Houston • A Houston jury convicted a man Wednesday of murdering his neighbor during a confrontation outside the neighbor’s home two years ago, rejecting his claim that he was within his rights to fatally shoot the man under Texas’ version of a stand-your-ground law.
Raul Rodriguez, 47, faces up to life in prison for the 2010 killing of Kelly Danaher.
Rodriguez, a retired Houston-area firefighter, was angry about the noise coming from his neighbor’s home, where a birthday party was taking place. He went to the home and got into an argument with Danaher, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher, and two other men who were at the party.
In a 22-minute video he recorded the night of the shooting, Rodriguez can be heard telling a police dispatcher “my life is in danger now” and “these people are going to go try and kill me.” He then said “I’m standing my ground here,” and shot Danaher. The two other men were wounded.
Rodriguez’s reference to standing his ground is similar to the claim made by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who is citing Florida’s stand-your-ground law in his defense in the fatal February shooting of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. Rodiguez’s case, however, was decided under a different kind of self-defense doctrine.
Prosecutors called Rodriguez the aggressor who took a gun to complain about loud music and could have safely left his neighbor’s driveway any time before the shooting. Defense attorneys argued Rodriguez was defending himself when one of the men lunged at him and he had less than a second to respond.
Rodriguez’s attorneys did not present any witnesses at trial, seeking to put the burden on Danaher and the two other men who the defense claimed caused the confrontation to escalate.
But Danaher’s widow told jurors her husband was not a confrontational person and that if he had known the get-together — a birthday party for her and their young daughter — was disturbing others, he would have taken care of the situation.
During the trial, prosecutors tried to show Rodriguez had a history of not getting along with Danaher and other neighbors in Huffman, an unincorporated area about 30 miles northeast of Houston.
One neighbor testified that Rodriguez, who had a concealed handgun license, bragged about his guns and that he told her a person could avoid prosecution in a shooting by telling authorities you were in fear of your life and were standing your ground and defending yourself.
Texas’ version of a stand-your-ground law is known as the Castle Doctrine. It was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. The new version allows people to defend themselves in their homes, workplaces or vehicles. It also says a person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.