"Leave, or I'll Shoot"

Michigan courts have authored several landmark decisions having national significance. One of the most famous is Pond v. People, which clarified the principle of self-defense and the defense of others.

In 1859, Augustus Pond and his family spent the summer in the Upper Peninsula village of Seul Choix, where he and dozens of other commercial fishermen harvested the rich summer catch of whitefish and lake trout. Pond and his family lived there in a one-room shanty, and his two hired men stayed 30 feet away in Pond’s net house.

Another fisherman, David Plant, took a dislike to Pond. Plant and two companions threatened and beat Pond, harassed his family and assaulted his hired men for three days and nights. The third night, the trio tore apart Pond’s net house and attacked his hired man sleeping inside. Upon hearing the commotion, Pond grabbed a shotgun. He twice shouted to the attackers to leave – or he would shoot. The only response was his hired man’s cry of pain. Pond fired, and one of Plant’s companions was killed.

Pond was convicted of manslaughter, but the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the conviction, saying:

“A man assaulted in his dwelling is not obliged to retreat, but may use such means as are absolutely necessary to repel the assailant from his house, or prevent his forcible entry, even to the taking of life.”

While recently visiting Mackinac Island, my husband, Tim, and I happened upon the plaque memorializing this important Michigan Legal Milestone. The plaque hangs just outside historic Mackinac Island City Hall where Pond was convicted.

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