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‘Castle Doctrine’ cited in dismissal of murder counts

Letcher Circuit Judge James W. Craft II has dismissed the charges against a Jenkins couple indicted for complicity to murder, citing Kentucky’s “Castle Doctrine” as the reason.

The couple’s attorney, David A. Johnson, had filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the couple were acting within the bounds of Kentucky’s Castle Law, which assumes a person is in fear for their life and justified in using deadly force if a person is in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering a dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle.

Justin Robinson and Kimberly Robinson admitted to shooting James Duncan multiple times in a home they own in Jenkins, but told police the shooting began when Duncan shone a flashlight on them, and “Justin stated he thought it was a gun with a light on top of it,” the judge’s order quotes the police report as saying. The motion says Justin Robinson told police that he fired again because Duncan “acted as if he was going to come at them.”

After Justin Robinson shot Duncan, the police report says, Duncan ran back to the door and tried to get out, but had closed the door behind him.

“He stated that the male subject started acting crazy like he was going to come at them again and that was when Kim (Robinson) started shooting,” the report says.

Justin Robinson told police he shot Duncan four times. Police sources say Justin Robinson was using a shotgun. The report says Kimberly Robinson said Duncan “acted aggressive and they didn’t know if anyone else was with him, or if he had anything else on him.”

“Kim (Robinson) stated that she panicked and unloaded the .22,” the report says, meaning she shot Duncan multiple times.

“She advised it looked like he had something like a gun or a knife in his hand,” the report says. Police said Duncan was unarmed.

The couple had apparently not been staying regularly at the home, and Duncan, who often wandered the streets of Jenkins, had been sleeping there. The Robinsons discovered he had been there when they came to cut grass, police said at the time, and reported to police that someone had been in the house. They stayed that night, and shot Duncan after he came into the house again.

According to the police report, Justin Robinson told police Duncan came in through a kitchen door and stuck his head through the door to look in the living room. That is when he flashed his light on them.

Craft ruled that the Castle Doctrine assumes a person who “unlawfully or by force enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.” It also notes that Kentucky law defines a dwelling as “a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof on it, including a tent, and is designed be occupied by people lodging therein at night.”

Craft wrote that the law presumes that the Robinsons had a reasonable fear of “imminent peril of death,” and that he had taken into consideration the police report, grand jury testimony and witness statements. He said the prosecution failed to meet the burden of proof required to overcome the statutory presumptions.

“A person who uses force as permitted in (the statutes) is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution,” Craft wrote.

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