Testing Indiana’s Self-Defense Laws

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U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)-  On May 17, 2020, the South Bend Tribune highlighted a story of interesting perceptive which challenges Indiana self-defense laws. The story revolves around a 19-year-old man Kyle Doroszko shooting and killing another teen, Traychon Taylor, in self-defense in April 2019. According to court documents on the night of April 28, 2019, Doroszko and a 17-year-old companion met with Taylor, 19, and three of Taylor’s associates in the back parking lot of Frank’s Place, a bar just northwest of downtown South Bend. Also according to court documents, Taylor’s group was planning to rob Doroszko.

According to the South Bend Tribune,“Prosecutors still charged Doroszko with murder, however, arguing he did not have the right to use force to defend himself because he was trying to sell marijuana and possibly a gun.”  The case is testing the limits of the law in the state of Indiana that denies self-defense rights to someone committing a crime. The case already saw a rocky start when, according to the Tribune,  “Doroszko claimed he caught officers lying under oath about interactions that were captured on video.” This forced the County prosecuting attorney to recuse himself.

The heart of the issue lies in the complicated question of what types of crimes should take away a person’s right to use force to protect himself? The Tribune writes that the courts in Indiana have wrestled with this question for many years. Joel Schumm, an appellate attorney, and professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law is quoted in the Tribune article saying, “The problem is the self-defense statute has language that if you’re committing a crime, you can’t use self-defense.  “If you take the statute literally, someone using marijuana or playing in an illegal card game cannot use self-defense no matter what someone does to them.”

The following Except from the Tribune Article sums up the events of the evening:

“According to court documents, Doroszko told police that Taylor, armed with a handgun, tried to steal marijuana and a backpack. Around the same time, one of Taylor’s associates approached and pointed a gun at the vehicle.

“Taylor got in the backseat of Doroszko’s vehicle. Doroszko’s vehicle sped away, and while he struggled with Taylor, he drew a handgun and shot Taylor twice, according to the documents. At the same time, Taylor’s associate, Atlantis Branch, fired at the vehicle. Taylor fell from the vehicle and lay in the street, where police later found him.

Along with the murder charge against Doroszko, prosecutors filed felony murder charges against Branch and Jeremiah Williams, alleging they caused Taylor’s death by participating in the attempted robbery.”

So, you’ve got one kid trying to pass some grass and the other kids who whip out guns to rob the guy.  What a mess. To top this off the legal age to buy a handgun in Indiana is 21 and further drives the case down the rabbit hole with potential felony gun charges. The interpretation of the law is particularly interesting since in Indiana it denies self-defense to anyone committing a crime, with no exceptions, even misdemeanors. Other states with similar laws exclude only those committing a “forcible felony.”  Now there are two Indiana Supreme Court Justices that have written opinions on the law stating  a “non-violent crime with no inherently predictable violent outcome should not negate the defense of self-defense.” The state of Indiana has struggled according to the Tribune article to clarify the law for many years.

Other academics and lawyers see the case at a slightly different angle. “But for the drug deal, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Jimmy Gurule, a professor at the Notre Dame Law School and former federal prosecutor. “This wasn’t some totally unexpected reaction. Historically, drugs and money and guns all go hand in hand.”

So the question lies therein, is it unfair to deny Doroszko the ability to protect himself from an armed robbery because he was selling marijuana? Have prosecutors had over-charged both Doroszko and Taylor’s group?

As both sides prepare for trial a difficult path forward lies ahead. Does the current law, unfortunately, leave both parties at a disadvantage?  While I am no legal expert one element I think will have a weighing factor here is, how much moral stake are people placing on the sale of some dope? What is reasonable self-defense? By placing the sale of weed on a pedestal does this negate someone’s ability to defend themselves?

To read the full story click here.


Jason ReidAbout Jason Reid

Jason Reid is a writer and business professional from upstate New York. After deciding to pursue his dream of becoming an outdoor writer, Jason started a blog from his dorm room at Houghton College, growing it and working hard to earn opportunities. While bowhunting big game is his ultimate passion, Jason welcomes all outdoor challenges which force him to push his limits.

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Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago

charge the 19 year old with flony possession of the concealed handgun without a Mother May I Card, and let the rest go. Let street justice settle the rest. Perhaps also go with the weed possession bust, but on what basis is possession of that stuff a crime anyway?

This was a bunch of dirtbags congretating to play in the mud. So some of them got real uddu, one of them drowned in the mud. Save all the legal and court costs, and be done with it.

Branden
Branden
1 month ago

In Indiana you have to be 21 to buy a handgun from a ffl only. You can buy a handgun from a private seller at 18. You can also get your ccw at 18. Or a parent can gift you a handgun at 18. 21 to buy, 18 to own and carry

JFCrosby
JFCrosby
1 month ago

Jason Reid needs to try hunting with a longbow. It’s called “hunting the hard way” and only real hunters can handle the challenge.

Pistolpete
Pistolpete
1 month ago
Reply to  JFCrosby

I have arthritis and cannot pull back a longbow I can use a crossbow so does that make me less than a real hunter???

hoss
hoss
1 month ago
Reply to  JFCrosby

Did your parents have any kids that lived?

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago
Reply to  JFCrosby

@JFCrosby – Have seen articles about people hunting boars using knives. Personally I think that is down right nuts, but to each his own. Relatively speaking, hunting safe prey like dear with a longbow is downright wimpy. How about you “man up” and demonstrate your skill at something really “manly” before criticizing others?

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago

If judge throws out official self defense claim, a jury must still rule on guilt. I don’t have all the facts – and if judge is limiting evidence presented neither will a jury. However a defense lawyer worth his salt will be able to present enough of the circumstances that a jury would still be considering whether it was a self defense shooting. Judicial instruction during a case should always be worth the paper it is written on. Maybe that’s part of why I’m never selected for jury duty – I’m perfectly willing to state that I must be convinced… Read more »

Luv2shoot
Luv2shoot
1 month ago
Reply to  Finnky

Finnky. You make a good point there.

Laddyboy
Laddyboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Finnky

There is always the possibility of “NULLIFICATION” of the charge against him. It IS the RIGHT of SELF DEFENSE in America. Irregardless of the circumstances.

Xaun Loc
Xaun Loc
1 month ago
Reply to  Finnky

If the prosecutors office wants to ‘clarify’ the Indiana Self Defense law, they should proceed with the Murder charge. If they get a conviction it will certainly be appealed, the appeal will be denied, and it will be appealed to the state supreme court where the court will be forced to make a decision about what the law means. But if the prosecutors just want to put all the dirt bags away, how about this solution: Drop the Murder charge against Doroszko, then charge Doroszko with Felony Murder (along with everyone else involved). There is no question about what the… Read more »

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago
Reply to  Xaun Loc

@XL – Just how many millions of drug deals occur peacefully in this country every day? Simply selling a bag of pot does not qualify as having “a reasonable chance of anyone being killed” – or at least in my mind.

Personal note: I do not care for pot. My primary issue with pot trade is the support it provides to violent cartels here and in countries to our south. Disapprove of anyone over using, but prohibition has been about as successful as alcohol prohibition was – with same effects on criminality and violence.