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How Missouri’s 'castle doctrine' may be central to the Ralph Yarl case

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Chris Haxel
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KCUR 89.3
Thirty states have a "Stand Your Ground" statute, while another eight states have a court ruling that gives those states a de facto law via precedent.

A local defense attorney said it's possible Lester's defense team will say Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old who shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl on his doorstep, had a right to use deadly force to protect his property. That's because of the 'castle doctrine.'

The recent shooting of teenager Ralph Yarl has renewed the nation’s interest in self-defense laws, also referred to as "Stand Your Ground" and the "castle doctrine."

Revised in 2016, Missouri’s "Stand Your Ground" law says a person can use physical force “to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person.”

“You do not have to retreat in an instance in which you feel someone may use force against you,” Joshuah Peter, a partner at Solomon & Peter Law Offices, said on Up To Date Monday.

Peter said it’s the "castle doctrine" that specifically applies to the Yarl case. That’s because Lester shot Yarl on his own property.

“The 'castle doctrine' made it to where you actually have a right to protect your house or your vehicle," he explained. "If you are in your home, and you have a reasonable belief that someone is breaking into your home or that they have unlawfully entered, then you have a right to use deadly force."

Peter said it will be up to the jury to decide if Lester had reasonable belief that Yarl was trying to break into his house, which Yarl said he was not.

Lester pleaded “not guilty” at the Clay County Courthouse last week to two felony charges of first degree assault and armed criminal action.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Claudia Brancart is an Up To Date producer for KCUR 89.3. She graduated from Pitzer College in Los Angeles where she majored in World Literature and Studio Art. You can reach her at claudiab@kcur.org.
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