An elderly mans 22-year prison sentence was reversed last week for a 2016 Halloween shooting of a former acquaintance.
The shooter and the victim proved to be an eccentric pair in court as they gave their versions of events. Years of contention between the men led to one of them being shot in the mouth and the other convicted of attempted murder.
69-year-old Raymond Thomas Short told the court that he and the victim, 73-year-old Robert Roland Sears, had a falling out a few years back.
According to Short, another man had given him a dark message from Sears back in 2004 which said if Short ratted Sears out to the police for a crime he was planning to commit, he would have Short dismembered and the pieces scattered.
Then, to make sure the message was clear, Short told the court Sears followed up on the threat with a phone call.
“It could happen.” Short testified Sears said over the phone.
Short also reported fearing the 73-year-old victims fighting skills, saying Sears told him once that, not only did he have access to a gun if he wanted, but he could also karate kick as high as a door frame. It is not clear at this time if Sears ever demonstrated this move to Short.
Regardless, Short says he feared the man he shot on his doorstep that Halloween night.
Sears, who testified in court while wearing a plaid shirt, chain wallet and pompadour styled hair according to Kitsapsun, refuted the accounts reported by the man who shot him.
According to Sears, the falling out between the pair was news to him. He’d still considered Short a friend and had only stopped by to inquire after buying a car.
“If I had known he was mad at me I wouldn’t have gone,” he told the court. Adding that he knew Short to carry a gun,
“You don’t threaten a man with a gun. I’ve known him for 10 years, he packs a gun,”
But he was shot anyway.
Sears testified that when Short came to the door and saw him, he told Sears,
“You’re going right to the devil, you son of a b–ch.”
Short then pulled a .22 caliber pistol and fired one shot that entered Sears mouth and lodged in his vertebrae. Sears, who described the gunshot as a “big blue flash” turned and fled.
Short justified his actions, saying he was startled and feared for his life when he encountered Sears at his door. Then, he said, Sears pushed the door open and looked to be going for a weapon.
Short hurriedly drew his pistoland fired what he meant to be a warning shot past the head of Sears. But instead of hitting his target of nothing, Short instead fired directly into the face of his acquaintance. The 69-year-old man said the small gun turned in his hand as he pulled the trigger causing the shot to hit Sears.
Sears fled the area, driving himself to as nearby grocery store where he called for help. At first a woman there thought he was heading to a Halloween party, presumably because of the gory nature of his wound.
Sears said testily, “Lady, this is serious.”
The woman now convinced of his condition, dialed 911 and reportedly telling the dispatcher Sears was cranky and not very friendly. Though, she admitted he might have a right to be:
“… I would be if I got shot in the face, too,” she told the dispatcher.
Short, who describes his occupation as a self-taught composer, referred to the jury of his peers as “a gullible, relatively uninformed audience,” during his trial and further criticized the justice system as “outright chicanery (the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose.)”
He was sentenced to 22 years in prison out of the 25-maximum sentence and shy of the 20-year minimum.
However, the justice system disdained by Short has actually come to his rescue. An appeal submitted by Shorts attorneys contending that he was not allowed to testify about the full level of fear he faced from Sears.
The appellate court ruled that since Short was only allowed to testify about a veiled threat and not to go into details surrounding the threat of dismemberment from Sears, Shorts right to argue his case was violated.
“The state apparently argues that the error was harmless,” said State Division II Court of Appeals Judge Linda CJ Lee in a statement released 19 March.
However, Judge Lee specifies that the error could only be ruled harmless if the appellate judges are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt a jury would have reached the same verdict without hearing the testimony.
The Appellate Judges were not convinced.
“Accordingly, the error was not harmless,” Lee wrote.
Now it is being decided whether to bring Short back in for a retrial, or to request an appeal from the state Supreme Court.
Here is the problem with warning shots:
You are responsible for every single bullet that is fired from your gun. Any bullet fired outside of a controlled range carries a certain amount of risk.
You should not fire your gun unless in fear for your life, because if you do and it goes wrong as it did in this case, you have just seriously harmed someone when not in fear for your life. A grave mistake in the courts of both legal and popular opinion.
If, however, you are in fear for your life, you should be shooting to eliminate the threat. Shooting because you are in fear of your life is justifiable because you have no choice.
If you feel the situation warrants a warning shot, it might be a sign that the situation has progressed to the point where you are in fear of grave danger and would be justified in shooting to stop a threat to you or a loved one.
In short, only fire your gun when you have no other options available to you. It’s too risky otherwise. Guns are not signaling devices. If you want to make a sudden, loud noise, carry an airhorn.
A self-defense shooting is a traumatic enough event, made worse by the stress brought on by the legal battle afterwards. Self-defense insurance relieves some of that stress by providing a financial resource in your time of need. And USCCA offers some of the best for less then you might think.
What lessons stand out to you about this odd situation? Leave a comment below to let me know.