WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A judge has rejected a Florida
man's "stand your ground" defense, claiming that he only beat an iguana to death
after it attacked him and bit him on the arm.
PJ Nilaja Patterson, 43, must stand trial
on a felony animal cruelty
charge, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen recently ruled, according to the South Florida SunSentinel.
The “stand your ground” law allows a person who is under attack and reasonably fears death or great bodily harm to use deadly force, even if they could 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 an animal has been the recipient of deadly force.
Prosecutors allege that Patterson “savagely beat, tormented, tortured, and killed” the 3-foot (1-meter) iguana in a half-hour attack captured on surveillance video.
Prosecutor Alexandra Dorman stated that the iguana "at no time posed any real threat" to Patterson last September and that he "was not justified in his actions when he kicked this defenseless animal at least 17 times, resulting in its death."
According to animal control officials, Patterson tormented the animal, which bit him on the arm, requiring 22 staples to close.
A necropsy revealed the iguana had a lacerated liver, broken pelvis, and internal bleeding, which prosecutors claim were “painful and terrifying” injuries.
But, according to Patterson's public defender, Frank Vasconcelos, the iguana was the aggressor when it "leaned forward with its mouth wide open and showing its sharp teeth, in a threatening manner" and attacked Patterson, who was bleeding from his bite and "kicked the iguana as far as he could."
“Patterson suspected that the iguana had injected poison into him, so he rushed to incapacitate the iguana as quickly as he could in order to preserve its antidote,” Vasconcelos wrote.
Iguanas are not poisonous, and they typically flee when approached by humans.
“Any force used by Patterson to avoid further serious bodily harm or death was reasonably justified,” Vasconcelos wrote.
Patterson faces up to five years in prison
if convicted, and Judge Gillen rejected that argument.