Shades of Blue

Monday, April 10, 2006

Deadly-force legislation a ‘mess,’ prosecutor says

from the Kansas City Star:

As the House last week debated whether to give Missourians more latitude to use deadly force against intruders, one county prosecutor warned about making a “real mess” of the law.
The warning came from Cape Girardeau County’s H. Morley Swingle, who sent a letter to Rep. Scott Lipke, a Republican from Jackson.
Swingle said the legislation wasn’t necessary and would “completely gum up Missouri’s established justification defenses.”
Under the bill, HB 1461, a person would be justified in using deadly force against someone who illegally entered, attempted to enter or remained in a home or vehicle without permission. The person who used deadly force would not be subject to criminal prosecution or liable for civil damages.
The bill’s supporters said current law required people to flee their homes if someone was breaking in. Swingle begged to differ.
“The people advocating these laws simply do not realize that the Missouri Criminal Code already provides a defense to a person who shoots a person he reasonably believes is burglarizing his home,” Swingle wrote to Lipke. “There is no duty to retreat. You can blast the hell out of someone you reasonably believe is trying to cross the threshold of your home to commit burglary or arson.”
Swingle’s criticism was for naught. The House passed the bill, which now goes to the Senate.
Sen. Chris Koster’s campaign to rein in Medicaid fraud is running into significant resistance from other Republicans.
Koster, of Harrisonville, brought his measure, SB 1210, to the Senate floor last week with dramatic examples of the need to stop fraud against Medicaid, which pays for health care for the poor. With losses totaling as much as $600 million a year, he pointed to a federal audit that discovered Missouri medical providers billed taxpayers 98,263 times for treating patients who were dead.
He said three St. Charles nursing homes were fined for inadequate staffing. The reason they weren’t caught sooner: The homes’ administrators routinely paid homeless people to wear staff uniforms and sit around the facilities, making it appear that the homes had enough employees.
Republicans quickly questioned whether the state should provide financial incentives for whistleblowers to report medical providers who steal from the state.
Sen. Luann Ridgeway, a Smithville Republican, said encouraging whistleblowers would lead to more lawsuits, which lawmakers tried to limit last year. Sen. Delbert Scott, a Lowry City Republican, said the law could force innocent medical providers to face lawsuits seeking to recoup the money.
Koster’s retort: “If I have $600 million walking out the door, I would put a lock on the door and wouldn’t begrudge the locksmith his fee.”
One lawmaker is sponsoring a measure that would make English the language “of all official proceedings in the state of Missouri.” The sponsor is Rep. Brian Nieves, a Union Republican who is Hispanic.
Nieves, who has Puerto Rican heritage, said he filed HB 1814 because nothing guarantees public proceedings must be held in English.
Nieves said his bill would not prevent use of interpreters in courts or prohibit government agencies from providing translations.
Before filing the bill, Nieves consulted a trusted Hispanic voice: his 85-year-old grandmother.
“She said it’s absolutely absurd that we do not already have something like this,” he said.

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