IOWA CITY — In one of the early tests of Iowa’s new “stand your ground” law, a judge ruled Tuesday that Lamar Wilson didn’t prove his actions were justified in a fatal shooting last year and will not get immunity in sentencing.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Paul Miller ruled the “undisputed” evidence and testimony presented at trial and afterward show Wilson “indiscriminately discharged” a gun five times into a “crowd or assembly of people on the busy and crowded downtown Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, striking three unarmed individuals, including Kaleek Jones, who was shot in the back and subsequently died from his gunshot wounds.”
Besides denying Wilson immunity in the Aug. 27 shooting, Miller focused much of his ruling on the constitutionality of 704.13 — the stand your ground law passed by the Iowa Legislature last year as part of a sweeping gun rights bill.
Miller concluded the law was “void for vagueness” and could not be enforced in this case. He noted it set forth no uniform procedure to follow and every judge possibly would interpret it differently without guidance.
Miller’s ruling means Wilson, who was convicted by a jury in February of voluntary manslaughter and of other charges, will be sentenced Friday and faces up to 24 years.
Wilson fatally shot Kaleek Jones, 22, and injured D’Andre Hicks and his cousin, Xaiver Hicks. Jones and the Hickses were unarmed, according to testimony.
Wilson, who admitted to having two guns and a permit to carry, said he feared for his life and was forced to defend himself and others.
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Miller, in the ruling, noted that Wilson never testified any person from the rival group of friends, who clashed that night on the mall, pointed a weapon at him before he fired his gun.
Wilson testified he fired and hit the “dark-skinned guy with dreads” only because he possessed a gun. Wilson said he also saw another man who had a gun in his pocket. He admitted none of the rivals said anything as they walked by — but their message was “subliminal.”
Miller noted Xavier Hicks and D’Andre Hicks testified that Wilson, without hesitation, pulled out a gun and shot the three men.
The judge wrote that Wilson hadn’t proven by a “preponderance of the evidence” that he was “entitled to the protection of immunity.”
Miller made clear in his ruling that the law as written is confusing.
He noted the question of immunity usually is decided before trial. But the stand your ground law doesn’t specify that it’s immunity from prosecution — but rather immunity “from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred by the aggressor.”
Under that language, the judge said, the immunity could be “anything” — from court costs, fines or “simply being prosecuted at all.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 23 other states that have laws similar to Iowa’s, but those states specify defendants should be granted immunity from “criminal prosecution” if they act according to the law.
Without guidance under stand your ground, Miller on his own set up a procedure to follow, which let the trial go forward before he decided any immunity question.
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In February, however, a judge in Woodbury County took up the immunity issue under the stand your ground law before trial in the case of a man who shot one of two men who attacked him in an alley.
That judge, who granted the defendant immunity from prosecution, followed the procedure used in Florida, which adopted a stand your ground law in 2005.
Miller said the lack of “clarity and specificity” in the law will cause different interpretations by courts, which could result in “inconsistent, arbitrary, and discriminatory application” of the law.
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