Texas Lawmaker Seeks Changes to Self-Defense Law

Friday, 30 Mar 2012 11:19 AM

By Robert Engler

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A Texas lawmaker plans to introduce legislation to amend the state’s self-defense “Castle Doctrine” law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, according to a report by KHOU-TV in Houston.
 
Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman told the station the Texas legislature went too far in 2007 when it removed the “duty to retreat before using deadly force” clause from the law, which gives citizens a green light to defend themselves, or stand their ground, rather than run from a confrontation. He said the change in wording had a disproportionate impact on minorities.

“The reality is . . . that it’s all about the perception whether someone is or isn’t going to use deadly force, which allows someone to shoot first and ask questions later,” Coleman said. “That turns into an affirmative defense against prosecution.”

Coleman said he would use the Martin case, in which an African-American teenager was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman, as the catalyst for changing the Texas law.

“All it takes is a tragedy for people to understand that something needs to be changed,” he said in the TV interview. “And I don’t think any legislator in this state wants to be perceived as allowing somebody the ability to shoot someone without good cause.”

Coleman cited the November 2007 case of Joe Horn, a retired suburban Houston homeowner who shot two burglars who had broken into a neighbor’s house, as an example of the adverse impact the Castle Doctrine has on minorities.

Horn called 911 to report the burglary in progress and was urged by the operator to stay inside. Instead, Horn armed himself with a shotgun, went outside, and shot and killed the burglars.

It was determined later the two men killed were illegal immigrants who had fled Colombia after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Horn insisted he was in fear for his life. He was never charged in the incident, despite racially tinged protests demanding that he be indicted for murder.

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