Supreme Judicial Court (March 14, 2006)

To be entitled to a jury instruction under the castle law defense statute, G.L. c. 278, §8A, the killing or injury must occur inside the defendant's dwelling, which does not encompass an open porch and outside stairs of a house.

The defendant was charged with 3 counts of ABDW as a result of a fight that occurred outside the house where he had been living. On appeal, the defendant argued that the judge erred in denying his request for a "castle law" instruction pursuant to G.L. c. 278, §8A. He claimed that he was entitled to the instruction because he was acting in self-defense or in defense of his surrogate family, and that, under the castle law, he had no duty to retreat in these circumstances.

The SJC rejected the defendant's argument and held that §8A expressly grants a castle law defense to a defendant charged with killing or injuring another person, if that person was in the defendant's dwelling, and the defendant acted in the reasonable belief that the person was about to inflict great bodily injury or death.

Even assuming that the fight occurred in the area where the defendant claimed, the court also refused to expand the castle law to encompass the outside stairs and open porch of the house. The plain language of §8A limits the defense to an occupant who injures someone unlawfully in the dwelling. Open areas are not given the same legal exemptions as the residence or dwelling itself.