For the first time in the law’s history, a state prison inmate has successfully used the Colorado’s ‘Make My Day Law’ as his defense in a fatal prison stabbing.
Antero Alaniz was charged with the 2011 death of fellow inmate Cleveland Flood while both were serving time at the Sterling Correctional Facility. The courts had deemed Flood a habitual criminal and he was serving a 48-year sentence for burglary at the time of the incident. The autopsy indicates Flood’s body sustained over 90 stab wounds. More than two years after his death, prosecutors charged Antero Alaniz and his cellmate, Aaron Bernal, with second-degree murder.
The two men claim they killed Flood after he entered their cell without their consent. Additionally, they claim Flood was armed with a shank.
In December 2014, the judge dismissed the charges against Alaniz citing Colorado’s Make My Day Law. The case against Bernal is still pending, but it is expected he will use a similar defense.
In 1985, the state legislature passed the Make My Day Law which gives the right to any “occupant of a dwelling” to use “any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force” against an intruder who knowingly makes an unlawful entry, is believed to intend to commit an additional crime, and is reasonably believed to do use physical force against the occupant. The statute is officially titled “Use of deadly physical force against an intruder.”
Response to the Decision
The Logan County District Attorney’s office feels the decision could have a detrimental effect on the Department of Corrections’ ability to safely operate their facility and plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. Sterling has been the setting for six of Colorado’s nine most recent prison killings, making it the most dangerous facility in the state.
Conversely, Jim Brandon, one of the original sponsors of the formerly entitled “Colorado Homeowner Protection Act,” sees no issue with District Court Judge Charles Hobbs’ decision. He believes that a prison cell meets the definition of a “dwelling” for many people in the state of Colorado, and that because Flood crossed the threshold of Alaniz’s cell, he indeed had the right to use any physical force necessary against Flood.
Since the statute was put in place in 1985, Colorado has seen a drastic decrease in the number of home burglaries. While the country as a whole, has seen a reduction in the number of home burglaries over the same period, Brandon ascertains that the passage of the Make My Day Law has played a large part in the 71 percent reduction experienced by the state.
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