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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Castle’ Doctrine Does’t Cover Parking Lot Shots

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CN) - A person's "castle" does not extend to the hallway or parking lot of his apartment building, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled.

The Wednesday decision puts to bed Charles Chew's claim that the court hearing criminal charges against him should have instructed the jury as to the state's "castle doctrine."

He said that failure tainted his conviction for recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon.

Chew was living in his former girlfriend's apartment when she returned to pick up some of her belongings, the opinion states. Her new boyfriend, Andrew Lee, and a friend, Andreaius Lucas, waited in the car at first, but eventually approached the apartment door and heard arguing inside.

"There is conflicting testimony regarding whether they had permission to enter the apartment," the opinion states, "but it is undisputed that they did enter and proceeded to attack Chew."

Chew shot each man in the leg, then continued shooting from the doorway of the apartment building while they ran across the parking lot, the opinion states.

"Chew's shots missed Lee and Lucas, but two bullets struck the neighboring inn about 150 feet away from the apartment building's doorway and one struck a nearby car," the opinion states.

The court noted that police also charged Lee and Lucas with substantial battery. The charges against Chew were based on the shots fired into the parking lot.

Before his trial, Chew asked for special jury instruction on Wisconsin's "castle doctrine," which permits use of force in certain situations of "unlawful interference with [one's] person."

The Sheboygan County Circuit Court denied Chew's request, however, because it found that he fired the shots outside the apartment.

In affirming Wednesday, a three-judge panel with the Court of Appeals addressed the issue narrowly.

"We do not address a number of issues raised by the parties: whether the men unlawfully entered Chew's apartment; whether Chew was in his dwelling when he fired the shots out of the apartment building doorway; or what instruction Chew should have received, had he been entitled to an instruction under the statute," Justice Lisa Neubauer wrote for the panel. "Rather, we decide this case solely on the narrow grounds that the statute does not apply because Lee and Lucas were not in Chew's dwelling at the time of the shooting in question."

The statute clearly states that the men would have to have been in Chew's "dwelling" when he shot them, and the definition of that term does not include a parking lot, the court found.

"The castle doctrine does not justify continued use of deadly force against an intruder when that intruder is no longer in the actor's dwelling," Neubauer wrote.

According to the circuit court's website, Chew began a 2 ½ year prison sentence on May 28, 2013. He was also sentenced to five years extended supervision.

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