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16 April 2010

Rufus Terrill: A Case For The "Stand Your Ground" Law

I know I'm not likely to win a lot of friends with this blog entry, but I'm writing it anyway.

Rufus O. Terrill, owner of O'Terrill's Pub in midtown and a Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor in 2006, was arrested Saturday after shooting an unruly bar patron in the leg. Below is the AJC's report on the case:

Rufus Terrill, 59, was arrested after he allegedly shot a man police describe as belligerent in his bar Saturday.

According to the police report, the victim, Charles Little, was shot in the left leg by Terrill after he became loud and violent towards a bartender.

Little became verbally abusive towards Michael Manthey, the bartender, after he was asked to pay his tab, according to the police report.

Terrill arrived at the bar after being called by Manthey. He arrived with his gun and shot Little after Little yelled at him and threw a barstool at the owner.

The bullet grazed Little’s leg.

Simon, Mashaun D. (2010-4-15). Bar owner shoots belligerent patron. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-4-16.

Rufus Terrill was charged with aggravated assault, a felony under Georgia law. I believe, however, that based on the reported facts in this case, Rufus Terrill has a legitimate defense under the provisions of Georgia's "Stand Your Ground" law.

In 2006, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 396; the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law. S.B. 396 states the following:

"A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, relating to the use of force in defense of self or others, Code Section 16-3-23, relating to the use of force in defense of a habitation, or Code Section 16-3-24, relating to the use of force in defense of property other than a habitation, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force as provided in said Code sections, including deadly force."

The law also says:

"A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, 16-3-23, 16-3-23.1, or 16-3-24 shall be immune from criminal prosecution therefor unless in the use of deadly force, such person utilizes a weapon the carrying or possession of which is unlawful by such person under Part 2 or 3 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of this title."

Quite frankly, when the belligerent patron hurled that barstool at Rufus Terrill, Terrill had a right to defend himself with the use of force. When Terrill shot the unruly patron in the leg, he was defending himself. He was defending others. He was defending his property.

It is difficult for me to see a manner in which the charge of aggravated assault holds up in court if Terrill’s attorneys seek immunity under the “Stand Your Ground” law.