The Ohio Supreme Court last Wednesday declined to hear the case of a 55-year-old Cleveland homeowner convicted in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court last year of killing an intruder.
Carl Kozlosky had been sentenced to 18 years to life in prison last year for the shooting death of Andre Coleman on Sept. 20, 2009, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported yesterday morning. Coleman -- who had been on an all-night crack binge, according to court testimony -- broke down the back door of Kozlosky's home to get money or drugs from his girlfriend, who was Coleman’s girlfriend but was at Kozlosky’s house at the time, but then had begun beating her up. Kozlosky testified at trial that he thought Coleman was reaching for a gun -- which investigators never found -- when he emptied his .38-caliber revolver into Coleman.
His attorneys argued that his case was one of self-defense, falling under Ohio’s “Castle Doctrine” statutes, updated in 2008 by the Ohio legislature to give people an automatic assumption that they act in self-defense when using lethal force against someone illegally entering their home. Cuyahoga County’s 8th. District Court of Appeals agreed, overturning his conviction and ordering a new trial ordered -- which is where the state approached the Supreme Court.
Cuyahoga prosecutors say they will review the evidence to determine if they will bring new charges against Kozlosky, who has been free since Nov. 2 after posting a $10,000 bond. "The Castle Doctrine gives a presumption people can defend themselves in their home," Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Meyer said, “but in some cases, the government has to overcome the presumption."
“Castle Doctrine” was in the news earlier this year, too, when a Butler County grand jury exonerated 84-year-old Lindenwald resident Charles Foster, finding no fault when he shot and killed Ed Stevens, 75, on Jan. 3. Stevens, the Middletown Journal had reported, “who suffered from dementia and Alzheimers, crashed into Foster’s garage, began wrecking things in the man’s basement and eventually hit him with a board. Foster said he didn’t know the castle doctrine existed, but he knew he had a right to protect himself. He said he shot Stevens once in the arm and when that didn’t stop him, he pulled the trigger again.
In that instance, Middletown’s Journal relayed, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser cautions “that the ‘Castle Doctrine’ doesn’t allow people to go on a shooting spree when someone unlawfully enters their home. ‘The presumption of self-defense to a home invasion quickly disappears when an assailant surrenders or is no longer a threat,’ he said. ‘While your home is and should be respected as your castle, the use of deadly force must actually be used in self-defense and not just because someone has unlawfully entered your castle.’”