Murder Neighbor Over Dog Pee? Get Probation

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By Jason Beahm on January 05, 2011 6:15 AM

Homeowners often get annoyed and frustrated when neighbor's pets use their lawn as a toilet. But they don't usually shoot their neighbors over it.

So there was a considerable amount of outcry when Charles Clements, a Chicago man, shot and killed Joshua Funches, a neighbor, after his dog urinated on his lawn. There was even more outcry when Clements was sentenced to four years of probation for the shooting. He had faced up to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree murder, the New York Daily News reports. "This is certainly not justice," Gail Williams, Funches' aunt, told the Chicago Tribune.

Naturally the case is a bit more complicated than it sounds at first glance. Charles Clements was 69, had no prior criminal history and was a Marine veteran. Apparently the incident unfolded when Clements spotted Funches's terrier urinating on his lawn. When Clements confronted Funches and his dog, Funches swore at Clements. Clements then pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and then put it back in his pocket.

Funches, however, did not back down. He said, "Old man if you pull a gun on me you better plan on using it," and then punched Clements in the face. Clements said he blindly fired his gun as he fell backward in self defense. Jurors who returned a guilty verdict said they were convinced Charles Clements believed he was acting in self-defense though they did not agree that his reaction was reasonable.

Second-degree murder is an intentional killing that is not premeditated, planned, or committed in a reasonable "heat of passion;" or, a killing caused by dangerous conduct combined with the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder is a crime that falls between the middle ground between first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Judge Daniel Rozak said at sentencing that the twisted case was more than a man shooting a person because their dog urinated on his lawn. The case was about a 69 year old man who was "being yelled at, pushed and punched in the face by a 23-year-old man."

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