Ohio’s new law governing the use of deadly force in self-defense could be put into play in the case of the homeowner who shot two 17-year-old boys to death in his detached garage.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Wednesday that she believes the man murdered the teens. Whaley said she hopes prosecutors find a way to bring charges against the property owner.
At the end of December, state lawmakers overrode Republican John Kasich’s veto of House Bill 228, which makes several changes to Ohio gun laws. Included in the new law is a provision that shifts the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defense to the prosecution. This change requires prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who used deadly force did not do so in self-defense, defense of another or defense of the person’s residence.
The change was supported by the Ohio Public Defender and opposed by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
The change aligns Ohio law with self-defense laws in 49 other states. It took effect March 28.
Ohio Public Defender Tim Young said in testimony in support of the bill: “Prosecutors in other states have managed to get convictions in homicide cases despite having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant did not act lawfully in self-defense.”
Ohio adopted a “castle doctrine” law in 2008 that expanded the right to use deadly force to defend a home or occupied vehicle. That law presumes that someone acted in self-defense when they used deadly force against someone who unlawfully entered their residence or an occupied vehicle.
Javier Harrison and Devin Henderson were killed Aug. 28 after a property owner on the 800 block of Conners Street opened fire while they and another young man were inside the owner’s detached, unsecured garage, officials say. The property owner told police the teens were trespassing.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said the resident checked his property and noticed a light coming from a car in his detached garage. He went to the garage and encountered three people in the vehicle.
“The resident subsequently fired multiple shots from a .38-caliber revolver which caused the deaths of two of the individuals,” Biehl said.
A third person fled the scene, the chief said.
The resident called 911 and waited for officers.
“I’ve shot two guys,” he told the dispatcher. “They are in the garage.”
Louis Tobin of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association said the Castle Doctrine typically applies to residences and front porches but doesn’t extend to a detached garage.
Tobin said in a self-defense case, three elements must be true: the defendant didn’t create the situation, he believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and he didn’t violate his duty to retreat. Under House Bill 228, the prosecution must now prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the three elements isn’t true, he said.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.