HOUSTON – Attorneys for a Texas man who argued the state's version of a stand-your-ground law allowed him to fatally shoot a neighbor after a verbal confrontation at a 2010 party rested their case Tuesday without calling any witnesses.
With the end of testimony, jurors had been expected to begin deliberating Raul Rodriguez's fate after closing arguments Tuesday afternoon. But state District Judge David Mendoza delayed closings until Wednesday to give lawyers more time to finalize instructions to the jury.
Prosecutors painted Rodriguez, 47, as the aggressor, saying he took a gun, and a video camera, to complain about Kelly Danaher's party and was looking to get into a fight. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of murder.
Rodriguez's attorneys claim the retired Houston-area firefighter shot Danaher, a 36-year-old elementary school physical education teacher, in self-defense after someone lunged at him. Rodriguez, who videotaped the incident, can be heard on the recording claiming he feared for his life and saying "I'm standing my ground here."
Though the shooting happened two years before the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida and will be decided under a different kind of self-defense doctrine, Rodriguez's statement calls to mind the law that has come under increased scrutiny since Martin was killed.
Prosecutors have tried to show during the trial that Rodriguez had a history of not getting along with Danaher and other neighbors.
One neighbor, Terri Hackathorn, told jurors Tuesday that Rodriguez bragged about his guns and told her one could avoid prosecution in a shooting by telling authorities you were in fear of your life and were standing your ground and defending yourself.
Mindy Danaher, the teacher's widow, was the final prosecution witness and tearfully told jurors her husband was not a confrontational person and that if he had known the get-together — a birthday party for her and the couple's 5-year-old daughter — was disturbing others, he would have taken care of the situation.
"I know my husband, he would have been like, 'Turn it down or turn it off.' He does not want problems with anybody," she said.
Mindy Danaher said no other neighbors had complained about the party at their home in Huffman, an unincorporated area about 30 miles northeast of Houston.
Crying periodically through her testimony, Danaher burst into tears after being shown an autopsy photo of her husband, prompting Mendoza to call for a brief break.
After prosecutors rested their case, defense attorney William Stradley asked Mendoza to issue a verdict in his client's favor, arguing testimony had shown the retired firefighter was only defending himself. Mendoza denied the request.
Stradley then said the defense would rest without presenting any testimony.
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. It allows people to defend themselves in their homes, workplaces or vehicles.
The law also says a person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.