Past articles document the media’s bias against Castle Doctrine, insinuating that this enhanced self-defense law impedes investigators and handcuffs prosecutors,1 or that the right of self-defense originated with Castle Doctrine.2
Laura Whitley of ABC Houston affiliate KTRK covering a recent self-defense story where Rodney Shamlin was shot by homeowner Gary Southworth, wrote:
A new law that just went into effect in September allows Texans to defend themselves with deadly force in their homes, cars and work places. The Castle Doctrine removes the requirement that a person must attempt to retreat before using deadly force.3
Whitley’s claim that Castle Doctrine supposedly “allows Texans to defend themselves with deadly force in their homes, cars and work places” is revisionism at its best. But she never addresses a primary criteria for including the above paragraph: Does this incident have anything to do with Castle Doctrine or does prior self-defense law apply?
Self-Defense Law Before Castle Doctrine
(Note: All Texas law referenced below pre-dated Castle Doctrine.)
Texas Penal Code (Section 9.31) restricts the use of force in self-defense “when and to the degree he reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.”4 [Emphasis added]
Texas law also states:
(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; (2) if a reasonable person in the actor’s situation would not have retreated; and (3) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or
(B) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.5 [Emphasis added]
Whitley wrote that Southworth was calling the police when Shamlin saw where Southworth was hiding:
“I cannot believe it,” he told us. “I was trying to dial 911 on my phone and when he saw where I was hiding, he should have turned around and ran or something. Not continue.”6
Watching as Shamlin approached him with a potential weapon in his hand, Southworth feared for his life:
“And when the guy came at me, I had no choice, I thought he was going to Taser me with that thing he had,” he told me [Whitley]. I asked if he thought Shamlin had a Taser in his hand.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought it was,” he replied.7
The weapon turned out to be a saw, but a cutting tool with a sharp edge has the potential for serious injury, especially if wielded against an elderly person. Also, it is unreasonable to expect a person who is already hiding to attempt to flee.
Regarding robbery, Texas law states:
(a) A person commits an offense if, in the course of committing theft as defined in Chapter 31 and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he:
(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
(2) intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.8 [Emphasis added]
Southworth’s fear of imminent bodily injury or death, combined with Shamlin’s alleged robbery, satisfy Texas’s criteria for the use of deadly force. Gratuitous Choir-Boy Testimony
Biased reporting on self-defense is not complete without including a claim that the deceased was the victim. In a follow-up article, Whitley wrote:
Shamlin’s distraught father wants answers. He does not believe his son was stealing, but admits he wasn’t there. “Why didn’t he tell him to lie down,” asked Lenard Shamlin, Jr. said. “Lie down and call the police, he called the police anyway.”9
Perhaps Shamlin, aged 36 and reportedly on probation for a theft conviction, would not “lie down” because he considered a 60-year-old man easy prey?10
Castle Doctrine has nothing to do with this act of self-defense other than to protect the defender from another robbery via a wrongful death suit filed by “distraught” family members, should the shooting be ruled justifiable homicide. Mentioning Castle Doctrine in this article seems a ploy to distract the reader from ABC’s bias against legal self-defense.
1 Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: Media Myth-Conception, News Busters, August 14, 2007. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/howard-nemerov/2007/08/14/gun-control-media-myth-conception
2 Howard Nemerov, Coming to a Media Outlet New You!!! TSRA Sportsman, September/October 2007.
3 Laura Whitley, Homeowner shoots and kills suspects burglar in Porter, KTRK, November 29, 2007. http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=5793118
4 Texas Penal Code, Chapter 9. Justification Excluding Criminal Responsibility, Subchapter C. Protection of Persons, Section 9.31: Self-Defense. http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/PE/content/htm/pe.002.00.000009.00.htm
5 Texas Penal Code, Chapter 9. Justification Excluding Criminal Responsibility, Subchapter C. Protection of Persons, Section 9.32: Deadly Force in Defense of Person. http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/PE/content/htm/pe.002.00.00000...
6 Laura Whitley, Man explains deadly shooting in Porter, KTRK, November 30, 2007. http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=5804740
8 Texas Penal Code, Chapter 29, Robbery, Paragraph 29.02. http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/PE/content/htm/pe.007.00.000029.00.htm#29.02.00
9 Laura Whitley, Man explains deadly shooting in Porter, KTRK, November 30, 2007.
10 Reneé C. Lee, Man shot by resident had criminal past, Houston Chronicle, November 30, 2007. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5343549.html