Grand jury says Rankin Co. man acted in self-defense, set free

RANKIN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - The Rankin County District Attorney says it's a classic case of the Castle Doctrine at work.  A man, originally charged with murder, has been freed after a Rankin County grand jury failed to indict him last Friday.

Richard Lewis, 52, admitted he shot 46-year-old Christopher Eugene Hankins to death. Lewis told investigators last February his former roommate broke down the door trying to get in his dwelling in the 1400 block of Old Lake Road.

When Judge Kent McDaniel heard the facts in the case, he reduced the charge from murder to manslaughter. But Lewis was freed last Friday when a Rankin County grand jury bought his argument that he acted in self-defense, and failed to indict him.

"The Castle Doctrine says there is no duty to leave, so he didn't have to leave the house, and also in a case like this one, the individual who is shot is the one who made illegal entry, into a residence, which we clearly have in this case, if the fear of great bodily harm is presumed to be reasonable," said Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest.

Guest also explained that you must be in danger of bodily harm or protecting someone from bodily harm to invoke the Castle Doctrine.

"The individual using deadly force must be in fear of imminent danger, to his or herself, or someone who is present. Deadly forced cannot be used just to defend property.  If someone is just stealing something, you can't use deadly force," said Guest. 

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.