MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula man intended to harm, if not kill, when he confronted and shot to death a German high school exchange student who was trespassing in his garage, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Tuesday before the case went to the jury.
But a defense attorney told jurors that Markus Kaarma had a legitimate fear of harm and was protecting his family and property as allowed under Montana's "stand your ground" law.
The case is seen as a test of such laws, sometimes referred to as "castle doctrine" laws, which generally allow people to use force if there is reason to believe they are in imminent danger.
Kaarma, 30, is charged with deliberate homicide in the April 27 shooting death of Diren Dede, 17. If convicted, he could face a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Kaarma told neighbors and others that he was going to harm anyone who tried to burglarize his garage days before the shooting, prosecutor Karla Painter said.
Kaarma was angry because his garage had been burglarized before, Painter said. He wanted revenge, she said, and he created a setup by leaving his garage door partially open that night, rigging motion detectors and going out the front door and around to the garage with a shotgun after the sensors lit up.
"If someone is in your house, where do you go to defend your family? You go between your family and the threat. The defendant didn't do that. He had one thing on his mind — it was revenge," Painter said.
Kaarma fired four blasts from a shotgun at Dede, pausing between the third and fourth shots, she said.
"Instead of staying in that house, in a protected area, this is their response: Showtime," Painter said of Kaarma and his girlfriend, Janelle Pflagler. "From the moment he left that structure, he became predator, Diren became prey."
Kaarma's defense depicted him as an anxious person who was under stress after his garage was burglarized in a separate incident April 17. They say because of that and another incident in which he suspects his home was burglarized, Kaarma felt targeted.
Karma didn't know if the garage intruder was armed the night of the shooting, defense attorney Paul Ryan said. Dede, from the German city of Hamburg, was not carrying a weapon when he was killed by a gunshot wound to the head.
"He didn't go out there with intent to kill. He went out there to catch him," Ryan said. "This was not luring. This place had become a target."
Defense lawyers wrapped up their side of the case in less than two days, calling police and two expert witnesses to testify. One expert tried to discredit the police investigation, while the other testified Monday that Kaarma was in a "fight or flight" situation that can trigger extreme responses.
Before closing arguments, District Judge Ed McLean told jurors that under Montana's "stand your ground" law, a person is justified in the use of force or a threat if he reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself.
A conviction requires determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether Kaarma acted purposely or knowingly in causing Dede's death.
Jurors deliberated for about five hours Tuesday before adjourning for the day without reaching a verdict. They will resume discussions Wednesday morning.