August 29, 2011

Colorado burglar's family wins $300K in wrongful death suit

( In Colorado, an El Paso County jury has awarded nearly $300,000 to the daughter of a burglar who was fatally shot in 2009 while breaking into an auto lot.

Parents of the victim, Robert Johnson Fox, embraced their attorneys after a judge announced the jury’s verdict, capping a two-week-long civil trial in which business owner Jovan Milanovic and two relatives were painted as vigilantes who plotted a deadly ambush rather than let authorities deal with a string of recent burglaries.

Phillip and Sue Fox, who filed suit for wrongful death in 2010 on behalf of Fox’s 3-year-old daughter, called the jury’s award a victory in their fight to seek accountability for the death of their son, who they say never posed a threat to the heavily armed men.


Comments (29)

@ david b As they say in England,"a most smashing idea" ! Good old sodium chloride !

Posted by: Muzzlepuncher 7 | September 6, 2011 10:58 PM    Report this comment

I went to HS with a kid who's dad had once owned a gas station. Somebody kept breaking into the soda machine outside and stealing not only the money but the sodas. So he hid in the station one night, and when the thief bent down to lift his haul into the car trunk, he also got two 12 ga. loads or rock salt in his back pockets. Didn't kill him, but sent him to the hospital where they couldn't dig it out very well either as tweezers broke the salt down into smaller pieces. Of course, he was an easy guy to find - all the cops had to do was to call the nearby hospitals and ask if they had a guy in the emergency room with a hind end full of rock salt. Or, at least that was the story. Sometimes it was told with dried salt pork rind strips mixed in to make wider wounds....

I'm thinking it might have been a better idea in this case to do something similar. Not that paying the crook's family is right at all - but something less lethal would have been more, um, practical - as it turned out.

Posted by: david b | September 6, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

this is EXACTLY why 'castle doctrine' legislation has been passed in right thinking, common sense states.

Posted by: fullauto | September 5, 2011 7:39 PM    Report this comment

He was armed - with knives - and probably dangerous as well. However, he was shot before bearing weapons or threatening, at least from what I can discern from the article. Also, it seems the shooter had previously threatened to kill anyone who set foot on the property, and that may have been known to the police.

Posted by: PVB | September 2, 2011 2:12 PM    Report this comment

If someone is a drug-crazed thief. Who's willing to bet their life that he isn't armed and dangerous?

Posted by: Mister E | September 2, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

Not always true at least in Houston. I heard noises in our backyard late one night and went to the porch door with my 9mm in hand to find a policeman there searching for a burglar from a nearby house that he though had jumped our fence. He ID himself as a police officer (he was in uniform, but it was dark) and I advised him that I had a weapon. He had abolutely no reaction to that and he continued to question me about whether or not I had heard or seen anyone. Then I opened our gate for him and he left. So this "cop" (maybe it's a Houston thing) had no reaction to a homeowner being armed in his presence, even when investigating a crime and possible perp.

Posted by: Jim in Houston | September 2, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

Laws are against the average honest citizen. If a cop even thinks he see a weapon or thinks he's he's in danger he has the right to protect himself with deadly force

Posted by: neohiobiker | September 2, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

I haven't lived in Texas for about 12 years, but then the law allowed the use of deadly force to prevent "criminal mischief" (if I remember the terminology) between sunset and sunrise -- however it was only used as an affirmative defense -- meaning you cold be arrested and tried even if those conditions existed and you did kill someone who was causing "criminal mischief" )which includes such heinous crimes as toilet-papering you neighbor's house or writing graffiti on walls). Shortly before I left Houston someone shot and killed a drunken Scot who wandered into their back yard, got disorientated and was pounding on the back door at 3:00am. The homeowner fired through the closed, locked door. He was not arrested. Needless to say, the peole of Scotland were pretty upset. As George Bush was Governor, and his succeeding clone Rick Perry is even more reactionary that Georgie junior, I doubt that the law has changed. That law does not protect you from civil action, however.

Posted by: mingpooh | September 1, 2011 9:18 PM    Report this comment

Cecil - I hear ya, but I think your analogy isn't the best; I mean, not much is going to beat a couple of 20 year olds and a bottle!

Posted by: PVB | September 1, 2011 9:16 PM    Report this comment

Having been a police officer and having seen the jury system fail a hell of a lot of times, not sure I truly believe in it. Not sure what would be better but were I a defendant, I would probably await the jury verdict with a couple of 20 year old girls and a bottle of vodka in some mud hut in Central America.

Posted by: Cecil B | September 1, 2011 9:02 PM    Report this comment

I hope the Judge included that the money gets paid if the plaintiff passes a drug test.

Posted by: lotoofla | September 1, 2011 6:25 PM    Report this comment

I hope the Judge included that the money gets paid if the plaintiff passes a drug test.

Posted by: lotoofla | September 1, 2011 5:08 PM    Report this comment

Ordnance outsellers brings up a valid point. I don't believe that the law in Texas has changed insofar as protection of property is concerned. There are, however, some very specific conditions under which lethal force may be applied, such as time of day, value of property, and such. The other point that he posts concerning the jury pool is also one with which a defendant should be concerned. If a homeowner, who is a public spirited citizen, well educated, highly respected professional, retired military member, with a clean record, etc, etc..... finds himself indicted on a charge of homicide due to defense of family and home, where will those "peers" actually be found? It's a scary proposition that provides much food for thought.

Posted by: canovack | September 1, 2011 5:05 PM    Report this comment

Someone should throw the parents in jail for failing to raise the puke to be a plus for society instead of a criminal. What a pair of pukes these parents must be. What kind of a criminal history this family must have. At least he won't commit any more crimes.

Posted by: circle8 | September 1, 2011 5:05 PM    Report this comment

Don'tknow if still true: but it was Texas law that you could use lethal force to protect property? What has changed, and not for the better, is jury pool more likely to be more like perp than accused! Not sure of grounds for attorney's to insist upon "jury of peers" of accused?

Posted by: ordnance outsellers | September 1, 2011 4:48 PM    Report this comment

James H - You are exactly on point. It has never been the law in the US that deadly force may be used to defend 'mere property'. There have been many similar lawsuits with the same result. PVB makes a very valid point as to potential criminal liability.

Posted by: techfan | September 1, 2011 4:12 PM    Report this comment

Somtimes the law of common sense prevails over liberal laws that run counter to common sense. In other words, while I am a peaceful man, husband and grandfather, don't come sneaking around at my home or place of business in the middle of the night and expect the "law" to save your life.

Posted by: Wade P | September 1, 2011 12:41 PM    Report this comment

James H - thanks for the additional facts.

For those jumping on the "we've got a Constitutional right to defend ourselves" bandwagon, you may want to read the article linked in the original story. It sounds like Milanovic could be lucky he wasn't arrested for homicide. Yes, the victim was a drugged up thief intent on ill will, but that alone doesn't give any of us the right to start shooting.

Posted by: PVB | September 1, 2011 12:33 PM    Report this comment

I believe that under the concept of jury nullification, a jury can deliver a verdict that essentially nullifies the charges for which a defendant is tried. I don't know if this can apply to every state, but in essence the jury can find a defendant not guilty if the jury believes that a law, for which a defendant is being tried, is an improper law. It is in these type cases where a persuasive jury foreperson can bring a case to a just conclusion, by steering the deliberation process in a direction where the foreperson believes it should conclude. Having served on criminal and civil juries as the jury foreman, I can attest to this kind of deliberation and resulting verdict.

Posted by: canovack | September 1, 2011 12:32 PM    Report this comment

Sounds like Chicago, the Thief gets rewarded. Glad he died in the commission of a crime. But some of the jurors should get their heads out of the sand.

Posted by: Jayr | September 1, 2011 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I didn't say that Colorado's laws were smart either. These thieves risked their lives to take what didn't belong to them and lost. The whole state lost when the jurors found in favor of the crooks. The jurors can still find in direct conflict to the so-called law, can they not?

Posted by: Wade P | September 1, 2011 11:39 AM    Report this comment

Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Thieves all.

Posted by: Mister E | September 1, 2011 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, that should be "hole" in my earlier comment.

Posted by: Jim in Houston | September 1, 2011 11:31 AM    Report this comment

If you read the whole article, you will find out that "under Colorado’s self-defense laws, the use of deadly force is justified only under the “reasonable belief” that it’s necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death. The jury found that none of the men had a legitimate claim of self-defense. Property rights are not a lawful defense for using deadly force in Colorado, and the state’s so-called Make My Day law, which sets lower standard for using force, applies to households, not businesses."

As much as the burglars may have been low life drugged up wackos, Milanovic and his brother violated the law in their use of deadly force. They could have held the men for police, or if attacked defended themselves. Use of firearms is a last resort and must be done responsibly. There is obviously a whole in the Colorado "Make My Day" law - it needs to be modeled on the NRA's Castle Doctrine, whereby you may use deadly force, if you are threatened in any place (home, business, car, or on the street), where you have a lawful right to be.

Posted by: Jim in Houston | September 1, 2011 11:26 AM    Report this comment

"Never posed a threat"? What happened to the constitutional right to protect your private property against criminals and thieves?

Posted by: Wade P | September 1, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Please note the terminolgy "heavily armed men". When it happened to my business I left the 50 cal. at home and used a baseball bat. Folks, never bring a baseball bat to a gunfight. It's a sick society that rewards criminals for bad deeds and punishes the protectors.

Posted by: Sharps | September 1, 2011 10:23 AM    Report this comment

They probably should have given them a chance to surrender and then shot them. I wonder what really happened?

Posted by: TOM M | September 1, 2011 10:08 AM    Report this comment

I guess crime DOES pay. I hope they can appeal to a reasonable court

Posted by: Thomas F | September 1, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Disgusting ! Mr. Milanovic should get a $ 300,000 Reward !

Posted by: Muzzlepuncher 7 | September 1, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

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