Raul Rodriguez Found Guilty, Jury Rejects “Stand Your Ground” Defense

Last week I introduced readers to Raul Rodriguez, who was then at the time on trial for murder. Rodriguez was on trial for the shooting death of his neighbor after a confrontation over loud music being played at the neighbor’s house. Unlike the “stand your ground” cases being discussed as of late, Rodriguez’s shooting was caught on tape – he actually filmed the entire incident himself, and was on the phone with 911 at the time of the shooting. Two other men were wounded in the confrontation that left Rodriguez’s neighbor dead.

I have to be honest, the fact that the evidence included video footage of the entire confrontation, it was my opinion after watching it, that Rodriguez would be acquitted. But, I was wrong; he was found guilty, and is now awaiting a possible life sentence. However, with Rodriguez being Hispanic and the victim being white, one has to wonder where are all the racial justice activists, and why aren’t they speaking out on his behalf. No really, where are the cries of “injustice,” much like we’ve heard and continue to hear from supporters of Marissa Alexander.

Marissa as you know, is currently serving as twenty year sentence, for as she put it, firing a warning shot to ward off the advances of her abusive husband who attempted to kill her. As I’ve showed recently, her defense failed as, and a jury was convinced by prosecutors that she did not fire a warning shot out of fear for her life; but instead, she acted irresponsibly and out of anger. Like Alexander, I suppose the same could be said of Rodriguez given testimony in court last week by one of his neighbors. As much as I believed he was within his rights to defend himself, I must say the following was pretty damning, and was obviously the nail in the coffin for Rodriguez:

HOUSTON (KHOU/CBS) – A jury has found a retired Baytown firefighter guilty of murder in the killing of his neighbor in a dispute over loud music.

Closing arguments were delivered Wednesday in the murder trial of 47-year-old Raul Rodriguez.

The slaying happened in May 2010 outside New Caney P.E. teacher Kelly Danaher’s home in rural northeast Harris County. Danaher was holding a party that Rodriguez, who lives nearby, said was too loud.

Rodriguez, his attorneys claimed, called police several times before confronting the party-goers with a flashlight, gun and video camera. They said he was within his rights when he opened fire on Danaher and his two friends.

[…] But prosecutors said Wednesday that Rodriguez had a very good understanding of the law, and he tried to use that as a license to intimidate neighbors.

“This is about the neighborhood bully armed with a CHL, with an arsenal of weapons and a knowledge of the law,” prosecutor Donna Logan said. “He felt like he had ultimate control – the control to determine who lives and who dies.”

[…] The defense didn’t call any witnesses, but prosecutors called multiple to the stand, including a neighbor who poked holes in those self-defense claims and portrayed Rodriguez as trigger-happy.

Terri Hackathorn testified how Rodriguez often bragged about his arsenal of weapons, and she recalled an “unusual conversation” she and Rodriguez had a couple of months before the shooting.

Hackathorn testified Rodriguez came to her home excited about a new gun he bought and coached her about Texas’ “stand your ground” laws.

“As long as you tell authorities you fear for your life, then you can shoot (any) son of a (expletive),” Hackathorn said Rodriguez told her. (source)

To the countless individuals who subscribe to the notion that “stand your ground” laws gives license to assholes to become vigilante killers, Raul Rodriguez will now serve as evidence to support their agenda, which is to repeal said law. Which is really sad when you think about it, because these very people refuse to hold Marissa Alexander to the same standard, as they continue to see her as a victim of yet an already racially biased judicial system. That aside, I still have a hard time believing that Rodriguez provoked the confrontation as sold by prosecutors.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Kelli Johnson said Rodriguez started the confrontation when instead of calmly asking Danaher to turn down the music he armed himself with a handgun and a camera and proceeded to harass people at the party.

Johnson said Rodriguez lured and provoked Danaher and two other men to come out onto the street and threatened them by brandishing his gun. Rodriguez did have a concealed handgun license. She said Danaher and the two other men were unarmed and that Rodriguez’s life was never in any danger. Danaher’s widow had told jurors her husband was not a confrontational person.

“This is not what stand your ground is,” Johnson said. “Stand your ground is something the law takes very seriously. The law makes it very clear” when the law can be used.

Texas’ version of the law, which is known as the Castle Doctrine, was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. It allows people to defend themselves not only in their homes but also in their workplaces or vehicles. Legal experts say the expansion also gave people wider latitude on the use of deadly force.

The law also says a person using force can’t provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.

Johnson said Rodriguez can’t hide behind the stand-your-ground law because he provoked the confrontation and then brandished his weapon against an unarmed individual, which is a crime.

But defense attorney Neal Davis said he doesn’t believe Rodriguez did anything illegal. He said Rodriguez went to complain and was confronted by Danaher and the two other partygoers, and that he didn’t pull out his gun until he was standing in the street and Danaher approached him in a threatening manner. (source)

I’ve posted and explained recently how race plays a factor in “stand your ground” cases nationally and more specifically in Florida.  And as I said then, I’ll say now: it’s easy to overlook the facts and circumstances surrounding a case and arrive at the conclusion that race pays (or played) a factor in it’s outcome. But to do so, isn’t acting in the interest of justice when one fails to take into account the facts of the case. However, at the end of the day, it’s important to send the message that being in possession of a weapon comes with great responsibility, and accountability.