Stand Your Ground, or Murder?
How many people have to die before we take a hard look at the stand-your-ground defense in Texas? How long before the message gets out that this will-nilly shooting of people on your property is a bad thing?
Stand your ground is intertwined with The Castle Doctrine, which was a Texas law revised in 2007 to include the right to use deadly force. It means a person doesn't have to retreat if placed in a situation where they need to protect themselves or someone else.
The Texas Penal Code §9.32 explains when you have to right to stand your ground:
(1) to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or (2) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery. (1) knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the deadly force was used: (2) unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor's occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment.
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A study from the Urban Institute from July 2013 revealed that states with stand-your-ground laws have a higher rate of justified killings compared with states with non stand-your-ground laws. The study looked at crimes between 2005-2010 and took into consideration the race of the victims and perpetrators.
"This is Texas and we have a law that essentially allows the use of deadly force if you believe that someone is wrongfully trying to enter your home," said University of Houston Law Professor, Sandra Thompson.
One of the recent cases happened last week when Johran McCormick was shot to death in his girlfriend's home. Police say at about 2:20 a.m. the unidentified father was told by another one of his children that someone was in his daughter's room. The father found McCormick in bed with his daughter.
Authorities say the girl told her father she didn't know who McCormick was and then an argument between both men started. The father claimed he saw McCormick reaching for something so he shot the teen. McCormick was pronounced dead at the scene. The daughter then said that she did in fact know McCormick.
"Investigators have not completed their report yet and once it is completed it'll be presented to a grand jury," said Harris County Sheriff Office Deputy Thomas Gilliland. "They'll determine if any charges are to be filed."
In another turn of events, community activist, Quanell X along with McCormick's friends and family planned to gather in front of the house where the shooting took place to demand charges be filed against the girl who lied to her father.
"Offensively they could try to charge her on the theory that she basically killed the young man by using an instrument," Thompson said. She explained the term "innocent instrument mentality" as the father being an innocent person who was misled by his daughter.
In a similar case just a few days later, a 64-year-old woman fired her gun through the front door of her home because she said someone was trying to break in. Police say the woman gave verbal warnings to the man but he didn't comply. She fired twice and hit Samuel Keen, who turned out to be a four-year veteran with the Houston Fire Department.
Keen was taken to Ben Taub Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The case is still under investigation and deputies will prepare the case to present to a grand jury.
"I don't see how they would have a viable prosecution in this case," said Thompson.
Stand your ground doesn't always uphold as a defense. In 2012 Raul Rodriguez was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for killing his neighbor, Kelly Danaher, and wounding two other men in Huffman, Texas after an argument over a noise complaint.