Headline: 'Castle doctrine' witness tells of shooting, civil suit

More than a week after the first proponent hearing on Sen. Steve Buehrer's Castle Doctrine legislation (SB184), Columbus This Week's Michael J. Maurer has become perhaps only the second writer in the state to bother to inform his readers about that it occurred (we'll be eager to see if the Ohio media are as equally willing to ignore the opponent hearing.)

The article focuses on testimony from Ryan Cundiff of Canton. Ryan and his girlfriend were camping on family property on Sept. 17, 2001. For the second time in the same evening, they were accosted by the same criminal. The final time, the drunken criminal assaulted Ryan physically, and then knocked his girlfriend to the ground, battering her about her head with a paving brick and his fists. She begged for her life while begging Ryan to help her. Ryan is forced to shoot the assailant and to his horror, Ryan, the crime victim, was arrested and charged with felonious assault with gun specifications. He was thrown in jail with the common criminal, all for defending the life of himself and his girlfriend. Ryan was acquitted NINE long months later, but he soon learned his problems were only just beginning.

From the story:

    A 27-year-old northeast Ohio man told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice on Dec. 5 that, more than six years after a justified shooting in self-defense, he is still in court awaiting a civil trial filed by the man he shot.

    The committee is holding hearings on S.B. 184, which would introduce the "castle doctrine" in Ohio, precluding civil suits by perpetrators who are injured in the course of self-defense. Sponsors include Sens. David Goodman (R-New Albany), Tim Schaffer (R-Newark) and Steve Stivers (R-Columbus). A companion bill in the Ohio House of Representatives, H.B. 264, is sponsored by Reps. Larry Flowers (R-Canal Winchester) and Jon Peterson (R-Delaware).

    Ryan Cundiff said he has spent years doing menial jobs, waiting for the lawsuit against him to resolve.

    "My life is literally on hold and has been for seven years," he said. "I cannot own property, or establish a personal savings, as I fear for the consequences that lie ahead."

The story notes that Cundiff told the committee he was tempted by a plea bargain, exchanging a guilty plea for a six-month sentence, but he girded himself and went to trial.

    "Imagine my terrible choice," he said. "I could go to trial, risk seven years in prison, spend thousands of dollars, and rely on the jury, knowing full well I was innocent, or I could take the easier, guaranteed deal that would allow me to avoid a long prison term. I chose the jury route, but it was a terrible gamble with my life."

    In the more than five years since he was acquitted on criminal charges, Cundiff said, the only significant action in the civil suit was a successful effort by Cundiff's insurance company to obtain a ruling that his insurance did not have to pay any of his expenses, on the grounds that the shooting was deliberate.

    "I'm angry with my life," Cundiff said. "I could have graduated from graduate school this past year. Instead, I clean trash out of vacant, foreclosed homes."

Ryan's complete testimony is available here.

The story goes on to inform readers that other witnesses included Columbus resident Ellen Wickham, who told the committee that exposure to civil suits is unjust to people who act in justifiable self-defense.

"Why am I at risk for losing everything I have worked hard for if the criminal I defended myself against sues me in civil court?" she is quoted as saying.

The article concludes with an exchange between another witness and Ranking Minority Member Lance Mason, D-Cleveland, who says he fears people who used guns in self-defense would have incorrect perceptions about the danger they were in.

Hearings on this important legislation will resume in January. Stay tuned to www.BuckeyeFirearms.org for further updates on this important legislation.

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