Attorney wants charge dismissed in shooting at home
A frightened Greenwell Springs woman who called 911 on Nov. 24 to report a possible burglary after shooting and wounding an intoxicated man outside her rural home in the wee hours of the morning should not be prosecuted, her attorney said Wednesday.
Tommy Damico, who represents Sheila Nichols, 58, called on the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office to dismiss an aggravated second-degree battery charge that a parish grand jury filed against the woman on June 20.
Damico contends Nichols acted in self-defense and is protected by the state’s stand-your-ground law and so-called “castle doctrine.”
Nichols pleaded not guilty Wednesday, and state District Judge Don Johnson scheduled a Dec. 10 hearing on any motions filed in the case by then.
“She was in no form or fashion the aggressor. She was exactly where she was supposed to be at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Damico said. “She was a victim who also became a defendant for protecting herself and her house.”
District Attorney Hillar Moore III responded to Damico’s remarks by noting that Nichols is presumed innocent.
“The state has the burden of proof which we accept,” Moore said.
“We intend to present our case to a judge or jury, whichever is chosen by Ms. Nichols.”
An affidavit of probable cause states two men, one 35 and the other 37, showed up at Nichols’ Magnolia Bridge Road residence after the men crashed their car in front of her home, but Damico says the wreck occurred down the road and Nichols’ did not see or hear it.
He said her house is 50 to 100 feet off the road.
Damico said surveillance video from a camera on her porch shows the two men were so intoxicated they could barely walk.
One of the men’s faces was covered in blood, which Nichols mistook for a mask, he added.
The affidavit gives this account of how the incident unfolded: The younger man knocked on Nichols’ door seeking help; she came to the door as the man was walking away, and as he tried to explain what had just happened; Nichols then told him to get off her property; the man continued to ask Nichols to call someone to help them, and Nichols fired two shots at the man, hitting him in the lower forearm.
Damico — who said the woman lives alone, was awakened and saw figures pass by her windows — stressed Wednesday that Nichols’ sole intention in firing her gun was to scare the men off.
He said she did not know she had wounded one of the men until later.
“She literally says, ‘Get off my porch.’ ”
Damico said the men complied with that order, but would not leave her property.
“She said, ‘I’ve got a gun, get away.’ She fired one shot, maybe two, to scare them away,” Damico said.
He said the men never indicated they had been in an accident.
“She has no duty to retreat back into the house if she believes she is protecting herself and her property,” Damico stated. “My client absolutely believes she was in the right by protecting herself.”
He said the legal concept of stand-your-ground is part of self-defense.
“She didn’t have to retreat. That’s not required. Is that stand-your-ground? Of course it is,” Damico said.
One Louisiana statute dealing with stand-your-ground states: “A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using force or violence ... and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”
Louisiana’s castle doctrine, which gets its meaning from the phrase “a man’s home is his castle,” permits the use of physical force to protect one’s self and property from forcible crimes.
“I think it (the castle doctrine) could be part of the argument (in this case). I don’t think you need the castle doctrine, but I think it could apply,” Damico said.
A conviction for aggravated second-degree battery carries up to 15 years in prison.