Prosecutors Take Another Shot at "Stand Your Ground" Case

Prosecutors began their second crack at convicting Raul Rodriguez this week for the 2010 killing of his neighbor, whose party had become a bit too boisterous for Rodriguez's taste. 

Rodriguez's 2012 conviction was overturned last year after an appellate court ruled that the jury instructions were confusing and erroneous. 

The jury, who hopefully won't be confused this time, heard opening statements Tuesday in Rodriguez's retrial, with prosecutors saying he was itchin' for a fight with his Huffman neighbor, and Rodriguez claiming he only shot Kelly Danaher in self-defense, according to the Houston Chronicle.  

Rodriguez, 51, is again invoking the "stand your ground" law as a defense, even though no one disputes that he stood on the street outside Danaher's home with a gun and recorded the incident on his cell phone. Rodriguez had earlier complained to another neighbor, Pete Fornols, about the noise. Fornols testified at the first trial that he called the police with a noise complaint, hoping to calm down Rodriguez, who he said was in "almost like a frantic state, like...he was just about to pop." 

Attorneys on both sides explained their interpretation of Rodrigurez's 22-minute cell phone video.

Prosecutor Kelli Johnson argued Tuesday that Rodriguez provoked the incident, saying "As the minutes tick by, he gets angrier and angrier. Finally he beckons the men from the safety of the porch out to the street," according to the Chron.

Rodriguez's lawyer, Kyle Sampson, told jurors that his Rodriguez "planned to videotape the noise, then call the police with proof of the nuisance," the Chron reports. But then he was charged by a group of angry, drunk, threatening men, and he can be heard on the video saying "I am in fear for my life." 

Court records show that Rodriguez wasn't a big fan of Danaher even before he killed him. As we reported in December, the day before Rodriguez shot the 36-year-old teacher, court records show Rodriguez had seen Danaher walk over to his neighbor's house to borrow some tools. "What did that cocksucker want?" Rodriguez asked his neighbor. "I wouldn't loan that son of a bitch sweat off my balls if he was dying of thirst. He's one of the son of a bitches that keep us awake at night with loud music."

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he was unable to employ the state's obscure "Sweat Off My Balls" defense, so he had to settle for the Castle Doctrine, which still seems like a stretch to us. But apparently not to the First Court Appeals, which cited enough "conflicting evidence" that could have supported an acquittal if it weren't for those pesky jury instructions. 

We wrote in December, when Rodriguez's conviction was overturned:
Rodriguez's appellate lawyers argued that the state erroneously added to the jury instructions parts of the penal code that deal with "unlawful carrying of a handgun" by a concealed-carry permit holder (namely, that you're in violation of that law if you flash your handgun "in plain view of another person in a public place," hence the concealed part). The state even conceded that the language shouldn't have been there, and Rodriguez's attorneys argued that the wording must have confused jurors into thinking that, since Rodriguez failed to abide by the concealed-carry law, his self-defense claim should be thrown out.
We understand that the jury instructions come with a color-coded diagram this time, and that the answers are in the back (although jurors are urged not to peek unless absolutely necessary). We look forward to seeing how this one turns out.  
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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow