Target: Montana Flathead County Court
Goal: Seek justice for the unarmed man that was shot to death in front of his wife and two sons, a case which will not be tried because it falls under Montana’s “Castle Doctrine” Law.
The “Castle Law” in Montana states that not only do citizens have the right to bear arms, and that they have the right to use those arms in self-defense, but that they have the right to use lethal force if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to protect themselves against another’s unlawful entry into their home or to protect themselves against being assaulted in their home. The New York Times reports on an incident where, on September 22, Brice Harper used deadly force to shoot and kill Dan Fredenberg when Fredenberg unlawfully entered Harper’s garage. According to the prosecution, the case is closed; Harper utilized his right to defend his castle against intruders. The fact that Fredenberg was unarmed does not matter. The fact that Fredenberg was entering Harper’s garage to confront him about an affair that Harper was having with Fredenberg’s wife does not factor in. The fact that Fredenberg’s wife and two children were sitting in the car outside of Harper’s home, and witnessed Harper shoot Fredenberg three times though Fredenberg was standing still at the time and not charging Harper in a violent or aggressive manner (as Harper later stated to investigators) is not being questioned. Demand that Montana’s Flathead country follow due process and try this case so as to prove that the killing was done in self-defense and to seek justice for both parties involved.
The law in Montana used to state that lethal force could only be used if an intruder entered your home in a violent or aggressive manner. However, under current Castle law, you only need to have “reasonable belief” that an intruder is going to assault you. But how can you prove reasonable belief without a trial? It is a travesty and an embarrassment to legal systems everywhere that dedicate themselves to issuing justice that Montana’s Flathead County is not taking this case to court. A man was killed. This case should be taken to court to prove, without a reasonable doubt, that the killing was done in self-defense. The laws are not black and white for just this reason, so that cases which fall into the gray area will go to court and will be tried by a judge and a jury of one’s peers.
This law needs to be amended so that a trial will decide what is self-defense and what is murder. When someone is killed, no matter the reason, it should ALWAYS be investigated and brought to trial. This is to ensure that justice is being served. This is true even in a case of self-defense. If you kill someone in self-defense, you still killed a person. That is no small thing and it should not be brushed under the rug and treated like it did not happen. Harper’s killing of Fredenberg should be investigated and brought to trial because it was not a clear-cut case of self-defense. Harper was having an affair with Fredenberg’s wife, which is why Fredenberg entered Harper’s garage on that day: to confront Harper about spending the day with his wife. Fredenberg’s wife and two sons were still in the car outside of Harper’s home after dropping Harper off at his home. For the sake of Fredenberg’s two boys who will now have to grow up without a father after watching him be shot to death, please sign this petition and demand that Montana’s Flathead County bring this case to trial.
Dear Montana Flathead County Court,
The decision to not try the murder of Dan Fredenberg for falling under “Castle Doctrine” was a mistake and an injustice for Fredenberg’s family. The Castle law states that an individual needs to have a “reasonable belief” that they will be assaulted in their home before using lethal force. How can reasonable belief be proven if not in a court of law? Killing in self-defense is still killing, and when a person’s life is taken at the hand of another, that case should always go to court to be tried before a jury of peers.
I urge you to correct this wrong and being Brice Harper to trial for killing Fredenberg. Even if the verdict does not change, and Fredenberg is still found to have been killed in self-defense rather than murder, the trial still needs to occur; due process still needs to stand. As members of the judicial system, you must seek to issue justice for individuals and follow the belief that all people are innocent until proven guilty. That means that a judge and jury of Fredenberg’s peers must decide during a trial of Fredenberg’s guilt or innocence. But first, the case must be brought to trial.
Please take action to bring this case to court immediately and seek to provide justice for all. Investigate this killing and decide if it was in self-defense, or if it was murder. And please, consider amending the Castle Doctrine to state that all cases will be brought to trial in order to prove killing in self-defense, as it is still taking a human life.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Raymond Hitchcock via Flickr