HOUSTON – The wife of a man who claimed Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law allowed him to fatally shoot a neighbor told jurors Tuesday her husband is very remorseful about the deadly incident.
Raul Rodriguez, 46, faces up to life in prison after being convicted of murder in the 2010 killing of Kelly Danaher.
"I hear him cry at night. I hear him have dreams and nightmares about what happened ... it tears him up. He's not the same," said Donna Rodriguez, one of the last witnesses to testify in the punishment phase of her husband's trial. Both Rodriguez and his wife cried as she spoke.
Closing arguments in the punishment phase were set for Wednesday with jurors then expected to begin deliberating Rodriguez's sentence.
Rodriguez, a retired Houston-area firefighter, went to Danaher's home to confront him about the noise coming from a birthday party there. He 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. A jury convicted Rodriguez on June 13.
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. Rodriguez's case, however, was decided under a different kind of self-defense doctrine.
During the trial, prosecutors have portrayed Rodriguez as a neighborhood bully who took a gun to complain about loud music and could have safely walked away from the confrontation in Huffman, an unincorporated area about 30 miles northeast of Houston, any time before the shooting. Defense attorneys argued Rodriguez, who had a concealed handgun permit, was defending himself when one of the men lunged at him and he had less than a second to respond.
Prosecution witnesses, including former co-workers and neighbors, told jurors during the punishment phase that Rodriguez was abusive, a bad neighbor and once shot a dog.
Thirteen witnesses for Rodriguez have contradicted those claims, saying he was not abusive or a gun fanatic and that he shot the dog when it threatened his family.
Donna Rodriguez specifically denied claims that her husband had pulled a gun on his ex-wife and another neighbor over a different noise complaint, had been abusive to their children and that he walked around their neighborhood, including to a school bus stop to pick up their children, with his handgun in plain view, intimidating people.
Donna Rodriguez, who was being treated for breast cancer when the fatal shooting happened, also testified about her husband's service in the U.S. Navy, his work as a firefighter and how a work accident left him disabled with injuries to his neck, spine, shoulder and back. She also testified her husband got along with his neighbors and once rushed to the aid of one who had suffered a heart attack.
She was the last defense witness. Prosecutors presented two rebuttal witnesses, including Rodriguez's ex-wife, Ginger Rodriguez, who claimed the former couple's son, 18-year-old Daniel, had not been truthful when he testified for his father on Monday. She did not go into specific statements, however.
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. Legal experts say the expansion in general gave people wider latitude on the use of deadly force.