Father Sentenced to 8 Years After Fatally Beating Man Who Tried to Enter His Daughter’s Bathroom Stall
If you were listening to the first hour of Tuesday's Logic Nation on KTEM 1400 AM, you heard host Matt Bitros and attorney Ed Laughlin discussing the case of Melvin Harris III, who was accused of beating a man to death at an Arizona convenience store last year after the man tried to enter a toilet stall his daughter was occupying.
KSAZ-TV reports that Harris has been sentenced to 8 years in prison after accepting a plea deal for manslaughter. He had been charged with second-degree murder.
Back in August, Harris went to a convenience store in Phoenix to pick up his daughter and her friends. KPNX-TV reports that Harris encountered Leon Armstrong outside the store, where Armstrong asked him for money. Harris gave Armstrong some cash, after which Armstrong entered the store.
A short time later, Harris' daughter and her friends exited the store and told Harris that Armstrong tried to get into the women's restroom stall Harris' daughter was in. Police say Harris entered the store and told a security guard to take care of the situation or he would do it himself. Harris then approached Armstrong outside the store and punched him, knocking him to the ground. He then punched and kicked Armstrong before leaving the scene.
Armstrong later died in the hospital as a result of brain swelling.
Logic Nation Host Matt Bitros was frustrated with the ruling to say the least, arguing it was too harsh a punishment for a father fearing for the safety of his daughter and her young friends. The judge in the case disagreed, saying she didn't believe Harris' actions were defensive but intentional because Harris went to find Armstrong.
Ed Laughlin didn't exactly disagree with Matt, but brought an attorney's perspective to the conversation. He felt there were some unanswered questions concerning Armstrong's state of mind and intentions. Remember that Ed's a skilled attorney with years of experience, and his job is to explore every possibility no matter his personal feelings.
Personally, I'm torn. I can understand the need to protect and defend your daughter from a complete stranger in a public place with as much foot traffic as a convenience store, especially if that stranger basically (intentionally or not) had your child cornered in a restroom. Thinking clearly in that situation might be next to impossible. However, you do risk your safety and your freedom when you confront that person, and I agree with Matt that such a situation requires knowing your capabilities and defending yourself and your family intelligently and skillfully. Maybe in a case like this that means not confronting the person, but calling the police.
I'm obviously not a judge or an attorney, but a father serving 8 years in jail in a case like this just doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's a good thing I'm not in the legal profession. I'm a soft touch.
What do you think? Was Harris' sentence too harsh, or was the plea deal fair? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.