Jury Rejects Texas Stand Your Ground Defense – Finds Rodriguez Guilty

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Raul Rodriguez, a retired firefighter was found guilty of murder for the shooting and killing of Kelly Danaher in 2010. The trials sentencing phase is to begin on Thursday, June 14.

The facts, as best as I have been able to ascertain, are that Mr. Rodriguez confronted his neighbors who were having a large party in the middle of the night on neutral ground, that is a house between his house and the house where the party was occurring. When the confrontation started to turn ugly, Mr. Rodriguez told several men from the party that he was armed and “feared for his life.” He brandished his firearm for the party goers to see. It should be noted that Mr. Rodriguez had a license to carry the firearm. It appears in the video available online that the men attempted to “rush” Mr. Rodriguez. He then shot three of the men, killing one and wounding the two others.

Mr. Rodriguez attempted to use the “Castle Doctrine”, Texas’s version of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law. The jury, however, rejected his defense.

To more closely examine, let’ss take a closer look at the Texas Castle Doctrine. The full Self Defense Penal Code – Section 9.3.1 and the 2007 Amendments can be found.

According to Subsection (a) Mr. Rodriguez’s belief that the force was immediately necessary and presumed to be reasonable if he:

(2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used; and

(3) was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of law or ordinance regulating traffic at the time the force was used.

Prosecutors contended that Rodriguez couldn’t hide behind the stand-your-ground law because he provoked the confrontation and improperly threatened the victim of the shooting with his firearm, which is a crime.

Under Subsection (e), if Mr. Rodriguez did not provoke Mr. Danaher and didn’t engage in any criminal activity at the time the force is used, he is not required to retreat before using force.

(e) A person who has a right to be present at the location where the force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used is not required to retreat before using force as described by this section.

If Texas had a “duty to retreat” rule, I could see the State asserting that Mr. Rodriguez had a reasonable opportunity to retreat before he was rushed.

However, since Texas law does not require Mr. Rodriguez to retreat, coupled with the fact that the burden of proof remains on the State to disprove self-defense by a reasonable doubt, this verdict is somewhat surprising. Of course, I have only seen the video-tape of the confrontation, perhaps there are additional facts that make Mr. Rodriguez to appear to be the aggressor.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.