throwing softball sized rocks at him and converging on him after he told them to leave. Well if it's a dozen vs 1 and that dozen is throwing big rocks at you, you're probably in 'justifiable fear of grievous bodily harm' - at which time lethal force is authorized.

This isn't a Castle Doctrine case. Once the defense centered around a drunken mob angrily throwing rocks at an old man, it became good ol' fashion self defense.

But that doesn't get people to think about Trayvon and buy your newspaper, so it's not nearly as sexy.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:13 PM   #20
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I don't want anyone pissing on my property but me. Don't know that I'd shoot them over it.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:22 PM   #21
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Gun play was out of line, period.

He was not threatened in his house, but just tired of all of the disrespect for his property. That doesn't justify murder, and that is what I would call it.

He could have had some fun by ****ing with these groups, in many ways. String barbed wire across the lake almost submerged? Stumps just barely under water? Dog feces all over the sand bar?

But shooting into them deserves severe punishment for the murder that it is.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:26 PM   #22
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Burgess said it was only after Dart was shot that members of the party picked up rocks to defend themselves against Crocker, who was armed with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

I call bullshit. A dude gets blasted with a 9mm and you pick up a rock and chuck it at the crazy motherfcucker with the gun? YOU RUN LIKE **** and take cover.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHAHAH

Sorry pal, the rocks were thrown 1st, just admit it.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:26 PM   #23
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Gun play was out of line, period.

He was not threatened in his house, but just tired of all of the disrespect for his property.
That's the thing: is that how it happened?

Do you have a right to carry a gun on your property?

Do you have a right to ask people to leave your property?

Do you have a right to defend yourself if they respond with violence?

Rashomon effect. Good luck to all having to determine exactly what happened...
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:30 PM   #24
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Rashomon effect.
bonus points for a Kirosawa reference
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:34 PM   #25
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On 2nd degree murder? Seems to me you have to acquit him.

But if the jury believes the testimony of the others in the group, then you have proved that he wasn't being attacked by a bunch of drunks, in which case you can convict.

Witness testimony is sufficient proof. Well, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. The key for the prosecution is to establish that the parties that are testifying on behalf of the prosecution have no legal motive to lie; they're not on trial here. Meanwhile, the guy that shot someone in the face certainly has a motive to fabricate the events. And frankly, it's a whole of witnesses vs. 1 here.
Aren't the other witnesses viewed as biased since they're part of the dead guy's tribe? And depending on who you believe, active rock chuckers of the dead guy's tribe? If I was on a jury I'd discount them pretty heavily.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:35 PM   #26
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as crazy as it gets down in that area w/floaters, I can't believe this hasn't happened before.

I've sat on the river bank and watched floaters pull up to a gravel bar and be so ****in drunk they fell on their face after crawling out of their canoes. watched one father and his 3 grown sons get in a fist fight while the rental dude is loading up their shit on a trailer. cops came and took the whole bunch off. I went over and asked the rental guy what the deal was and he said they were regulars...they'd get released the next morning then be back the next week and do the whole thing over again.

i get tired of people trashing the river and banks as it is, and I don't own any property down there. if I was an owner, i'd really be pissed. but, that's one of the communities main sources of income(floaters), so they're not going to put an end to it.

I vote idiots on both sides.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:35 PM   #27
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That's the thing: is that how it happened?

Do you have a right to carry a gun on your property?

Do you have a right to ask people to leave your property?

Do you have a right to defend yourself if they respond with violence?

Rashomon effect. Good luck to all having to determine exactly what happened...
I don't disagree with any of that, except that I don't like the idea of someone "protecting" their property from being pissed on with a gun.
If the guy's safety was threatened, well yes, by all means.

Pawnmower's reasoning does make some sense, that the rocks were probably thrown first, thus the gun play may be justified.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:39 PM   #28
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I don't disagree with any of that, except that I don't like the idea of someone "protecting" their property from being pissed on with a gun.
If the guy's safety was threatened, well yes, by all means.
If you own a gun and hear people on your property do you take it when you go to see what's going on?
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:40 PM   #29
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Pawnmower's reasoning does make some sense, that the rocks were probably thrown first, thus the gun play may be justified.
Eerily similar conceptually to the Trayvon Martin case....

Two morons who meet up and both do stupid shit.

No one HAD to die....but neither one backed off.

Shit keeps escalating......

Is it "murder" when both parties choose to escalate stuff to a violent level and then one party suddenly finds themselves defending their life?


In the TM vs. GZ case, the Jury said no, it is not murder.

Unless there is some sort of proof or evidence that this man came down to his sand bar looking to kill someone, it shouldnt be murder either. Maybe negligent homocide or manslaughter....MAYBE.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:41 PM   #30
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A case not too far from my hometown.

STEELVILLE, Mo. — James Crocker had grown weary of the partying canoeists and rafters who encroached on his neatly kept property along Missouri's Meramec River. When he caught a man about to relieve himself on a gravel bar by his yard last month, a nasty confrontation ensued that ended with one person dead and Crocker accused of killing him.

Crocker's attorney, Michael Bert of St. Louis, said that Crocker was defending himself and his property.

"Here's a man in fear for his life and fearful he might suffer bodily injury," Bert said.
Uh, yeah.


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Crocker, a 59-year-old plastics plant worker with long hair and a thick goatee, lives in a small white frame home on a shaded gravel road about eight miles west of Steelville, the self-proclaimed floating capital of the world.
Let's face it, everyone knew he was going to shoot someone in the face eventually.
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