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State Supreme Court to look at 'no-retreat' self-defense law

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court plans to review two cases involving the state's new self-defense law that allows people to shoot dangerous home invaders without fear of prosecution.

The National Rifle Association had championed the measure enacted in 2006, saying it simply codified a rule of law already observed by judges in Kentucky and elsewhere: That people have a right to use deadly force to defend themselves and their families when their lives are in danger.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the so-called "no-retreat" self-defense laws enacted in 22 states over the past three years are important because some jurisdictions have held that crime victims have a responsibility to flee rather than to defend themselves.

"We think that's wrong," he said. "It is vital for these crime victims to have as many options as possible available to them."

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Sept. 10 in appeals of two Jefferson County cases in which defense attorneys claimed their clients acted in self-defense.

Public defender Elizabeth McMahon is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the murder conviction of Phillip Leroy Wines and order a new trial. She says the trial judge should have instructed the jury that Wines, who is serving a 45-year sentence, had no duty to retreat when he stabbed James Lee Hamilton on June 12, 2005.

Assistant Attorney General Samuel J. Floyd Jr. filed a brief with the Supreme Court in which he points to "conflicting evidence" that he said raises questions about whether Wines acted in self-defense. Floyd also argued that the murder occurred before Kentucky's new self-defense law went into effect.

In the second case, public defender Bruce Hackett argued that the "no-retreat" law should have been applied retroactively in the case of Frank Rodgers, who is serving 20 years for manslaughter in the 2004 shooting death of Dewhon McAfee in Louisville. Jefferson Circuit Judge William Douglas Kemper, who presided over both cases, ruled that the law does not apply retroactively.

Assistant Attorney General Perry Thomas Ryan argued against applying the law retroactively, in a legal brief he filed with the Supreme Court.

Prosecutors argued neither Wines nor Rodgers acted in self-defense.