Criminology and Forensic Psychology/self defense overkill

Advertisement


Question
Little Falls, MN man kills two teens burglars; arrested for murder; claims self defense. I am a resident of LF, MN and am VERY disturbed by this situation.(Please read some of the many reports online) This reportedly normal non-violent man (Byron Smith) killed two teens, who broke into his home, violently and did not report it for 24 hours.  The media reports are VERY biased against Smith.  As the result of fear, panic and adrenaline, could Smith have lost his ability for rational decisions.  Is there any psychological or scientific explanation for his actions?  Does this man have any defense? I personally know friends of the teens involved in this crime.  The two teens were drug users and had been in and out of rehab and in trouble at school.  My son was afraid of male teen.  My niece was afraid of female teen.  They were not the angelic athletes as reported.  No matter; Smith shot, shot and shot them.  Then shot them again and did not report the crime for 24 hours.  How can sense be made of his behavior?  Can fear turn a person into a monster?  How long (minutes, hours, days) can temporary insanity last?  Is Smith a cold blooded killer or a terrified man who lost control and lost the ability to think rationally?

Answer
Joan,

Yes,

I have read some of the online journalism (professional and amateur)regarding this case.  The short answer is yes, Byron Smith has many avenues he can take in pursuit of his legitimate defense:  Initial surprise and fear (linked to our hardwired "fight or flight" mechanism) which could be termed as a change in his psychology (i.e. "temporary insanity"); guilt, remorse, fear of not being able to be understood for his actions (waiting to report the shootings), etc.

Under current MN law there is no "duty to retreat" before using force against a threat when in one's residence.  Smith, if he can prove that the male teen and female adult were a threat to his welfare and safety, can therefore demonstrate that he acted "reasonably" in the face of such threat.  The reality is that "temporary" is terminal in nature and usually of a short span.  Could Smith have acted in legitimate self-defense and then experienced the true horror and moral/religious implications that his forced actions brought down upon him?  Yes.  Could that have affected his decision to wait to report the incident?  Yes.  Clearly Smith needs a competent legal defense team to frame his actions in the light most positive to him.  The prosecution, if Smith is charged, will do the opposite.  

I personally support "Castle Doctrine" law.  A man or woman should enjoy a heightened expectation of security and protection within the confines of their residence; a place where they keep their most precious hard assets, memories, and loved ones.  Regardless, with that said, the main lesson to burglars is simply beware...it is a dangerous game to play.  

Jeff

Jeffrey Hauck, JD, CPO, CII, LPD
Licensed Private Detective  

Criminology and Forensic Psychology

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Jeffrey Hauck

Expertise

I would welcome the opportunity to answer questions relating to or related to the fields of criminology and forensic psychology.

Experience

Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

Education/Credentials
Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.