This will be a short post, and is intended to just briefly answer the question I’m often asked as to why I haven’t blogged about Byron Smith.

I’ve had the question asked hundreds of times, and I’m going to defer now to a group response, and generate a source to which I can simply direct future inquiries.

Byron Smith is the Minnesota man just sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the murders of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady after they broke into his house, as reported today by the Star Tribune.

I never covered this case because my interest lies in cases of self-defense.  And this never looked to me like a case of self-defense.

Instead, it looked to me from the start as a case of thoroughly premeditated, well-prepared ambush, followed by  unnecessary and excessive deadly force in the form of execution-style pistol rounds to the back of the head.

A person fighting intruders in his home has a presumption of reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm–either based on statute or based on common sense.  There’s a reason why defensive shootings of home intruders so rarely come to trial–they’re simply losers from a prosecutor’s point of view.

That presumption, however, is subject to being rebutted, in the rare and extraordinary case that such is possible.

And in the case of Byron Smith it was not merely possible, but inevitable.  There’s a reason the jury deliberated only three hours before convicting him.

Smith believed, correctly, that the youths would break into his home.  But instead of calling 911 when it happened, or using force in reasonable defense against a deadly-force threat, or in the defense of home when faced with an unexpected intruder, he instead prepared for their break-in . . . and for their execution.

He prepared himself with a comfortable hide position, complete with snacks and water, and a book to read while he waited.  He had tarps prepared, such that when he murdered them the mess might be contained.  He shot them first with a rifle, then finished them with execution-style head shots using a pistol.

If any of this sounds like reasonable self-defense or defense of dwelling to any of you, I don’t suppose there’s anything I could say that would change your mind.

But I can assure you that it doesn’t sound like reasonable self-defense or defense of dwelling to the law of self-defense. It sounds like deliberate and premeditated murder.

The law of self-defense is not some “murder algorithm” by which you can lawfully take another person’s life just because their conduct has checked off particular boxes.  The use of deadly force is always, ALWAYS premised on necessity.

Preparing a killing zone beforehand and waiting patiently for your prey to enter that zone does not ring of necessity.  It rings of premeditation.

And that’s about all I have to say about that.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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