Man Won`t Face Murder Charges

Man Won`t Face Murder Charges A man who shot and killed a would-be thief in his yard will not face murder charges after a Gloucester County grand jury voted against indicting him.

Neighbors had protested when Robert J. Clark Jr. was first charged with murder after slaying a man who was trying to steal his all-terrain vehicle from a backyard shed.

The grand jury, which decides whether there's enough evidence in criminal cases to proceed to trial, took the actions Wednesday, but the Gloucester County prosecutor's office did not announce them until Thursday.

The grand jury did return one indictment in the case: The alleged accomplice of the victim was indicted on charges of burglary and theft.

Authorities initially charged Clark with murder, aggravated assault and a weapons offense after he killed William Hamilton on April 26. The grand jury voted against indicting Clark on those charges or any others, including a lesser offense such as manslaughter.

"I've always felt the people of Gloucester County were solid, commonsense Americans and they saw this exactly as it was -- a person defending his home, his family, his life," said Clark's defense lawyer, Mike Pinsky.

But prosecutors are not giving up.

After the shooting, prosecutor Sean F. Dalton defended the charges, saying that New Jersey state law does not allow the use of deadly force to protect property. That's still his line.

Spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld said prosecutors are considering all their options for where to continue, including presenting the case to a second grand jury.

Weisenfeld said the decision not to indict indicates "that individuals are allowed to shoot people who steal things, which we believe is contrary to the law."

While it is not legal to use deadly force to protect personal property, it is legal to do so to protect one's home -- and that's what Clark did, Pinsky said.

Clark, whose wife was not home, had fallen asleep in his living room while watching "Terminator 3" when he heard a noise in the back yard of his Franklin Township home and looked out the window to see a pair of men trying to steal the ATV he stored in his shed. He tried to call police, but could not get a signal on his cell phone, officials said.

That's when he shot Hamilton, 39, of Clementon, in the chest with a handgun.

The other man, Dwain Jones, 42, of Franklin Township, fled as Clark fired after him. Jones was indicted on theft and burglary charges Wednesday.

Pinsky said his client did not know whether Jones or Hamilton was armed and that they were just feet from his house when he fired.

Neighbors said Clark, an electrician and former emergency medical technician, tried to administer first-aid to Hamilton before he realized the man was dead.

More than 100 neighbors in the rural section of Gloucester County held a protest a few days after Clark, 33, was charged with murder last spring.

Since then, supporters have held benefits that have raised about $20,000 to help Clark pay his mounting legal bills, said neighbor Patricia Moore.

"We don't want to see them lose their house," said Moore, one of the fund-raiser organizers. "He works hard. He's in the electrical union. They came and basically screwed up his life."

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Author: NBC10/AP


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