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Missouri Senate Bill 666: “Castle Doctrine” Protection or ‘Make Murder Legal Act?’


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A controversial bill is making headlines in the American Heartland.

Missouri Senate Bill 666 has drawn a fierce argument over the issues of gun laws and self-defense.

Opponents of the proposed legislation have labeled it the ‘Make Murder Legal Act’ and claim it would plunge Missouri into chaos.

Proponents of the law claim it’s a necessary edit to the state’s “Castle Doctrine” to guard against overzealous prosecutions.

Here’s the full text of Missouri Senate Bill 666 before I present further arguments:

SB 666 – PRESUMPTION OF REASONABLENESS (Section 563.031)

Under current law, the defendant has the burden to prove he or she reasonably believed physical or deadly force was necessary to protect him or herself or a third person.

This act provides that there shall be a presumption of reasonableness that the defendant believed such force was necessary to defend him or herself or a third person.

IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY (Section 563.085)

This act provides that a person who uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless such force was used against a law enforcement officer who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the person reasonably knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer.

Additionally, a law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use or threatened use of force, but the agency may not arrest the person for using or threatening to use force unless the agency determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful.

This act provides that the defendant can raise a claim of self-defense during a pre-trial hearing in either a criminal or civil case which shall shift the burden on the party seeking to overcome the immunity by proof of clear and convincing evidence.

Finally, this act repeals provisions relating to civil remedies that are unaffected by criminal provisions of self-defense law.

Prosecutors, sheriffs, and police chiefs have sounded the alarm of the proposed legislation, KFVS 12 reports:

This time, they say criminals could cry self-defense, and possibly get away with murder.

”It would absolutely create chaos in the state of Missouri.”

Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver is talking about Senate Bill 666.

Under the measure, all cases of physical or deadly force would be presumed to be self-defense unless proven otherwise.

“It would automatically have the presumption of self-defense in every single assault, every single murder,” he said.

Oliver testified against SB 666 before members of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee. He spoke on behalf of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, where he serves as a legislative committee member.

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“It was important to come up here and let our senators know that this bill is dangerous to public safety,” he said. “This bill is dangerous to our victims. And we shouldn’t have to go before a judge before we can arrest someone who has killed someone.”

Missouri law currently requires an individual to prove they reasonably believed physical or deadly force was needed for self-defense, according to a bill summary.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

That means a defendant must “inject” the issue at trial and be subject to cross-examination by prosecutors, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Lohmar told the Post-Dispatch after the hearing.

He said the legislation would create “pretrial immunity hearings” during which a defendant would be able to make a self-defense claim. The state would then have to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” the defendant isn’t immune from prosecution.

“Anybody who uses a weapon to murder another individual, or to kill another individual, if they claim self-defense, the law enforcement potentially is handcuffed from even arresting that person,” said Lohmar, a Republican.

He said currently, “if we believe somebody was unjustified in killing another individual, we charge them with murder, for example,” Lohmar said. “At the trial, it’s the defendant’s right, provided there is some degree of evidence of self-defense, to assert self-defense as an affirmative defense, and that matter’s left up to the jury to decide.

“This bill takes that decision of self-defense essentially away from the jury and applies a different legal standard and it basically relies upon a court to make that decision in advance of the jury ever hearing all the evidence,” Lohmar said.
The Post-Dispatch noted the other side of the argument:
On the other side of the issue: McCloskey, who with his wife, Patricia McCloskey, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors last year after brandishing firearms at racial injustice protesters in 2020, and the Missouri Firearms Coalition, which pushed successfully for passage of the controversial Second Amendment Preservation Act last year.
“The bill before the Senate now turns the Castle Doctrine into a bar to prosecution,” McCloskey said. “We were shocked to find out when we were charged that the Castle Doctrine can only be raised as an affirmative defense.

“You have to have the jury decide the issue of whether or not you committed a crime, and then whether or not the Castle Doctrine provides you with a defense,” McCloskey said. “That’s backwards.”

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Burlison, the bill sponsor, said Missouri already has a strong “Castle Doctrine” so that an individual may use force to defend themselves, family or property “without having to flee or withdraw.

“And yet still, there are those who would seek to prosecute law-abiding Missourians whose only quote-unquote crime is that they were trying to defend themselves and/or their family members,” he said.

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