Mo. slaying case may hinge on property rights
STEELVILLE, Mo. (AP) — 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.