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Law School Case Brief

State v. Plumlee - 177 La. 687

Rule:

It is not true as a general rule that an invasion of property rights constitutes an excuse for homicide. On the contrary it is only when the element of danger to the person is present that the law countenances the taking of human life.

Facts:

Defendant was indicted for murder and convicted of manslaughter after admitting that he set a spring gun to prevent his chickens from being stolen and killing a thief who was entering his barn. Defendant appealed and argued that he was justified in killing the thief.

Issue:

Is the defendant properly convicted of manslaughter for killing a thief who was entering his barn?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the conviction and noted that the anticipated petit larceny offense did not involve the personal safety of defendant or his family and that defendant had no legal right to kill anyone solely to prevent a theft. The use of a spring gun could never be justified solely for the protection of property. Therefore, charges stating that death from a spring gun was not murder if a victim committing a felony was killed while breaking and entering were therefore properly refused.

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