News station KPAX in Missoula MT reports that the jury today continues its deliberations on the fate of Markus Kaarma, the man being tried for murder for having shot and killed German college student Diren Dede the night of April 27, 2014.

The state argues that Kaarma and his common law wife Janelle Pflager (who has not been charged) deliberately left their garage door open to entice Dede to enter, as well as leaving in the garage a purse containing documented items that could later be identified as having been stolen from Kaarma.

At closing the prosecution appeared to concede that the investigation into the shooting was substantively flawed.  Their narrative of guilt also incorporated the approach of describing the 18-year-old Dede as an “unarmed child” who did not “deserve to die” for his effort to burglarize Kaarma.  As put by Missoula County Deputy Attorney Karla Painter:

Even if there was a subpar investigation, that does not give the defendant free range to execute an unarmed child.  Was [Dede] considering taking something that didn’t belong to him? Probably. Did he deserve to die for his transgressions? No.

Diren was violently and senselessly executed. Please tell the defendant that while we live in a state with a strong gun culture, it is not one of lawlessness, or vigilante justice. Please tell the defendant and Mr. and Mrs. Dede that Diren’s life meant more than a couple of cans of beer.

Her colleague, Missoula County Deputy Attorney Andrew Paul, also sought to attack Kaarma’s claim of justification on the element of reasonableness, arguing that the homeowner acted precipitously in shooting Dede:

In 2-seconds he goes from standing at the front door, to coming around that corner and ‘boom-boom-boom-boom!’ Firing. How does he have time to perceive a threat?

The defense position has long been that Kaarma acted in lawful defense of himself, his common law wife and their 10-month-old son, and his home when he fired on Dede lurking inside the dark garage.  This defense narrative of innocence has also emphasized Kaarma’s high-level of fear and anxiety resulting from repeated prior burglaries of his home (each time while Kaarma, his wife, and child were inside the home) and the apparent inability of the local police to do much about it.  The neighborhood had, testimony revealed, suffered a rash of recent burglaries.

As defense counsel Paul Ryan put it in a statement released the month after the shooting:

Markus [Kaarma] felt his family was being targeted by burglars who had become more sophisticated and bolder with every new invasion.

Markus believed that the intruder posed an imminent threat to himself and his family.

Markus denies that he lured anyone into his garage. The family’s garage door was open for ventilation because Markus and Janelle smoke cigarettes in the garage and had done so before the tragedy. The purse alleged to be ‘bait’, was actually located in a dark corner of the unlit garage and not visible from the driveway,

Attorney Ryan claims that immediately following the shooting Pflager called 9-1-1 and attempted life saving procedures on Dede.

At closing Ryan emphasized that it was Dede, not Kaarma, who made the fateful decision to break into the Kaarma’s garage that night, and that Kaarma’s only motivation was to protect his family and home:

[Dede] wasn’t lured into there. He made the move. That was one of the dangers he chose and one of the risks when he decided to burglarize this family. Now he’s in protection mode. This a father of a 10-month old. There’s no decision-making process that can go on where we have to be right or wrong. It’s ‘we’ve got to protect’.

I think it’s just so interesting what’s happening in the big picture of this,” Ryan continued, “And how much criticism a homeowner is getting in his decision on how he chose to defend his property.

On trial for deliberate homicide, Kaarma faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if the jury returns a guilty verdict on that charge.

Keep your eyes right here at Legal Insurrection for breaking news on a verdict.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.