The iguana made me do it, Your Honor – or at least that’s what a Florida man accused of brutally killing one would have you believe.
PJ Nilaja Patterson faces animal cruelty charges that could land him in the slammer for up to five years.
Yet the 43-year-old has tried to seize on the Sunshine State’s notorious “stand your ground” law to claim that he only beat the creature to death in self-defense.
The law permits people to use deadly force when threatened with serious harm, thereby removing the duty to retreat.
Pattersons’s lawyers claimed that their 6-foot-3, 165-pound client was in fear of his life when he came across the 3-foot iguana in Lake Worth Beach on Sept. 2.
“The vicious animal got the best of Patterson and savagely bit his right arm,” Patterson’s attorneys said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Patterson, who needed 22 staples to close the wound, was the victim of a reptilian aggressor that initiated the violence, they argued.
The lizard “leaned forward with its mouth wide open and showing its sharp teeth, in a threatening manner,” the man’s lawyers said.
Patterson also “believed that the iguana could have injected poison in him,” according to public defender Frank Vasconcelos – despite the fact that iguanas are not poisonous.
Iguanas may be killed legally in Florida if the method is humane, according to the newspaper.
But prosecutors insist that the creature needlessly suffered.
Patterson “kicked this defenseless animal at least 17 times causing its death,” they stated, pointing to surveillance video of the half-hour attack.
Experts said the defendant “clearly tormented the iguana,” which was found to have a lacerated liver, broken pelvis and internal bleeding.
Eventually, a Palm Beach County circuit judge ruled that Patterson was not entitled to stand-your-ground immunity in the case.
His lawyers now need to find another way to get their man off the hook.