Tag Archives: iguana

Man Claims Self-Defense in Killing Iguana (Yes, It’s in Florida)

PJ Nilaja Patterson claims the encounter he had with an iguana was self-defense, claiming the 3-foot green iguana was the aggressor and that he was acting in self-defense when he killed the creature. A laceration on his arm from a bite required 22 staples to close up. Prosecutors counter that a surveillance video of the incident shows that Patterson tormented the animal, and then went into a violent rage when it bit him while defending itself. The iguana had to be put down due to the injuries suffered in the confrontation.

PJ Nilaja Patterson

Patterson claimed immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, that allows the use of force when defending oneself. A judge has denied the motion, however, Patterson still has a right to argue justifiable use of force at trial.

Green Iguanas are invasive creatures, and it is permitted to kill them under Florida law, but it must be done humanely. It’s not the first time we’ve covered the inhumane killing of an iguana that led to felony animal cruelty charges. The state has cleared it’s initial burden to allow the case to go forward, but to convict him, they will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not have a reasonable fear, or that the level of force use was not justified.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen self-defense argued for the killing of an animal. In 2013, a man accused of killing a protected sandbar shark testified at trial in Fort Myers that he killed the animal in self-defense. The court rejected that claim and he was convicted at a bench trial. A man in Bonita Springs claimed self-defense (and defense of property) when he killed a bear that entered his property back in 2009. He argued that Stand Your Ground also granted him immunity, and the state argued that Stand Your Ground only applies to humans. The judge denied his motion, and he ended up agreeing to plead guilty to killing a protected species and do probation in lieu of a trial. I am not aware of any case law that goes as far to say that Stand Your Ground does not apply to animals, and the self-defense statute reads, “[a] person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another”. Fla. Stat. Sec. 776.012(2)- it does not say anything that would limit it to defending yourself (or others) against a person instead of an animal. (Law enforcement officers kill aggressive pets with some frequency, for instance, which is lawful.)

The hurdle for Mr. Patterson is that the iguana was only three feet, and they are docile vegetarians. They run away from people. If the video shows him provoking the animal, he will be unlikely to garner much sympathy from the jury, despite his injury. People don’t like it when animals die: He may explore a plea deal, but he’s facing a felony for animal cruelty.

Also, it gives me another excuse to post Jimbo:

Uncle “He’s comin’ right for us!” Jimbo

Inmate Charged with Feeding Pet Iguana to an Alligator

RIP Mojo the Iguana

I didn’t know this, but apparently the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has a small animal farm at their facility on Stock Key in the Florida Keys, where about 150 animals reside. Inmates at the adjacent jail facility can get details at the zoo, helping to care for the animals, though apparently feeding the reptiles is not one of the inmate duties. The animal farm has become an attraction on the island, where it is open for free to the public twice per month and for special occasions and is popular with local families.

Jason Gibson

Inmate Jason Gibson was an inmate at the jail, and landed a detail working at the animal farm. That is, he worked there until he tossed an iguana named “Mojo” into the gator enclosure, where an alligator killed it. It was particularly distressing for those who worked at the farm, as Mojo had been a resident there for at least 13 years, and was considered more of a pet. The inmates who spoke to police were reportedly heartbroken. Gibson admitted to the deed, as well as another iguana a few weeks earlier. Gibson is facing two felony animal cruelty charges, in addition to the vehicular theft charge that landed him in custody in the first place. Crimcourts continues to keep you up date on all alligator related criminal law!