A Texas jury convicted 46-year-old Raul Rodriguez of murder for shooting his unarmed neighbor in a dispute in 2010. Rodgriguez claimed that he was acting in self-defense according to the state’s version of a “stand your ground” law.
Rodriguez Invokes Stand Your Ground Defense
The dispute arose when Rodriguez became upset due to the level of noise coming from his neighbor’s home. His neighbor, Kelly Danaher, was having a birthday party at his home. Rodriguez went over to the house and argued with Danaher and two other men who attended the party.
Rodriguez recorded the account on a video recorder. The video ran for 22 minutes. During the last seven minutes, Rodriguez tells Danaher to turn down the noise. He also mentions that he is afraid that the partygoers will hurt him. Rodriguez calls police while videotaping the situation. He tells the dispatcher that he fears for his life and that he is going to stand his ground.
The video depicts Danaher and two men running after Rodriguez. There is the sound of laughter followed by a gunshot before the camera falls and the screen goes blank.
Rodriguez shot and killed Danaher. The other two men were wounded in the altercation. Danaher was 36 years old at the time of his death.
Stand Your Ground Laws
Variations of “stand your ground” laws have been adopted in several states. These laws essentially remove the requirement to retreat and allow the use of deadly force in self-defense in certain circumstances. The defense came under national scrutiny when Florida resident George Zimmerman claimed that he was standing his ground when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, in February 2012. That case has sparked a widespread outcry over the use of the “stand your ground” defense when the shooter first pursues the victim.
Under Texas’ Castle Doctrine, people are not only allowed to use deadly force to defend their homes, they can also defend their vehicles and workplaces. However, the person cannot be involved in criminal activity or provoke the attacker.
Jury Rejects Rodriguez’s Self-Defense Claim
Prosecutors argued that Rodriguez could not rely on the Castle Doctrine because he provoked the confrontation by showing up at his neighbor’s house. They also argue that he engaged in criminal activity prior to the shooting by attacking an unarmed person. They relied on testimony from Rodriguez’s ex-wife, former coworkers and other neighbors to present an image of Rodriguez as an abusive person and a bad neighbor. Someone even testified that Rodriguez had once shot a dog. Prosecutors argued that the taped confrontation was too deliberate and that Rodriguez used phrases learned from a concealed handgun class in attempt to get away with murder.
Neal Davis, Rodriguez’s attorney, argued that Rodriguez did not provoke anyone and that he did not draw his gun until he had left Danaher’s home. He argued that Rodriguez had to make a split-second decision to fire his gun when he was being charged by the three men. Davis did not present any witnesses in Rodriguez’s defense during the trial.
The jury rejected Rodriguez’s stand your ground defense. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
This article was written by Jennifer Carrigan on behalf of Bail Bondsman, where you can find bail bonds in Texas.