A 59-year-old Missouri man who has been waiting to stand trial in connection with a shooting on July 20, 2013, will face a jury this month. The defendant, accused of felony assault, second-degree murder and armed criminal action, is currently only on trial for the murder charge. He allegedly shot a 48-year-old man during a float party on the Meramec River.
This case could prove critical for future Missouri defendants. This highly publicized case has some elements of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Experts say that Missouri courts will likely be asked to decide on issues of property rights and lethal force along the state's public waterways.
Attorneys for the defendant say he was attempting to protect his property after getting into an altercation with the victim. The decedent and several others had reportedly stopped at spot in the river to urinate. Witnesses to the incident say that the defendant then started shooting at the group without warning or provocation.
Experts say that Missouri law can be confusing with regards to public waterway rights. In some cases, riverfront property documents indicate that landholders own property to the middle of the river, while others indicate that the high-water mark is supposed to be the boundary. Law enforcement officers are hopeful that this case could help eliminate some confusion about the state's property laws.
The case is occurring amid a cultural conflict between property owners and those who choose to float the river. Otherwise law-abiding citizens may be provoked to violence when drunken revelers invade their personal property, especially if children are present, according to one trial reporter. The outcome of this case will likely lead to more clarification about property owners' rights, which could protect defendants from unfair charges related to violent crimes.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Trial set to begin in Meramec float trip killing" Jesse Bogan, May. 13, 2014