An Iowa judge is once again deliberating how to apply the state’s Stand Your Ground law. Sixth District Judge Patrick Grady held a hearing this week in the case of Michael Hodges in Linn County.

The 23-year-old Hodges, of Cedar Rapids, faces an attempted murder charge in the shooting of 21-year-old Zevon Johnson of Urbandale. Hodges’ lawyer, Tyler Johnston, argues his client should be immune from prosecution because he feared for his life. “I think it was obvious to anybody in there that he was telling the truth and that the way the law is written now, that he complied with every provision of that law,” Johnston said. “The state had their opportunity to try to prove otherwise and they chose not to.”

The two men shot at each other outside of a downtown Cedar Rapids pub in January. Hodges claims he should be immune from prosecution because Johnson pulled his gun first. The state’s lawyer, Rena Schulte, sees it differently. “It’s my belief that the Legislature didn’t intend for someone to be able to aggress towards another person, shoot that person, and then claim self-defense,” Schulte said.

If Judge Grady rules in Hodges’ favor, he would sidestep a trial. Hodges shot and injured Johnson, who fired at Hodges at nearly the same time, but missed. Johnson is also claiming self-defense and will have a hearing on his immunity claim.

This is the latest test case of Iowa’s Stand Your Ground law, passed in 2017, and another chance for a judge to weigh in on the legislature’s intent. A judge in a previous case in Johnson County labeled the law “void for vagueness.” In another case, in Montgomery County, a judge ruled a Red Oak man was justified when he shot and killed one of two men who attacked him in an alley while wearing hoodies and bandannas.

(Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)