A western Colorado prosecutor said he’s frustrated that the state’s “Make My Day” law prevents him from charging a man who killed an acquaintance during a drunken New Year’s Eve brawl at his home.
The Associated Press reported that the Mesa County prosecutor’s office declined to charge 36-year-old Joseph Hoskins in the fatal shooting of 47-year-old Randy Cook.
"These grown men, otherwise basically upstanding, law-abiding citizens, are acting like drunken children, and as a result, a good man got killed, and I can't hold anyone accountable for it in the criminal justice system," said District Attorney Pete Hautzinger.
Investigators said Cook and another man had been drinking at a party in Grand Junction when they went to fight Hoskins at his house.
The other man had been feuding with Hoskins on Facebook, authorities said, but Cook had no involvement in that social media dispute.
The men fought outside the house, prosecutors said, but the brawl moved inside and into Hoskins’ bedroom, where he said Cook tried to take his shotgun.
Hoskins tackled Cook and shot him to death, defense attorneys told prosecutors.
"It sticks in my craw to be unable to hold Joseph Hoskins accountable for his actions," Hautzinger said. "But it's not a very close legal call."
At least 22 states have expanded the “castle doctrine” allowing a person to defend their home against attack, although Colorado was not among them.
Those broadened laws do not require a person to retreat during confrontations outside the home, placing an increased burden on prosecutors to prove self-defense did not occur during shootings.
Colorado’s law offers immunity to homeowners who shoot and kill intruders, and is one of the strongest of its kind in the nation.
"I am very sorry that Colorado's criminal justice system does not have an adequate way to address this tragic, travesty of a situation," Hautzinger wrote in a letter to Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey to explain his decision not to file charges.
Watch this video report posted online by KJCT-TV: