Iguana murder: the “stand up” defense rejected by the judge

PJ Nilaja Patterson in a Jan.15, 2021 booking photo at the Palm Beach County Jail. (Iguana / Getty Images)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – A judge dismissed the ‘stand up’ defense of a Florida man who said he beat an iguana to death only after he attacked it, biting it on the arm .

PJ Nilaja Patterson, 43, is due to stand trial for animal cruelty, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen recently said, refusing the unusual defense, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.

The “stand firm” law allows a person who is attacked and has a reasonable fear of death or grievous bodily harm to use lethal force, even though they can retreat to safety. It has been used in several high-profile cases since its adoption 16 years ago, but this may be the first time the recipient of lethal force has been an animal.

Prosecutors say Patterson “savagely beat, tormented, tortured and killed” the 1-meter (3-foot) iguana in a half-hour attack on surveillance video. Prosecutor Alexandra Dorman said “at no time did the iguana pose a real threat” to Patterson last September and that he “was not justified in his actions when he gave at least 17 blows of foot to this defenseless animal causing its death “.

Animal control officials said Patterson tormented the animal, which is why he bit him on the arm, causing an injury that required 22 staples to be closed. Under state law, people are allowed to kill iguanas, an invasive species, in a quick and humane manner. An autopsy, however, showed the iguana had a lacerated liver, broken pelvis and internal bleeding, which were “painful and terrifying” injuries, prosecutors said.

But Patterson’s public defender Frank Vasconcelos wrote that the iguana was the aggressor when he “leaned forward with his mouth wide open and showing his sharp teeth, in a threatening manner” and attacked. Patterson. Bleeding from his bite, Patterson “kicked the iguana as far as he could,” Vasconcelos said.

“Patterson believed the iguana could have injected poison into him and so he rushed to neutralize the iguana in the best possible way to preserve his antidote,” Vasconcelos wrote.

Iguanas are not poisonous and usually run when a human approaches.

“Any force Patterson used to prevent further serious bodily injury or even death was reasonably justified,” Vasconcelos wrote.

Gillen J. rejected this argument. Patterson could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

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