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Rechtsprechung in Panama 

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Der folgende Bericht beschreibt die Gerichtsverhandlung gegen einen US-Amerikaner, der bei dem Versuch, einen Einbrecher auf dem Grundstück eines Dritten zu stellen, von der Schusswaffe Gebrauch gemacht hatte und den Einbrecher dabei tödlich verletzt hatte. Nach Angaben des Betroffenen hatte der Einbrecher nach einer am Boden liegenden Machete gegriffen und er habe deshalb auf den Mann geschossen. Angeblich hatte er dabei auf das Gesäss des Einbrechers gezielt, dabei aber wichtige Blutgefässe verletzt, so dass der (angeblich längere Zeit nach Eintreffen der Polizei ohne ärztliche Versorgung gebliebene) Einbrecher schliesslich verblutete.

Während US-Freunde des Beklagten von Notwehr sprachen und sein Verhalten rechtfertigten, war die Frage durchaus berechtigt, ob der Beklagte nicht sein Leben auch dadurch hätte aus der Gefahr bringen können, dass er sich vom Tatort ohne Abgabe von Schüssen entfernt hätte. Notwehr mit lebensgefährlicher oder gar tödlicher Gewaltanwendung setzt ja üblicherweise voraus, dass dass die eigene Unversehrtheit anders nicht zu verteidigen ist. Das wäre hier anscheinend ohne weiteres möglich gewesen. Schon die Tatsache, dass der Beklagte eine Schusswaffe mit sich führte, als er auf dem Grundstück seines Bekannten "nach dem Rechten sah" lässt die Annahme zu, dass  er dies in der Absicht tat, einen möglichen Einbrecher mit dieser zu bedrohen und gegebenenfalls auch auf diesen zu schiessen. Insofern ist das Argument der "Notwehr" hier durchaus mit einem Fragezeichen zu versehen und es war zu erwarten, dass statt Notwehr fahrlässige Tötung oder Körperverletzung mit Todesfolge in der Gerichtsverhandlung zur Debatte stehen würde. Tatsächlich wurde der US-Amerikaner jedoch wegen Mordes ersten Grades verurteilt.

So schockierend die Leichtfertigkeit dieses Mannes auch ist, mit einer Schusswaffe einen Anderen ohne ersichtliche Notwehr zu Tode zu bringen und so schockierend es für einen Mitteleuropäer auch sein mag, wie viele seiner US-Mitbürger in der Diskussion den Schusswaffengebrauch mit Todesfolge als "normal" und "gerechtfertigt" ansehen, so schockierend ist andererseit der Bericht von der Verhandlung vor dem Panamenischen Gericht und der schliessliche Urteilsspruch.

Die hier wiedergegebene Diskussion fand im Yahoo-Forum "Gringos in David Panama" statt. Ich gebe hier Auszüge auch der Vorgeschichte wieder, um die Zusammenhänge verständlich zu machen.

Das schockierende Kernstück ist jedoch der Bericht von der Gerichtsverhandlung.

A cautionary tale for gun owners in Panama

"A very heated discussion yesterday on Gringos in David about an incident in which a US expat (name unknown) is being prosecuted arising out of an incident in which he apparently saw a (presumed) thief enter a neighbor's unoccupied home (not sure exactly where), grabbed his gun and went to the house to investigate. 
He found a thief with a machete and shot him dead. Now he's awaiting trial on murder charges. I am posting the original post and my original reply (there have been many posts from many people since then) so you get an idea of what the issue is. If you want to read more, you can visit or join the group where these posts originate. (One thing that was later cleared up is that the guns were in fact licensed, so that's not an issue. Another thing that was later established is that the shooting took place outside the house in question rather than inside it.
The reason I am posting this is that this kind of thing is going to happen again (judging from the majority of comments on the other group, in which most people agree with the shooter and disagree with me, and say they would do the same thing), and I think that its better to think about this before it happens rather than afterwards. I would also recommend reading Articles 32-34 of the Codigo Penal (in the FILES) on deadly force and when its justified. The bottom line: 
If you suspect a property crime is going on somewhere other than your home, and you have no reason to believe anyone is in danger (because there's nobody home), do you (1) grab your gun and go after the thief; or (2) call the cops.

Re: Burglary Topic - During a robbery, after a robbery and Insurance issues

Anyone who wants to possess and use a gun in Panama needs to educate himself about the law first. You need a permit to own a gun and the penalty for not having one is several years in prison. And if you use a weapon to shoot another human being, you'd better be able to prove that you reasonably believed your life was in danger. Panamanian law permits the use of deadly force only when there is no other alternative to prevent imminent serious injury or death to yourself or someone you are protecting.
From the facts described below, it seems very clear that the use of deadly force was not justified. As you describe the events, this man went to an unoccupied home armed with a gun because he suspected a burglary was in process and by going armed, he signalled his willingness to shoot someone for committing a property crime. That is not sufficient cause to kill someone. What he should have done is called the police.
If it had been HIS home, and he awakened in bed in the middle of the night to find a man armed with a machete poised to strike staring down at him, and he grabbed his home protection firearm from his nightstand and shot the intruder, that would be a different story. In such a case, the shooter could make a good argument that he reasonably feared for his life and had no alternative other than to grab his gun and shoot.
This is an unfortunate situation, I only hope that others learn from it. This topic has been discussed in the past on panama laws for expats, and if you do an archive search, you will probably find citations to the relevant laws relating to use of deadly force and possession and use of firearms.

--- In, Lonnie Cross <lonnie_r@...>

 A friend of our's, an ex-cop did exactly what is described below. The ladron (a crack head) had burglarized several homes on a cul de sac in one week. When my friend was alerted that there was someone in a home where the people weren't there, he investigated, armed with a shotgun. The thief raised the machete he was stealing and came forward. My friend blew him away.

Everyone knew this guy for what he was, even his parents told our friend that they knew their son was bad news. So, after four days in the local jail our buddy was released. Two months later an abagado got the bright idea that he could make some money, approached the parents and started a suit.

After a re-enactment, my friend was charged with murder. He's free pending trial on August 16 in David. He asked the American embassy to send an observer.
Not to get involved, but to witness what went on. They declined, saying they didn't have the staff, but if things changed by his court date they would be there.

Bericht von der Gerichtsverhandlung:

"Ron McGrew was unanimously convicted of first degree murder by a jury of 7.

I was at the trial and can tell you that things went on in that courtroom that appalled all of us sitting on Ron's side of the courtroom. Panamanian courts are like American weddings in that the groom' party sits on one side, the bride's on the other.

Sitting in support of the defendant were seven National Police officers, including the top cop from Chriqui and his wife, twenty City Seguridad Ciuadano(sp), or neighborhood watch members wearing their green vests, twenty-five Americans from Puerto, and the "Parents Of The "Victim"" as well as people I could not identify. A representative From the American Embassy was also in attendance.

The trial began with the magistrate drawing numbers from a wooden drum, which was re-twirled after each draw. These numbers correspond to names in the jury pool. After 40 numbers were drawn a recess was called while the court officers went out to the homes of the jurors chosen and brought back the first eight they could catch. This took some two hours.

Ron had a lawyer, although not a criminal lawyer, but the man who's home Ron shot the thief at. He was passionate in his summation to the jury, but lacked so much. I am not a lawyer and do not understand rapidly spoken Spanish. But as a sales and marketing teacher I was really disturbed by the fact that half of the time he faced and was playing to the audience rather than the jury.

He called no rebuttal witnesses, or character witnesses. Never objected to racial slurs or anything else.

The first prosecution witness who took the stand was a fireman from Puerto who went to the scene to investigate. He really had nothing to say and said he knew nothing. When asked if he knew the victim he replied emphatically that he did not. Everyone in Puerto Armuelles knows that he is the brother in law of the deceased, including the prosecution; and that he is the one who brought the wrongful death suit that started the criminal investigation two months after the incident!

In order for you to understand the second witness I have to tell you that there was a dispute between Ron's neighbor Ana and the rest of the community when she elected to have a cell tower erected on her property. I am not judging this. But it is important that you understand that Ron's wife went door to door with a petition against said tower, and eventually a committee was formed to fight it.

The second witness was a cab driver from Puerto who testified that Ana, the woman who owns the land on which the tower was erected, allegedly had a cell phone conversation with a person unknown to the taxista in his cab during which he claimed Ana said "They are really giving me a lot of shit over this tower", and went on to say that Liz (Ron's wife) brought Ron a knife to plant on the corpse.

Let me say that a few years ago a taxista, this one, tore through an American's driveway illegally. On the cab's return the American stood in the middle of the street to confront the driver. To make a long story short, there was an altercation in which the American slapped the driver. Puerto Armuelles is a small town and like small towns everywhere, everyone know everyone and their business. It is known by all that the man this cab driver got slapped by was and is Ron's very best friend. Draw your own conclusions.

To me this is "Hearsay of the worst kind", but apparently it is acceptable in a Panamanian court.

The medical examiner testified that this was not an intentional murder, that the thief turned to one side after four warning shots were fired, to reach for the machete he had dropped and Ron did just what a few of you suggested he should have done, he shot the perpetrator in the buttocks, to disable him, from the side and one pellet pierced his vital organs and he bled to death. It has been reported, althought I don't know for sure, that it took an extraordinary time for an ambulance to arrive.

Funny thing about the evidence: There were five separate shot patterns in the house, only two expended shells were found. The machete disappeared from the evidence locker!

When the prosecutors, there were two (I think one may have been involved in the unlawful death suit. But am not sure) made their summations the word Gringos was used at least twice by each of them. The most inflammatory of which (As related to me by a fluent Spanish speaker" was "These Gringos come here, steal our land and now are killing our children" as he pointed to the gallery full of us. To me that is like an American prosecutor saying "This nigger took advantage of a white man, stole his house ande move into a neighborhood where he wasn't wanted and murdered a child". The liberals out there who read this will surely take umbrage at my statement, but it is the best analogy I can think of. The prosecutors played "The Race Card" and there was no objection from the defense or the magistrate!

In two hours Ron was found guilty of first degree murder. This is not like America where premeditation must be proven to convict in the first degree. The degree of the charge is based on how many jurors vote yea or nay. If it had been a 4 to 3 decision, perhaps the conviction would have been for the equivalent of manslaughter, 5 to 1 maybe second degree murder. I am by no means an expert on this, but is how I understand the system from the Bilingual Panamanian abagados in attendance.

After conviction, Ron was released in his own recognizance pending sentencing in fifteen days. He was allowed to keep his passport. This tells me Panama just wanted him gone and was giving him a chance to run.

Every one of us in attendance with the exception of three people told him he had to leave David and check out of Panama, into Costa Rica and get the first flight to Estados Unidos. The exceptions were his lawyer and a Panamanian friend who is known for telling people what he thinks people want to hear. They both told him he would get "House Arrest". The third person shall remain unidentified.

The magistrate's guidelines say 18 to 20 years! That prison at the end of the MacDonald's road is where he would serve his time with a thousand other prisoners. Talk about over crowding! He is also an ex-cop, who killed a panamanian and is a best friend of the man who ultimately runs the prison. What do you think his rate of survival would be where "Buffalo Bill" (A Gringo who mass murdered Americans and took their land and belongings) is a hero amongst the inmates?

However, after much thought an an anguish on his part and another conference with his lawyer, Ron has decided to stay and face the music. First because that's the kind of honorable guy we all know him to be. Second, because his lawyer claims to have political connections with the ability to secure a "Presidential Pardon". 

(Siehe auch

Der obige Bericht wurde hier wiedergegeben und wie folgt kommentiert:

"Hoo boy. Ron screwed up when he took his gun, left his house, went next door to his neighbor's property, and tried to apprehend the burglar on his own. He could have stayed within the walls of this own home and called the police. He could have walked to the fence line and yelled at the crack head that he had called the police, and maybe the guy would have run away. He could have done a whole lot of things differently, but because of his law enforcement experience he tried to apprehend the suspect himself. That was obviously a mistake we all should learn from. Now, about this conviction. Obviously, there will be an appeal. Hopefully the judge will give Ron "house arrest" or something even more lenient, considering the circumstances, while the appeal is being heard. It would be unwise for Ron to flee the country because there is an extradition treaty in place between the United States and Panama. If Panama wanted to they could put him on Interpol and he could be arrested and returned to Panama from practically anywhere. So, running away is a bad idea.

I'm In The States Right Now: When I get back to Panama I will make sure every important decision maker in Panama is aware of this case, in about two weeks. This is a very bad situation all around. The article posted above fails to mention cocaine was found in the blood of the burglar (dead guy) during the autopsy, who was a known drug user and local "bad guy." This was a railroad "teach the gringos a lesson" conviction, yet another black eye for the severely screwed up "justice system" in Panama. "Wild Bill" should fry, and Ron should be let go, yet they are being treated as equals. Not good, and definitely not "just." I'll put my full effort into this as soon as I get back."

Hier ein weiterer Kommentar einer rechtskundigen Person:
The fact is that this man had no right to go into the street brandishing a deadly weapon to "protect" his neighbor (who, according to his friends who posted about the facts, he KNEW was not at home, and therefore nobody in the house was in danger) against losing his TV to a thief. What he should have done, when he became aware that a possible thief was in the process of burglarizing his neighbor's home, was call the police. He may have been a cop in the USA, but he's not a cop in Panama and he used very poor judgment. I hope that everyone reading about this learns from
what happened here. The ONLY excuse for using deadly force in Panama is to protect yourself or others in a situation where you reasonably believe you or someone else is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. Not to prevent loss of property. That was not the situation in this case, (if the friends who posted about it posted accurately about what happened.
That said, he should not have been convicted of first degree murder, and if half of what was posted about the trial is anything close to the truth, he is the victim of a kangaroo trial and should be supported for that reason. Is there a defense fund to raise $ for a competent attorney to take over this case?