New law worries officials

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A state law that went into effect July 1 has Adams County District Attorney Ronnie Harper uneasy.

An amendment to the Mississippi Code provides protection for people who shoot someone who is threatening them, their homes, businesses or cars.

Harper said he, along with the Mississippi Prosecutors Association, had concerns about the amendment from the beginning.

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&8220;Our association was of the opinion it wasn&8217;t necessary,&8221; Harper said Friday. &8220;All those protections were covered under cases and the like. There&8217;s always been a right to self-defense.&8221;

The revised law assumes an individual was in fear of serious bodily injury or death or fear for his property.

&8220;That shifts the burden of proof to the prosecution,&8221; Harper said. &8220;Our biggest concern was people who were not acting in self-defense would use that to escape prosecution or conviction for legitimate murder cases.&8221;

Harper said he was not against the amended law, but he felt the original law did not need to be fixed.

&8220;One problem you have with homicide is your witness is dead,&8221; Harper said. &8220;You&8217;ve got nobody testifying there.

&8220;This could cause problems for us in prosecuting legitimate murder cases when someone hides behind this law.&8221;

The amended law protects anyone who shoots someone he thought was planning to harm him or commit a felony against him. It prevents civil prosecution and puts limits on criminal prosecution.

The shooter is also protected if he shoots the offender in the immediate vicinity of his car, business or house.