Convicted felons caught with guns may tell stories they think justify carrying a weapon.
The 4th Circuit finally has heard a story strong enough to act on. In U.S. v. Mooney, a published case released yesterday, the court granted post-conviction relief to a West Virginia man sentenced to 180 months in jail after he turned in a firearm he wrestled away from his drunken ex-wife.
John Mooney left his job at 2:00 a.m. at a Huntington bar to return to the home he shared with his ex-wife, according to the 4th Circuit opinion. Mooney’s ex-wife came into his bedroom and pointed a gun at his head. He knew she had been drinking and knew she was trigger-happy. She had pulled a gun on Mooney before, had fired a gun at a boyfriend, and wounded a different ex-husband with the same gun touching the side of Mooney’s head.
Mooney wrested the gun away from the ex-wife, who thwarted his attempts to call 911. He called his boss and said he wanted to come back to the bar, where he turned in the gun to the police.
But when Mooney was charged with possession of the weapon, his lawyer told him and the court Mooney had no defense, and advised Mooney to plead guilty. The lawyer’s representation fell short of the Sixth Amendment standard, and Mooney gets another chance, the 4th Circuit panel said.
The appellate court said previously it had identified and described the “justification defense,” but never applied it. The district court record in Mooney’s case presented “one of those rare occasions” when the allegations, if proven at trial, would require the court to present the defense to the jury “and would likely persuade the jury,” said Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.