Charged with Attempted 2nd Degree Murder, Aggravated Battery w/Deadly Weapon, Attempted Manslaughter
In Judge Tim Shea's court yesterday, a nearly 4-hour Motion to Determine Immunity from Prosecution was heard. Defense Counsel Peter Zies asserted that his client's use of deadly force was acceptable as per the "Stand Your Ground" law that permits an individual to use force to defend their home or those within (see Florida Statute 776.013 and 776.031).
Zies claimed that Mr. Edwards was in fear for his safety when his daughter's boyfriend, a taller & broader young man, charged him in an effort to escape after Mr. Edwards walked in on them having sex in her bedroom. Assistant State Attorney Nicole Pegues asserted that Mr. Edwards shot the victim out of anger, and not out of fear for his or his daughter's safety.
I am in complete agreement that a citizen has a right to protect their home, and the people within that home (under statutory guidelines), using deadly force if necessary.
I was very conflicted after hearing the testimony. Obviously I cannot include every tidbit I heard here, but here are what seem to be the most pertinent items:
- Daughter typically comes home from school and goes to her bedroom to do homework or take a nap. The home has an alarm system. On this particular day, her boyfriend (someone that her parents had never met, but knew about and had forbidden contact with) comes over. The rules of the house prohibited her from having anyone over without parental permission.
- Daughter and her boyfriend engage in sex in her bedroom.
- Dad has a concealed weapons permit and regularly carries a .45 Glock pistol. He typically checks the house when he gets home. On this particular day, the house was in order when the defendant got home and there were no signs of forced entry. The defendant heard noises coming from his daughter's bedroom and went to investigate.
- Dad finds the couple "in the act" with daughter on top of the boyfriend (it's at this point I think Defense was disingenious by saying the dad was in fear that his daughter was being sexually assaulted - she was on top).
- Dad shuts the door and retrieves his weapon from downstairs, claiming that he believed he and/or his daughter were in imminent danger.
- Dad returns to his daughter's room (the teens are scrambling to get dressed) with a gun, opens the door, and the boyfriend (with hands raised & asking the father to not shoot) charges towards him in an effort to escape. Dad fires 4 shots, simultaneously telling the boyfriend to get out of his house, and hits the victim in the legs and buttocks while still inside the house.
- Victim escapes and gets assistance from a construction worker 3-4 houses down and across the street.
As one who has survived the teen years (both as a teen and as a parent), it's not surprising when a teen defies the house rules. It is generally expected that they will.
Given the fact that there was no testimony that the daughter was being assaulted against her will, I think Mr. Edwards overreacted to the situation in his use of deadly force. The girl showed no signs of distress when dad walked in on her. She was not crying, asking for help, or being restrained against her will. Remember, she was on top of her boyfriend.
I don't know how I would react given the same set of circumstances. Much would depend on the parent-child relationship. As a teen, I would be scared out of my wits about getting caught. As a parent, I would probably be shocked and angry at my child's conduct. I would most likely yell at the boyfriend to get out of my house. But I would not point a gun at him.
As the State argued, the danger has to be so real that a reasonable, cautious and prudent person needs to ascertain whether the "intruder" was a friend of the daughter before using deadly force. From the testimony I heard, the "intruder" and the defendant's daughter were definately friends.
The judge asked whether exigent circumstances such as this would truncate the period of time during which the homeowner can be expected to be prudent or cautious. The State answered that when children live in the home, a reasonable and cautious individual would attempt to determine the identity of a stranger, particularly when they're the same age as any children living in the home, before using deadly force.
CourtWatch empathizes strongly with Mr. Edwards' plight as he encountered this unsavory scene. But we still believe that a reasonable and prudent person would not shoot first and ask questions later, as was the situation in this case.
Nevertheless, Judge Shea granted the defendant's motion for immunity from criminal prosecution and from civil litigation as a result of this incident.
I do concur with the judge on one thing, however. His comment, "Thank God no one was killed."