A Johnson County judge has found Lamar Wilson was not justified in shooting three people on Iowa City’s crowded Pedestrian Mall last summer.
Wilson claimed he fired his gun in self-defense, and asked the judge to grant him immunity from criminal charges in an early test of Iowa’s “stand your ground” law, which was passed in 2017.
Judge Paul Miller writes the evidence shows Wilson “indiscriminately discharged a dangerous weapon five times into a crowd…striking three unarmed individuals, including Kaleek Jones, who was shot in the back and subsequently died from his gunshot wounds. Notably, Lamar Wilson never testified that any individual pointed a firearm at him before he fired.”
Miller also ruled that part of the “stand your ground” law is too vague to be enforced. He found the law’s lack of instructions for judges on how to use the law makes it so vague that it’s unconstitutional, or “void for vagueness.”
“There can be no fair application of the statute as it is written,” Miller writes.
Drake University Law Professor Bob Rigg agrees the law does not set out a legal procedure for courts to use it.
“The way [the legislature] put this together is a bit of a mess,” Rigg said. “It’s open to a host of interpretations.”
But Rigg said he’s not sure if the statute is vague enough to be deemed unconstitutional, as Judge Miller claims. Rigg said this ruling will likely be appealed up to the Iowa Supreme Court.
“The Court may take this opportunity to lay some procedural rules down,” Rigg said.
In November 2017, Judge Miller decided Wilson should go to trial, and Miller would wait until after the jury returned a verdict to rule on Wilson’s immunity claim. Last month, a jury found Wilson guilty of voluntary manslaughter and other charges. Miller considered the evidence presented at trial before issuing his ruling Tuesday.
In early 2018, a Montgomery County judge used a different procedure for a “stand your ground” immunity claim. A pre-trial evidentiary hearing was held, after which a judge found Kevin Staley was justified in using deadly force when he was attacked in an alley. Staley did not have to go through a trial.
Lamar Wilson is asking for a new trial. One reason cited in the motion is that Wilson should have had a pre-trial hearing on his immunity claim.