A re-trial begins this week in Houston for retired firefighter Raul Rodriguez who was previously convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in jail, reports the Houston Chronicle.  Rodriquez had unsuccessfully argued self-defense at trial. The notable oddity of this case was the fact that Rodriguez had videotaped himself rather bizarrely confronting loudly partying neighbors. Rodriguez would ultimately shoot and kill one of those neighbors, Kelly Danaher.

I first wrote about this case back in December of 2014, after the appellate court ruled that Rodriguez was entitled to a re-trial: “New Trial for Man Who Video Recorded Own ‘Self-Defense’ Shooting.” The grounds for ordering a re-trial was an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury on Texas self-defense law.

As I wrote at the time:

The facts of the case are somewhat ambiguous on detail, but in general they consist of an amalgam of a loud, drunken party, long-simmering neighborhood disputes, and incredibly poor judgment on the part of a retired fire-fighter in electing to exercise his concealed carry license by bringing his pistol to a confrontation. A tragic outcome was entirely predictable.

A particularly remarkable part of this case is that Rodriguez himself recorded the events of the conflict in an almost 20-minute video. A portion of the video recorded by Rodriguez is here. Roughly 15 preceding minutes are missing from this version, but the relevant end-stages of the conflict are captured, and the video ends with the first gun shot. Reportedly several shots were fired, including one which injured another party goer, in addition to the fatal round that struck Danaher.

Here’s that video:

Under Texas law a claim of self-defense can be defeated if the prosecution can prove that the defendant openly displayed (“failed to conceal”) a handgun in public concurrent with the purported act of self-defense (the legal reasoning behind this is complex, and described in detail in the post linked above).

The trial judge instructed the jury on this facet of the law using the following language [emphasis added]:

If you find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Raul Rodriguez, did then and there on May 2nd, 2010, fail to conceal a handgun in violation of the law stated above, before seeking an explanation from or discussion with the other person concerning the defendant’s differences with the other person, then you will find against the defendant on the issue of self-defense.

The prosecution had not introduced evidence that Rodriguez had unlawfully displayed a handgun during the events immediately concurrent with his claimed act of self-defense, but they had introduced evidence that Rodriquez had openly displayed a gun to a person not involved in the ultimate confrontation some hours earlier in the day.  The appellate court feared that the jury may have mistakenly believed that this earlier display of a gun required them to reject the claim of self-defense. Thus the appellate court awarded Rodriguez his re-trial, for which jury selection begins this week.

If anything interest results from the re-trial, we’ll write about it here.

Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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