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View Full Version : Outcome of Oregon Shooting Case


OldMarksman
June 29, 2009, 09:00 PM
In an earlier post, I erroneously said that a man in Washington State had been charged with murder after shooting a man in his house who had entered while the resident was not in the house.

Memory failed me. The incident occurred in Oregon.

After plea bargaining, the charge was reduced from second degree manslaughter to negligent homicide.

The victim had entered the shooter's house when the shooter was not home. The shooter's wife discovered the man asleep on the couch and summoned her husband, who returned home, encountered the shooter, shot him fatally, and claimed self defense.

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- A Sutherlin man who shot and killed a man his wife found asleep on their couch last year will serve 19 months in prison as part of a plea deal.

Keith Cramer, 35, pleaded no contest to criminally negligent homicide with a firearm. In exchange, the district attorney dropped a charge of second degree manslaughter.

The charges stem from a shooting inside Cramer's home in Sutherlin, where Cramer's wife discovered a man sleeping on their couch last June.

She told police she went to a local tavern to get her husband, and the intruder, Michael Shane Smith, 35, of Alaska, was shot in the chest.

Cramer will be sentenced by Judge Ronald Poole in August. The two sides have agreed on a sentence of 19 months in exchange for the plea.

"He has tremendous sorrow for the death of Mr. Smith, and for his wife and family," defense attorney Jim Arneson said of Cramer, "and wishes to the bottom of his soul this had never happened."

Sentencing is set for Aug. 7 at 8:30 a.m.

'He beat me up, so I shot him. This is my house. He's an intruder'

According to police accounts, Cramer's wife found the stranger passed out on the family's couch and summoned her husband from a bar.

Cramer said that what happened next was self-defense. According to a search warrant affidavit, he told officers: "He beat me up, so I shot him. This is my house. He's an intruder."

Two Sutherlin police officers entered the home after the June 19 shooting and found the 35-year-old Smith. He was "lying on his side with his feet propped up on the couch, facing the center of the living room," the affidavit states.

Investigators said Smith appeared to have been shot in the chest with a high-powered hunting rifle.

Smith lived in Alaska, but had been in Sutherlin for several weeks mourning the May 29 death of his mother. A friend said Smith had been drinking heavily on the night of the shooting and might have become disoriented while walking back to his stepfather's house.

Smith had been at the same bar as Cramer, but it does not appear the men knew each other.

http://www.kval.com/news/local/49453732.html

Rich Miranda
June 29, 2009, 09:05 PM
I remember that incident.

I knew at that time that he had done the wrong thing. This has been discussed at length already but they should have just called police and let the guy sleep until they got there.

Now he's a convicted felon. The 19 months in prison isn't the big deal IMO. The bigger deal is having a felony conviction following you around until you die.

Buzzcook
June 29, 2009, 09:07 PM
She had time to get hubby but not enough to call the cops.

sakeneko
June 29, 2009, 09:08 PM
You know, I can't be sure what the effect of Cramer's misstatements to the police ultimately was, but he lied to them. That was *after* he shot the guy, probably while not strictly sober. (Wife had just picked him up at the bar.)

This simply wasn't a self-defense case. I'm glad the DA agreed to the plea deal, because the lies were probably just the panicky nonsense so many people come up with when an unimaginably awful thing happens and they feel blindsided by events, not the cold and calculated attempt of a murderer to avoid justice. But manslaughter or negligent homicide sounds about right to me.

(sigh) Yet another illustration of why you simply *don't shoot* except in defense of yourself or innocent other people from a clear threat against life or limb.

Vanya
June 30, 2009, 10:53 AM
From the description of the victim's position (on the floor, feet on the couch) it sounds like he was still on the couch when he was shot. If so, I'd say Mr. Cramer was pretty lucky to be allowed to plead to negligent homicide, especially if he was under the influence himself at the time, as his coming home from a bar sort of suggests.

Why on earth didn't his wife just call the cops? She left the house to get her husband, but she couldn't just stay away and let the police deal with the situation??

Gads.

Brian Pfleuger
June 30, 2009, 10:56 AM
Should have been Murder 1.

PT111
June 30, 2009, 11:10 AM
Not sure about Murder I but definitely Murder II and he was lucky with the plea. Sometimes I feel like there are some people walking around and a few on this board just waiting for the chance to shoot someone legally. When you get your tactical Remmy 870 with extended mag, tactical lights, laser sights etc. are you really looking to defend your home or go to war?

This fellow walks in and goes to get his hunting rifle. It wasn't like he was carrying his gun on him. It doesn't give much detail but it appears that to call the ploice would have taken care of it. If he didn't wak up while she went to get her husband he probably wasn't going to wake up until the police got there.

A_McDougal
June 30, 2009, 11:12 AM
I think the sentence was appropriate. Drunks should be judged the same as sober folks for their actions in public. But in their own home, the standard should be what a reasonable person of the same level of intoxication would do.

It is legal to drink at home, or drink in a bar and safely come home. Likewise, it is legal to take sleeping pills, or allergy pills, or pain meds. It isn't ok to be mentally-altered and go drive a vehicle, but being legally altered and home should be ok. Moreover, people shouldn't forfeit their rights to self-defense and defense of property because they are intoxicated or because they have a mental disease (e.g. diabetic shock, stroke, fever, insomnia).

Persons who trespass should bear the major burden of the risks of their trespass, including the risk that a drunk person might respond inappropriately. To a major extent, persons in their own home should be excused from their inappropriate spontanteous and passionate reactions when they took reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the inciting action from occurring.

BillCA
June 30, 2009, 11:21 AM
Should have been Murder 1.
So... where is the malice aforethought as and element of the crime? Murder II is about as high as something like this might get.

I'll agree with others -- calling the cops would have been the smart thing to do in the first place. Calling the cops would have been smart after dragging her hubby home from the pub. Calling the cops would have been smart when the fistfight began.

It just seems to me there was a lack of smarts here. :p

Brian Pfleuger
June 30, 2009, 11:29 AM
Drunks should be judged the same as sober folks for their actions in public. But in their own home, the standard should be what a reasonable person of the same level of intoxication would do.

There is no logic whatsoever in that standard. In public you must act like everyone else, drunk or not. At home, being drunk is an excuse to be stupid?


To a major extent, persons in their own home should be excused from their inappropriate spontanteous and passionate reactions when they took reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the inciting action from occurring.

Spontaneous:
spontaneously - ad lib: without advance preparation;

"Spontaneous" might be an excuse when somebody kicks your door down. It most certainly is not an excuse when someone is sleeping on your couch, and has been for long enough for your wife to find them and come back to a bar to get you and return home and retrieve your rifle....



Think of it this way:

Your wife finds a man sleeping on a park bench. She goes and finds you and you return and kill him. Murder 1? You betcha. Now, is his being in your home UNDER THE EXACT SAME OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, really that much different?

So... where is the malice aforethought...

He had the entire trip home and all the time it took him to retrieve his rifle for "malice aforethought". He obviously decided he was going to shoot this guy and took absolutely no action of any kind to avoid it. Planning to kill someone doesn't require weeks of time to become Murder 1. The trip home from the bar is plenty.

OuTcAsT
June 30, 2009, 12:21 PM
Should have been Murder 1.

I Agree.

So... where is the malice aforethought as and element of the crime?

Pete hit the nail on the head;

He had the entire trip home and all the time it took him to retrieve his rifle for "malice aforethought". He obviously decided he was going to shoot this guy and took absolutely no action of any kind to avoid it. Planning to kill someone doesn't require weeks of time to become Murder 1. The trip home from the bar is plenty.

This is the kind of "plea deal" excrement that worries me the most about our justice system. I can think of another case we are discussing in another thread that could wind up like this, and a cold blooded murder suddenly turns into a "horrible accident" of sorts, and a killer gets a simple slap on the wrist.

Wildalaska
June 30, 2009, 12:37 PM
This is my house. He's an intruder."


Seen those words in threads before haven't we:cool:

WildcastlesgonewildAlaska ™

stargazer65
June 30, 2009, 12:58 PM
Smith lived in Alaska, but had been in Sutherlin for several weeks mourning the May 29 death of his mother. A friend said Smith had been drinking heavily on the night of the shooting and might have become disoriented while walking back to his stepfather's house.

Cramer's wife found the stranger passed out on the family's couch and summoned her husband from a bar.

Seen something similar to this in the same thread as well. The outcome was a lot different though.

A_McDougal
June 30, 2009, 01:06 PM
Peet,
Is it legal to be drunk in public where you live? Is it legal to be drunk in your own home? Different legal standards create different standards of behavior yes. If it is legal to drink in your home, it is legal to drink yourself stupid.

Alcohol intoxication is recognized as a (temporary) disease, and our society considers diseases as mitigating factors.

If I lock up my house, black out on valu rite vodka, and wake up to find that I've killed 2 burglars in my house - temporary insanity defense or the equivalent. No criminal intent = no crime.

If the Oregon shooter killed the guy because he, the shooter, was drunk, no crime. If he killed the guy and happened to be drunk while he did it, crime. Here, his being drunk was obviously considered a factor for adjudication.

MarineCorpsAT
June 30, 2009, 01:21 PM
Seen those words in threads before haven't we

WildcastlesgonewildAlaska

Yes we have.. And yes this person was an intruder. It is that simple to be in a residence unlawfully is to be an intruder.

However the level of force used should be in proportion to the level of threat present. In this case a simple call to th cops would have worked.

pax
June 30, 2009, 01:23 PM
http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241344

Hm.

pax

Brian Pfleuger
June 30, 2009, 01:23 PM
Alcohol intoxication is recognized as a (temporary) disease, and our society considers diseases as mitigating factors.

Are you talking about Pathological Intoxication? If you're not, being drunk is often cause for additional charges, not fewer. Alcoholism is a "disease" (even that's debatable), being drunk is not.


If the Oregon shooter killed the guy because he, the shooter, was drunk, no crime. If he killed the guy and happened to be drunk while he did it, crime. Here, his being drunk was obviously considered a factor for adjudication.

A convenient excuse for a plea bargain, you mean. Since correlation does not equal causality there is no way on earth to known if the answer is "a because b" or "a + b".


Is it legal to be drunk in public where you live? Is it legal to be drunk in your own home? Different legal standards create different standards of behavior yes. If it is legal to drink in your home, it is legal to drink yourself stupid.

It is entirely legal to drink yourself stupid. It is not legal to do things which are illegal because you are stupid drunk.

easyG
June 30, 2009, 01:47 PM
Well, this is proof that (1) folks should know the laws of their state, and (2) a good attorney is priceless.

Personally, I wouldn't convict anyone of shooting an intruder in their home, regardless of the reason.

Drunk, crazy, or just plain stupid, if you go in to someone's home uninvited then you're risking your life.
And the sooner we get this message in the heads of criminals and idiots who break in to homes, the better off we will all be.

Vanya
June 30, 2009, 03:10 PM
Personally, I wouldn't convict anyone of shooting an intruder in their home, regardless of the reason.
Drunk, crazy, or just plain stupid, if you go in to someone's home uninvited then you're risking your life.
And the sooner we get this message in the heads of criminals and idiots who break in to homes, the better off we will all be.

EasyG, have you read the thread to which Pax posted a link, above? I recommend it. Think about whether all the people involved in all the similar incidents described in that thread (including a bunch of 1st person accounts of waking up in someone else's house) really should've been shot as a warning to others... which is basically what you're saying.

markj
June 30, 2009, 04:22 PM
Happened to my brother, he was 15, got drunk went to the wrong house, went inside, cops found him eating a bowl of cereal at the table. Cops brought him 4 houses up to our house.

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes people make a mistake, should they die for it? I would hope not.

Maybe someone needs to mature a little bit, outgrow his childlike ways, put aside his thirst to kill. Everyone has a mom. This is how I think of folks, and then how will their mom feel after her kid is killed for a silly mistake that a call to the cops would have taken care of instead of the morgue?

I try to find the way that is best for all, killing or even shooting someone isnt something I really want to do.

fawcettlee
June 30, 2009, 11:38 PM
+1

BillCA
July 1, 2009, 12:13 AM
He had the entire trip home and all the time it took him to retrieve his rifle for "malice aforethought". He obviously decided he was going to shoot this guy and took absolutely no action of any kind to avoid it. Planning to kill someone doesn't require weeks of time to become Murder 1. The trip home from the bar is plenty.
Now, there is undoubtedly a lot of detail that is not disclosed by the media report. But I believe the above statement is just wrong, based on the facts of as stated. To wit:

According to police accounts, Cramer's wife found the stranger passed out on the family's couch and summoned her husband from a bar.

Cramer said that what happened next was self-defense. According to a search warrant affidavit, he told officers: "He beat me up, so I shot him. This is my house. He's an intruder."

Two Sutherlin police officers entered the home after the June 19 shooting and found the 35-year-old Smith. He was "lying on his side with his feet propped up on the couch, facing the center of the living room," the affidavit states.

So, the wife summons the husband from the local tavern. We can only guess at what he's told "Some guy got into the house and is sleeping on the sofa! I've never seen him before, I'm scared!"

There is some omitted information, but we glean that there was a fight of some kind ("He beat me up") which implies that the resident did not simply come home, grab his rifle and start firing. Some kind of contact was made where no lethal force was employed and the resident got his butt kicked.

Quite possibly, the deceased may have believed he was fighting a relative or room mate and unaware of his location. Who knows? We also don't know how the resident woke him up (a swift kick or shaking him awake).

Assuming the deceased got up swinging and beat the tar out of the resident, it is easy to see how many people would not tolerate someone intruding then using violence against the residents and believe him to be a credible threat.

Troubling is the deceased position on the sofa in post-mortem. Without detail it's hard to know if he fell back onto the sofa into a fetal position after being shot OR he tried to return to sleep and curled up on the sofa before being shot.

Even if you think the guy had time on his trip home to "premeditate", unless you could show that his initial acts were life-threatening to the deceased, I don't think you'll prove it. He could very well have been thinking "if he gets violent, I'll grab the .270 and blast him" -- but that does not rise to the level of malice aforethought because the alternative (that's implied above) is that if he is non-violent ...what happens? The bum's rush?

Again... the folks involved here (all around) reveal an astonishing lack of smarts or common sense.

Rich Miranda
July 1, 2009, 01:15 AM
Again... the folks involved here (all around) reveal an astonishing lack of smarts or common sense.

Expressed as an equation:

(Stupid) + (Stupid) + (Firearm) = Death

or perhaps:

(Stupid) + (Drunk) + (Firearm) = Death

A_McDougal
July 1, 2009, 10:27 AM
Pizza killer,
Search under 'voluntary intoxication' and 'diminished capacity'. This will start you off
www.courts.state.md.us/ble/gbanalysis/gbanalysis7-08.wpd
Intoxication is a complete defense when it was involuntary and so excessive as to temporarily deprive the defendant of his reason. Voluntary intoxication may be a defense if a specific intent is an essential element of an offense, such as common law burglary and common law larceny, and the defendant was so intoxicated as to be mentally incapable of entertaining the requisite intent. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a general intent crime, such as “break and enter a dwelling house.” Clark & Marshall, A Treatise on the Law of Crimes §§ 6.09-6.11 (7th ed. 1967).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intoxication_defense

http://law.jrank.org/pages/1142/Excuse-Intoxication-Voluntary-intoxication.html

http://wings.buffalo.edu/law/bclc/web/nyregister.htm

http://www.ncids.org/Defender%20Training/2008%20Spring%20Conference/VoluntaryIntoxication-LisaMiles.pdf

If you can find the what the judge wrote for the Oregon case, I'm sure it will discuss the issue of voluntary intoxication.

Brian Pfleuger
July 1, 2009, 10:41 AM
Maybe I'm a little dense, and I'm no lawyer, but I don't see how any of those laws would actually be helpful for the homeowner. In fact, it would appear as though at least some of the wording would be bad for him, by specifically excluding actions taken where voluntary intoxication is involved or requiring for the level of intoxication to be so high as to preclude rational thought.

Specifically how do you see these laws helping the homeowner?

BillCA
July 2, 2009, 12:58 AM
Peetza,

They probably don't. But "diminished capacity" can be helpful when finer points of law are debated -- such as whether you were justified in shooting the intruder heading for the kitchen door. In a "diminished capacity" you may have believed he was going for a weapon -- kitchen knives -- instead of the back door. But in this case, it doesn't really apply unless the husband was flying high himself.

Courts have also ruled that one can suffer from "diminished capacity" after a fist fight if the person lost conciousness, suffered repeated blows to the head, has great pain or other incapacitating injuries. In such cases, the rational mind has a diminished capacity to control our actions. Something anyone who has suffered a debilitating backache, toothache or migraine can tell you about.

Brian Pfleuger
July 2, 2009, 09:28 AM
BillCA,

Does the introduction of a second person (the wife) change the arguments for the actions of the husband?

I understand "diminished capacity" in a general sense but, specifically in this case, would the presence of another person eliminate that argument? Would it matter if that other person was also in a "diminished" state.

I still say that the guy inserted himself needlessly into a situation that any "reasonable person" would know had a high probability of becoming dangerous. Yeah, I know, it's his home, his "castle" and all that and I don't totally disagree that he has the right to go in and confront the guy. On the other hand, a "reasonable person" would have called the police, multiple times along the way. The wife when she found the guy, the wife on the way to the bar, the husband or wife at the bar, either of them on the way home, either of them when they got home, either of them after waking the guy up, etc. The fact that they didn't call the police until after the entire event was over, despite having innumerable chances, adds to the idea of "malice aforethought", IMO.

Even in states where one can "assume" dangerous intent from an intruder, I should think that such an assumption is only valid when it has not been shown otherwise. A guy sleeping on the coach somewhat invalidates "assumed danger", IMO. IF you wake him up and start a fight, well, that's blood on your hands. (Granted we don't know who started what... just saying)

I mean, if a guy is sitting on your coach drinking a beer when you get home, a guy you don't know and have never seen, and you stand there and talk to him for a couple of minutes and he's all like "Hey bro, how 'bout them Yankees! Want a beer, bro?"..... well, you can't very well say "Sorry, uh, BRO, this here is a Castle Doctrine state. I'm gonna have to shoot you. Hold real still, I'll try to make it not hurt..."

stargazer65
July 2, 2009, 09:38 AM
"Hey bro, how 'bout them Yankees!

That may be a shooting offfense in some houses around here.:D

buzz_knox
July 2, 2009, 09:55 AM
If the intruder is actually asleep on the couch and remains so until the shot is fired, there is no theory under the law that would allow the shot to be justifiable homicide in the first place. The intruder caused the situation, but the shooter escalated it beyond reason.

Things get "interesting" when the intruder wakes up.

If the intruder wakes up and jumps up when you see them, you might reasonably and lawfully have a claim for self-defense if you fire depending on your state's law.

If they realize the situation they are in and remain still, you are in the same position as anyone who has a criminal at gun point (which is a bad position to be in by the way). If you tell them to leave, you have put yourself in extreme peril tactically and legally (complying with your instruction gives them the advantage of initiating action, and you can't use a "furtive movement"). If they remain still, you now have the pleasure of waiting until/if the cops show up.

Here's an interesting excercise to try. Put yourself in the convict's shoes. Your spouse calls and says there is an intruder. Do you tell the spouse to run or barricade? Do you stay on the phone with the spouse or have them call the cops? If you arrive before the cops (very likely in many areas) do you wait outside like many would suggest, or risk a confrontation by going in?

The opportunities for a catastrophe are ripe in this situation. That's why dogs and/or alarms are so important.

Buzzcook
July 3, 2009, 06:38 PM
Put yourself in the convict's shoes. Your spouse calls and says there is an intruder. Do you tell the spouse to run or barricade? Do you stay on the phone with the spouse or have them call the cops? If you arrive before the cops (very likely in many areas) do you wait outside like many would suggest, or risk a confrontation by going in?


Buzz Knox, the spouse did not stay in the house with the intruder. She left the house and went to the tavern where her husband was.
At no time was she or the husband in physical danger until they re-entered the house. And only then if the intruder woke up before he was shot and did indeed assault the husband.

When I place myself in the shooters position I call the cops from the tavern.

Southern Rebel
July 4, 2009, 10:38 AM
Everyone has a mom. This is how I think of folks, and then how will their mom feel after her kid is killed for a silly mistake that a call to the cops would have taken care of instead of the morgue?

Yep, but I figure it is up to all of those "everyones" to worry about how their mothers are gonna feel if they do something stupid and end up getting hurt. If I am put in a situation to where I am concerned about my family's welfare by someone's silly mistake, how many mothers or brothers or sisters or kids they have is not on my list of immediate concerns.

Nevertheless, I would agree that to take another person's life as a result of a silly mistake is a tragedy to avoid if at all possible. If a person's family, self, and necessities of life can be protected without killing, I am all in favor!