Jurors in Snyder County convicted 20-year-old Seth Hornberger of Mifflinburg of third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the March 2011 stabbing death of 22-year-old Alan Martin.
Hornberger said he acted to stop an assault on a 17-year-old in the kitchen of a Selinsgrove apartment. In response to a defense motion, Snyder-Union President Judge Michael Sholley ruled that he had given faulty instructions to the jury and ordered a new trial.
At issue is whether Hornberger, a guest, had a duty to leave the apartment rather than using deadly force against Martin, who was also a guest.
Prosecutors argued that even if Hornberger believed killing Martin was necessary to protect the teenager, he had a duty to retreat from the emerging conflict.
The law requires a person to attempt to retreat from a conflict before using deadly force, but an exception to the rule known as the "castle doctrine" says the duty to retreat doesn't apply to someone in their own home. Hornberger argued that the home was his own, but District Attorney Thomas Piecuch said since he didn't live with the homeowner, the residence couldn't possibly be considered Hornberger's "castle."
The Superior Court justices who upheld Sholley's ruling wrote that prosecutors could present evidence and argue that point during the retrial, The (Sunbury) Daily Item said.
Information from: The Daily Item, http://www.dailyitem.com