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Old August 21, 2002, 10:52 AM   #1
Drizzt
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Jury orders owner of gun used in murder to pay up

Jury orders owner of gun used in murder to pay up

By Tim Rowden
Of The Post-Dispatch
The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.

A Jefferson County jury has ordered a gun owner to pay $400,000 for failing to safely store a handgun that was later used to murder his son.

The jury verdict last month against William "Billy" Handley is the first of its kind in a Missouri civil case, according to the Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

"Juries a lot of times are really the precedent-setters in law, because legislators don't really want to touch these hot gun control issues" said attorney Kenneth Jones, Missouri Lawyers Weekly's editor.

"Jefferson County has a reputation for being pretty conservative when it comes to jurors," Jones said on Tuesday. "For a jury in a conservative area where a lot of the jurors own guns or look favorably on gun ownership to hand down this verdict sends a message around the state."

The suit was filed by the widow of Kenneth Handley, Nancy, and her daughter, Diona. It accused Billy Handley of providing or allowing his son Kevin Handley to have access to the .38-caliber pistol that Kevin used to shoot his brother Kenneth on Jan. 5, 1996. The suit also alleged that Billy Handley knew or should have known that his son was suffering from a mental condition.

Billy Handley bought the gun about six weeks before the shooting, according to the suit, and kept it in an unlocked case in an unsecured closet.

Billy Handley testified that he kept the gun secured and hidden and said he had no knowledge of his son Kevin's psychiatric condition.

Kenneth Handley's family argued that Kevin Handley had been living with his parents for about 15 months, was being treated for manic depression and had prescriptions for lithium and Prozac, neither of which he was taking at the time of the shooting.

Police found the gun case, ammunition and drug paraphernalia in Kevin Handley's bedroom after the shooting.

Authorities said Kevin Handley, then 27, used the gun to shoot Kenneth, 35, three times in the chest at Kenneth Handley's home in Dittmer after the two argued. Authorities said he drove from the scene, spent the night in a barn and was picked up by a motorist while hitchhiking the next day

Authorities said the driver dropped him off at the Big River Ambulance shed in Cedar Hill, where he confessed to the shooting while he was being treated for exposure.

Kevin Handley was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action and was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

Jones said Nancy Handley had settled with her father-in-law for $300,000, the total amount of the jury settlement that would be covered by his insurance.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon's office, said Missouri had no law on the books regarding the safe storage of guns.


http://home.post-dispatch.com/channe...bWrapper=Metro
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Old August 21, 2002, 11:00 AM   #2
Blackhawk
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No different than the owner of a car being liable for damages if he lets an incompetent have access to it, and the car ends up destroying property or killing people. "Attractive nuisance" and all that.

On the face of it, I agree with the jury.
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Old August 21, 2002, 12:42 PM   #3
Malone LaVeigh
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Yeah, but it's interesting to note how times have changed. The house I grew up in (raised by my mother and 2 aunts) had guns in every room. I had my own rifle at an early age and just propped it up in a corner of my closet. No one thought anything of it. I never heard of accidents or crimes committed by irresponsible people getting ahold of guns in the neighborhood, but I suppose it could have happened.

Nowadays, we take it for granted that the things should be locked up. I guess that's progress, like seatbelts and bike helmets.

We also used to routinely shoot without ear or eye protection, but I wouldn't let the kids do that nowadays. Now if I can keep them away from loud motors, power tools, and rock & roll, maybe they won't be as deaf as I am when they reach my age.
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Old August 21, 2002, 12:49 PM   #4
Blackhawk
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Quote:
Nowadays, we take it for granted that the things should be locked up.
I don't leave my guns locked up unless I'm gone. Of course, I don't have any nutcases or other irresponsible people roaming around either.

Living with a whacko requires a loss of freedoms. If you don't want to institutionalize him, you have to accept that. "Secure in your home" means all that it implies.
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Old August 21, 2002, 01:03 PM   #5
MitchSchaft
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Kind of funny how I grew up and none of my dad's guns were locked up. Ammo was available as well. It's amazing I didn't shoot somebody!
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Old August 21, 2002, 01:41 PM   #6
ojibweindian
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People with Bipolar disorder know that killing someone is bad. The verdict from the jury is wrong.
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Old August 21, 2002, 07:35 PM   #7
Bill Levinson
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Quote:
Nowadays, we take it for granted that the things should be locked up. I guess that's progress, like seatbelts and and bike helmets.
Well, seat belts are a good idea, and so are bike helmets. (They didn't have them when I was in high school and doing a lot of cycling-- in retrospect, a crash at 30-40 miles an hour-- I could reach those speeds downhill-- could have been very dangerous). So is hearing protection on the firing range, of course.

Gun locks and safes-- also good when you're out of the house, in case someone breaks in, so the burglar doesn't have immediate access to a usable weapon. (Also so the burglar can't steal valuable firearms easily.) But I am against laws that REQUIRE certain security procedures, especially when the owner is at home and may rely on access to the weapons for self-protection.
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Old August 21, 2002, 08:08 PM   #8
Jeeper
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I think that the point wasnt that all guns should be stored correctly but rather that you shouldnt have dangerous items around mentally unstable people. THe jury thought the father should have known about the kids condidtion. It is kind of like allowing a drunk to drive your family home.
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Old August 22, 2002, 01:56 AM   #9
Dex Sinister
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Quote:
Nowadays, we take it for granted that the things should be locked up. I guess that's progress, like seatbelts and bike helmets.
The problem with that reasoning is that once you make something mandatory, you create assumptions of "the bad" just because "X" wasn't (allegedly) done.

Bike helmets are an excellent example. Great idea - I ride a m/c myself, wouldn't ride without one. But if one does ride without one, for some reason, and something bad happens, the omission of the required action becomes an instant excuse to scapegoat the person.

It may not make a bit of difference, actually, to the facts of the accident whether "Bob" was wearing a helmet, but it sure makes it the accident his fault, somehow.

At the age of 27, Kevin could just as easily have walked into a gun shop and bought his own gun - being treated for depression is not, "a history of mental illness," in a legal sense. Then who would they have blamed - Walmart?

Dex }:>=-
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Old August 22, 2002, 02:37 AM   #10
BJM
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I have to disagree. It doesn't sound like the kid had permission to have or use the gun. The father did not give him the gun. The kid took it. It is the kid's responsibility.

Why is locking guns in a safe the "proper" way to store them? Many people have said here they grew up with guns out in the open and no problems.

The problem is not the gun or how it was stored.

It is not really like having a drunk drive your family home unless the father knew the kid was immediately dangerous. Perhaps if the kid had made threats there could be an argument for liability. And again, there is no indication the father gave the kid the gun.

What next? Parents have to lock the car keys in a safe so their children don't take the car without permission and cause damage? Everything from kitchen knives to baseball bats will have to be "safely stored" because they could be used to do evil.
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Old August 22, 2002, 05:30 AM   #11
Byron Quick
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Quote:
People with Bipolar disorder know that killing someone is bad. The verdict from the jury is wrong.
Quote:
Kevin Handley was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action and was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

I was under the impression that, in most states, the crux of the insanity defense was not whether or not you are Jesus or Napoleon but rather if you are aware of the difference between right and wrong.
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Old August 22, 2002, 11:48 AM   #12
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Well, MitchShaft, if you would have been on 2 prescription anti-depressants, would your father have known about that fact? If the answer is yes, then you've got an entirely different family situation. If the difference amounts to a high degree of negligence, then it's apples and oranges, is it not, to compare your family to this one?
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