State v. Chew, No. 2013AP2592–CR.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtNEUBAUER, P.J.
Citation358 Wis.2d 368,856 N.W.2d 541
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. Charles L. CHEW, Defendant–Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 2013AP2592–CR.
Decision Date01 October 2014

358 Wis.2d 368
856 N.W.2d 541

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent
v.
Charles L. CHEW, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 2013AP2592–CR.

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

Submitted on Briefs June 26, 2014.
Opinion Filed Oct. 1, 2014.


856 N.W.2d 542

On behalf of the defendant-appellant, the cause was submitted on the briefs of Katie R. York, assistant state public defender of Madison.

On behalf of the plaintiff-respondent, the cause was submitted on the brief of Jeffrey J. Kassel, assistant attorney general, and J.B. Van Hollen, attorney general.

Before BROWN, C.J., NEUBAUER, P.J., and GUNDRUM, J.

Opinion

NEUBAUER, P.J.

358 Wis.2d 370

¶ 1 This case is about Wisconsin's new “castle doctrine” statute, Wis. Stat. § 939.48(1m) (2011–12).1 The new law generally provides that use of force is presumably justified when a

358 Wis.2d 371

person is defending himself or herself against an unlawful and forcible intruder in that person's home. Charles Chew was tried for recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon, based on shots he fired at two men from the front door of his apartment complex as they were fleeing through a parking lot. Chew challenges the trial court's decision not to give an instruction under the “castle doctrine” statute. We conclude that Chew was not entitled to an instruction under the statute because the men fleeing from Chew's apartment building through a parking lot were not in Chew's dwelling. We affirm.

FACTS

¶ 2 Chew lived with his girlfriend, Cheryl McCranie, at her apartment. McCranie later moved out and moved into her parents' home, where she lived with boyfriend Andrew Lee. Early one morning, McCranie decided to go back to the apartment to get some clothes for her and her son. Lee and another friend, Andreaius Lucas, went with McCranie to the apartment complex. While McCranie went into the apartment, Lee and Lucas first waited in the car, but ultimately went to the apartment door and heard arguing inside. There is conflicting testimony regarding whether they had permission to enter the apartment, but it is undisputed that they did enter and proceeded to attack Chew. While the men were beating him, Chew fired on them with a gun, hitting each man in the leg. The men fled the apartment and ran out into the parking lot, toward the garage.2 Chew followed them out of the apartment and fired more shots at them, from “the doorway of the

358 Wis.2d 372

building complex, the hallway.” McCranie testified that she saw Chew “holding the gun and continue firing outside.” Chew's shots missed Lee and Lucas, but two bullets struck the neighboring inn about 150 feet away from the apartment building's doorway and one struck a nearby car. Lucas and Lee were charged with substantial battery, and Chew was charged with recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous

856 N.W.2d 543

weapon. Chew's charge was based on the shots fired out the door from the hall in the apartment complex, not on those fired in the apartment. Chew was convicted after a jury trial.

¶ 3 Prior to trial, Chew requested a jury instruction based on Wis. Stat. § 939.48(1m). The trial court was not convinced that the entry by Lee and Lucas had been unlawful; there was testimony from the preliminary hearing that McCranie had unlocked the door to the apartment. However, at the close of evidence, when Chew renewed his request for the instruction, the court found the statute did not apply because Chew was outside his apartment. Chew also requested, and received, a general self-defense instruction, including the instruction that the jury could consider whether Chew had the opportunity to retreat. The jury rejected Chew's theory of self-defense.

¶ 4 We conclude that the trial court did not err in declining to give an instruction under the statute because Lee and Lucas were not in Chew's dwelling at the time of the shooting in question, but rather had left the actor's apartment and were running away from the apartment complex across an open parking lot.

358 Wis.2d 373

DISCUSSION

¶ 5 We decide this case on narrow grounds from the words of the statute itself. See State v. Castillo, 213 Wis.2d 488, 492, 570 N.W.2d 44 (1997) (appellate court should decide on narrowest possible grounds). The statute requires that “[t]he person against whom the force was used was in the actor's dwelling.” Wis. Stat. § 939.48(1m)(ar)2. There was no evidence presented that Lee and Lucas were in Chew's dwelling when Chew fired shots at them from the apartment building doorway. We do not address a number of issues raised by the parties: whether the men unlawfully entered Chew's apartment; whether Chew was in his dwelling when he fired the shots out of the apartment building doorway; or what instruction Chew should have received, had he been entitled to an instruction under the statute. Rather, we decide this case solely on the narrow grounds that the statute does not apply because Lee and Lucas were not in Chew's dwelling at the time of the shooting in question.

Standard of Review

¶ 6 Statutory interpretation is a matter of law; we review the trial court's decision de novo. State v. Williams, 198 Wis.2d 479, 486, 544 N.W.2d 400 (1996). We start with the language of the statute, and, if it is unambiguous, we apply the statute to the facts. Id. “Whether a statute is ambiguous is a question of law.” Petrowsky v. Krause, 223 Wis.2d 32, 35, 588 N.W.2d 318 (Ct.App.1998) (citation omitted). We must apply a statute to avoid absurd or unreasonable results. State ex rel. Kalal v. Circuit Court for Dane Cnty., 2004 WI 58, ¶ 46, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110.

358 Wis.2d 374

¶ 7 While the decision on the submission of jury instructions is normally within the discretion of the trial court, State v. Hubbard, 2008 WI 92, ¶ 23, 313 Wis.2d 1, 752 N.W.2d 839, whether there are sufficient facts to require the trial court to give a certain jury instruction is a question of law we review de novo, State v. Head, 2002 WI 99, ¶ 44, 255 Wis.2d 194, 648 N.W.2d 413. Finally, we can decide a case on grounds other than those used by the trial court. State v. Earl, 2009 WI App 99, ¶ 18 n. 8, 320 Wis.2d 639, 770 N.W.2d 755.

The Castle Doctrine Statute, Wis. Stat. § 939.48(1m)

¶ 8 The Wisconsin legislature enacted the so-called castle doctrine,3

856 N.W.2d 544

Wis. Stat. §...

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6 practice notes
  • State v. Stietz, No. 2014AP2701-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2017
    ...2d 53, 57, 535 N.W.2d 473 (1995) ); State v. Sartin , 200 Wis. 2d 47, 53, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ; State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶7, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541.375 Wis.2d 583¶15 A jury must be instructed on self-defense when a reasonable jury could find that a prudent person in the p......
  • Dakter v. Cavallino, No. 2013AP1750.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 9, 2014
    ...was not given that opportunity and we will not upset the verdict entered by the court on this record. See Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids Sch. 856 N.W.2d 541Dist., 2010 WI 86, ¶ 45 n. 21, 327 Wis.2d 572, 786 N.W.2d 177 (explaining that “[f]orfeiture is a rule of judicial administration” that enc......
  • State v. Brown, Appeal No. 2017AP2199-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • November 15, 2018
    ...a person is defending himself ... against an unlawful and forcible intruder in that person’s home." State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶1, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541. Under the standard jury instruction for self-defense, the jury is permitted to consider the availability and feasibility ......
  • State v. Grimm, Appeal No. 2019AP789-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 16, 2019
    ...headlamps are lit.¶11 Interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶6, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541. The language of the statute is the starting point and, if it is clear, we apply the statute to the facts. Id. The language s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • State v. Stietz, No. 2014AP2701-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2017
    ...2d 53, 57, 535 N.W.2d 473 (1995) ); State v. Sartin , 200 Wis. 2d 47, 53, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ; State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶7, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541.375 Wis.2d 583¶15 A jury must be instructed on self-defense when a reasonable jury could find that a prudent person in the p......
  • Dakter v. Cavallino, No. 2013AP1750.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 9, 2014
    ...was not given that opportunity and we will not upset the verdict entered by the court on this record. See Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids Sch. 856 N.W.2d 541Dist., 2010 WI 86, ¶ 45 n. 21, 327 Wis.2d 572, 786 N.W.2d 177 (explaining that “[f]orfeiture is a rule of judicial administration” that enc......
  • State v. Brown, Appeal No. 2017AP2199-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • November 15, 2018
    ...a person is defending himself ... against an unlawful and forcible intruder in that person’s home." State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶1, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541. Under the standard jury instruction for self-defense, the jury is permitted to consider the availability and feasibility ......
  • State v. Grimm, Appeal No. 2019AP789-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • October 16, 2019
    ...headlamps are lit.¶11 Interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶6, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541. The language of the statute is the starting point and, if it is clear, we apply the statute to the facts. Id. The language s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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