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Amending the Texas “Stand Your Ground” law

I agree with this.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said Texas needs to revise its law to prevent a tragedy such as the Trayvon Martin case in Florida from happening here.

This state’s current law is not that different from the so-called Stand Your Ground law used in Florida. Under current law in the Lone Star State, a person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense or if someone is unlawfully and with force trying to enter their home, business or vehicle or is in the act of committing murder, kidnapping, rape or robbery.

The current law took its shape in 2007, and used a model that had passed in Florida and 14 other states. What changed is that the Texas Legislature removed a provision that said people have a duty to retreat if faced with a potentially violent situation. The old law also said that citizens had the right to use deadly force to protect themselves, others or their property but only if there was no avenue for escape.

Coleman, who voted against the change five years ago, said it’s time to dial back the Texas law to its pre-2007 status. He said a duty to retreat could have prevented what happened in Florida when a neighborhood watch volunteer confronted an unarmed teenager and ended up shooting him.

Rep. Coleman expanded on that on his site.

The Texas Castle Doctrine too freely gives license to use deadly force based on subjective assumptions and needs to be corrected. In 2007, when the Legislature eliminated the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, the likelihood of killing someone simply because they were presumed to be dangerous was increased. Now Texans can justify the use of deadly force based on perceived danger almost anywhere and not just at home— in their cars on public roads, the workplace, and essentially anywhere they are not trespassing and lawfully allowed to be on that property. What was passed in 2007 was unnecessary, and I voted against it. Texas law already allowed people to defend themselves against deadly force with deadly force if they were unable to run away and escape danger. I will file legislation that returns Texas law to a balance that values human life, avoids violence when possible, and preserves the right to self-defense in clear situations of immediate life-threatening danger.

Coleman sent out an email announcing this as well, which included this link to the House Research Organization’s bill analysis of SB378. I note that one of the people who testified against the bill in the House committee hearing was Bill Delmore from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. I believe that this extension of Texas’ Castle Doctrine was unnecessary, and now that we have clearly seen the potential consequences, it’s time to rethink it. I hope Rep. Coleman’s colleagues in the Lege listen to him. The Chron has more.

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4 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    Kuff, you mean you want me to have to run until my back is against a fence, and then I can protect myself? No thanks. You can run if you like, but I’ll pick how, when, and where I retreat, and if I decide the best chance to protect myself is when the altercation starts, so be it. However, I do try to avoid situations where I would have to make that decision, and would likely have left the scene in Florida.

    We do not have any real clue as to what happened in Florida. How do you know that Zimmerman was the aggressor? Is the fact that the victim was black skewing your perception? If, in fact, Martin was on top of Zimmerman, beating him, would Zimmerman have been justified in using deadly force, or should he have to take the beating? I could also easily believe that Martin was protecting himself. Either scenario is reasonable. We really do not have all the facts necessary to make a decision here.

  2. Alby says:

    Texas’ Castle Doctrine differs far more significantly from the Florida Stand Your Ground Law than is depicted here. While a Texan is not required to retreat from a confrontation, the law cannot be used in his defense if he is the aggressor or if no crime is being committed.

    I consider myself fairly liberal (and while my mind is by no means made up, I tend to think Zimmerman was the aggressor in that case because by his own admission he followed Martin), but I agree with the Castle Doctrine, especially in those states, like Texas, that have large swaths of rural areas where people cannot always rely on law enforcement to protect them.

    But perhaps in Houston, the police always respond immediately and competently to every crime in progress and its citizens there have no need for self-protection.

  3. George says:

    As a Houstonian who waited 45 minutes for the police to arrive after a break in to sweep the residence, I can safely say it is not the case that the police arrive quickly in Houston. There is always a need for self protection, and anyone who believes they can rely soley on the state to protect them is living in a fantasy land.

  4. Cindy says:

    I think it’s the “preserves the right to self-defense in clear situations of immediate life-threatening danger” that probably bothers me the most. The question becomes, – who decides what “clear” means?
    What is “clear” in the moment and the situation can be different when the situation is over and you have all of the information that can be gathered after the event has taken place. It’s much easier to decide that the quarterback shouldn’t have made the pass that was intercepted AFTER the play is over.
    “Under current law in the Lone Star State, a person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense or if someone is unlawfully and with force trying to enter their home, business or vehicle or is in the act of committing murder, kidnapping, rape or robbery.” I truly can’t read this and figure out why there is a problem with the law standing the way it is…

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