New Trial Granted Due to Castle Doctrine

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A young man convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in March has been granted a new trial.

Seth Hornberger's attorney argued that the judge in Snyder County misread instructions to the jury, dealing with the right to defend yourself.

Police accused Hornberger of stabbing to death Alan Martin during a fight at an apartment near Selinsgrove. Earlier this year, a jury found Hornberger guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter, but now he has been granted a new trial because of a state law called the Castle Doctrine.

"The individual within their home has the right to defend themselves and family members and property," said attorney Brad Hillman.

He did not defend Seth Hornberger, but he talked to Newswatch 16 about what the Castle Doctrine is. Hillman said a new version of Pennsylvania's law was signed last year by Governor Corbett.

"It expanded the doctrine to permit individuals within their homes to use deadly force, not just equal force if they feel their life is threatened and they don't have to retreat," Hillman said.

During Hornberger's trial in March, his lawyer said that Hornberger stabbed Martin in order to protect a friend. The judge granted a new trial after Hornberger's attorney argued that the judge told the jury Hornberger had a duty to flee, rather than a right to defend himself.

No one Newswatch 16 spoke to wanted to comment on the Seth Hornberger case in particular, but everyone did say they support the Castle Doctrine.

"When someone is threatened inside their own home, I think they should have the right to defend themselves," said Rick Blase of Williamsport.

"If someone's out to kill me or to hurt me, I would want to defend myself. It's a saying, I'd rather kill then be killed, but I wouldn't want to kill nobody," said Marcia Stewart of Williamsport.

The Snyder County district attorney said he has 30 days to decide if he will appeal the judge's decision to grant Seth Hornberger a new trial. Hornberger remains locked up.