A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Houston........Again

"Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Do not move!" commanded Thomas Williamson of Southeast Houston, Texas on Thursday.

Williamson had stayed home from work, after he had been burgularized twice. He had a feeling it was going to happen again. Just after 1 P.M. he saw a man cross his back yard towards his garage. Thomas Williamson called 911, then armed himself with a shotgun and went outside. The burbular emerged with a pair of bolt cutters as Williamson intercepted him. With the burgular on the ground, Williamson fired one shot into the ground "just to show him I meant business."

The burgular tried to get up. Williamson shot him in the lower back. When police arrived, Williamson surrendered his shotgun. The burgular was taken to Ben Taub Hospital with a gunshot wound. His condition has not been released. The District Attorney's Office said charges would probably not be filed. Reason given: Williamson was protecting his property. God bless Texas.

“I think he got what he deserved. He’s lucky he’s alive. He’d ran straight at me, I’d have killed him. I wouldn’t have hesitated for a second ‘cause I’m sick and tired and I’m fed up with people stealing my stuff. I work hard for what I get and I’m just tired of people coming over here and stealing it,” Williamson said. “It’s a problem in this whole neighborhood over here and everybody around here is fed up with it. And these people are getting tired of it with a bunch of thieves around here. I’m gonna be around here protecting my property and anybody who wants to come over here to my house I’m gonna be here waiting for you...and that’s all I gotta say about that.”

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31 Comments:

Anonymous Joseph said...

Don't know if I would have shot him, though trying to get up after being proned out could be considered a threatening move. Wouldn't have done the warning shot, though...
Just goes to show...don't push an angry older guy who has the drop on you.

9:36 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

God bless him. God bless the right-thinking people of Texas.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have been scared to death if I had been that resident--so scared that I probably would have simply shot the burglar and given no warning shot.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

Speaking with the meager understanding of a mere law student (and, I must note, NOT in ANY WAY giving legal advice - I am NOT a lawyer, nor am I well steeped in the common law traditions nor statutory laws of Texas, so you'd be a fool to accept what I say here as legal advice), I'd say the old guy here screwed up. And screwed up big.

On the criminal side, deadly force is generally NOT allowed when concern for one's property is the only matter at hand - concern for LIFE is where deadly force comes in.

It's going to be pretty hard for this guy to prove that he had a legitimate concern for his life and limb from a person who had complied with his order to lay on the ground and who had a shotgun pointed at his head. He had already called 911 - he could reasonably expect the police to be there promptly. The fight was essentially over at that point - it was just a matter of waiting.

Firing the shot into the ground was simply stupid. Let's assume the burglar on the ground was down on his belly - for all the perp knew, he had been caught, he'd surrendered, and complied with the property owner's demands. At this point, he probably did not pose a significant threat to the property owner, and, given the possibility of violence towards him, made sure to demonstrate he wasn't a threat. While I'll agree that the burglar is hardly an innocent character, these actions should afford him some protection - he got caught, he acknowledged it, so he gave up.

Shooting a big hole into the ground next to a person lying on his belly would lead the guy on the ground to think a couple of things: 1) this guy's going to kill me and 2) I'm lucky he missed. In that situation, I think he is perfectly justified to flee. In some jurisdictions, he may even be justified to shoot back - arguably, the real "fight" had ended when he surrendered, but a new fight began with the old man as the aggressor when he fired the shot - the kid on the ground may then be legally able to return fire if he's packing. Just think about that.

Shooting him in the back also definitely cuts against him, because people generally do not pose a threat to life and limb when they are facing away from you.

The DA's office has decided not to pursue charges. Perhaps that's how it ought to be. Personally, I think it's a matter of simple realism - the odds of convicting this guy in criminal court, in Texas, with a jury are slim. I would definitely NOT act in the same fashion, however. At all. You never know when the DA's office will decide that it's time to "make a statement".

The burglar in this case, however, has a very solid civil case ahead of him. I generally don't like the idea of people suing in cases like this - and neither do juries - but here, I could almost accept it. Williamson was way out of line. His actions were quite simply stupid, from any angle - wasting ammunition on warning shots, shooting in a way that could make someone fear a simulated execution, acting in a way that could allow a perp his own self-defense argument if he shot back, etc. all over PROPERTY. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I share your opinion, Xavier, that we should withhold judgment in these situations because we were not there ourselves, but in this case I must make an exception. These actions were extremely foolish, and all involved are lucky to have lived another day. Mr. Williamson's bank account, however, may not be so lucky.

2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NTP, you must not be taking law in Texas.

Protecting property with deadly force is within the law. Civil cases cannot be pressed if criminal charges are not brought to court. TEXAS!

5:30 AM  
Anonymous beth said...

This old man ought to go to prison. What if that man he shot was somebody's gardner? texas needs some real policemen.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Let me see if I got this straight:

1. The burglar was on the ground.

2.while laying on the ground the Resident fired a shot into the ground to show the burglar "he meant business".

3. Burglar, who has complied with the Resident, is now browning his britches because someone just shot at him. Is the Resident trying to kill him and just missed? He doesn't know. But decides he's going to run away.

4. Resident shoots him in the back


Legal in Texas? Yes.

Was it right? NO.

There is o need to fire a shot into the ground to scare someone who has already submitted.

This whole "warning shot" stuff is nonsense, and the experienced firearms people who read this blog KNOW that.

Yes, it's legal to shoot epople in Texas to protect inanimate objects. I won't get into my objections over that. I'm just saying that the warning shot the resident fired escalated an already deescalated situation.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our criminal justice system has clearly failed to provide adequate deterrents to prevent burglaries.

Many young adults have multiple convictions and have had numerous stays in prison, but they still continue to act as criminals. Criminals disrespect people and their property. Actions like Thomas Williamson’s will make the criminal think twice about their actions.

Some people question the justification of a shooting like this and Thomas Williamson’s actions.

I question the justification of many young adults having multiple criminal convictions and have had numerous stays in prison, but still disrespect people and their property. Where’s the justification in that?

Our criminal justice system has clearly failed to provide adequate deterrents to prevent burglaries.
When will people realize policemen do not deter crime, jailers do. Our society has tolerated people having multiple convictions for too long.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth,
When was the last time you your neighbor's gardener was on your property trimming your rose bushes with BOLT CUTTERS?
Tell you what, you wait on the police when it happens at your place. Me? God holds me responsible for me and mine. I'll handle it.
Real policeman? I am sure they'll be just minutes away awaiting your call with baited breath.
Chet

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth:
Gardeners generally don't come in with bolt cutters.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Joe in Memphis said...

Beth-

Seriously? Yeah, you're right; he was probably someone else's gardner... Wandering through neighbor's yards directly towards a locked garage door with bolt cutters.

Happens all the time, right?

My only issue with the shooting - poor aim.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

Anonymous:

True.

However, at least under the general common law that I am aware of from my fuzzy, hazy memories of criminal law, the burglar on the ground may have had a right to self-defense as soon as Williamson fired that shot, depending on how Texas law (which I am not familiar with, nor do I have time to research so, once again, this is NOT legal advice to ANYONE) interprets this area of law. The description below is one approach adopted by some courts, and I do not know nor do I represent that it is the law in Texas nor anywhere else in particular.

When he trespassed, he was the aggressor, but he capitulated (wisely) when Williamson brought out the shotgun. At that point, the first "fight" was over, and he should be given rights for having surrendered, such as a reasonable certainty that he would not be shot for complying with the order completely. This exists because a) "we" want people to surrender rather than get killed and b) it just strikes the conscience as wrong. Shooting a person who fully surrenders is a killing in cold blood, plain and simple - the purpose is not to kill criminals, it is to protect property and lives, neither of which was at risk once he surrendered.

The moment Williamson fired the shot, however, a new "fight" began - with Williamson as the aggressor. The burglar, under some law, would then have a right to self-defense - and could heave legally killed Williamson if he had the capability to do so.

Williamson was stupid in my view. The warning shot was entirely unnecessary and could have placed him on very precarious legal standing, not to mention wasted precious ammo. I'm a pro-gun rights man myself, but it's just not right to shoot people who have surrendered, or to give them a reasonable impression that you intend to shoot them.

1:22 PM  
Blogger GreatBeefalo said...

Castle Doctrine. God Bless Texas.

Beth--wouldnt you find it rather odd, a gardener walking through a non-customer's lawn with bolt cutters? And dont think a gardener wouldve said "dont shoot, Im a gardener?" Just food for thought.

1:27 PM  
Blogger 10% said...

"This old man ought to go to prison. What if that man he shot was somebody's gardner? texas needs some real policemen."

I'm not sure the burgler's occupation has anything to do with his being shot, or are you suggesting this guy shot his own gardner?

2:21 PM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

Beth,
What's with the tender fondness for gardeners? Do we not have the right to protect our property from gardeners too? lol

5:14 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

I don't think I'm understanding Beth's argument. How would one's profession/hobby be a mitigating factor in the commission of a crime? OK, so what if he was someone's gardener? Why would that have any bearing on him being on someone else's property uninvited, gaining entrance to someone else's structure without permission, and in possession of someone else's property? Correct me if I'm wrong but once someone decides to commit a crime, they have just waived their expectation of consideration.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Texas gun nut said...

I was going to answer this here, but I will take it over to my blog to save Xavier some comment space.

Suffice to say, in short, by our law in Texas, this man is justified. Period.

and Beth?
We have plenty of fine policemen and policewomen. This has nothing to do with a man defending his property.
Nor have I ever seen a gardener that uses bolt cutters.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Just remember all the looting that happened in NO. Then remember shortly thereafter all the looting that didn't happen in Houston.
Taking a life is not done lightly. It is hard to say what really happened if you were not there.

Oh, and "Not too Pensive"? Castle Doctrine law may apply here...he may not be able to sue. Nor should he, as his own actions placed him in this situation. Kind of like suing a beer company if you get pulled over for DUI.

5:30 AM  
Blogger DouginSalcha said...

beth said,

"This old man ought to go to prison. What if that man he shot was somebody's gardner? texas needs some real policemen."

I wonder if this is the same beth that announced in another comment that Charlton Heston, "was no hero".

Makes me wonder who her heroes are. Perhaps Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore? Or perhaps Independent Film Produce, Michael Moore? Or perhaps Senator Ted Kennedy? These are all "Winners" as far as the Left-Wing Socialists are concerned. Real Heroes (like this man who protected himself, his family and his property) are becoming increasingly rare in most places in the United States (except perhaps for Texas).

God Bless Texas, Alaska, and the few remaining places in the United States where men are still inclined to defend their Rights.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

The Castle Doctrine is not at issue here. There are two identifiable chains of events occurring.

To reiterate, the first chain of events ended when the perp surrendered and got down on the ground. Nothing wrong with this at all. The old man was clearly the defender, the perp was the aggressor. But this ended once the perp surrendered. It was done.

The second chain of events arises out of the old man shooting the warning shot. Here, Williamson has stepped into a new chain of events as the aggressor and the perp becomes the victim. The perp could reasonably believe at this point that, even after he had surrendered and complied, rendering him protected under the law, the old man was going to kill him for essentially committing the misdemeanor of trespass. The mere act of entering someone else's property does not grant a right to kill, so his trespass was not sufficient reason to fire.

In this second chain of events, the old man becomes the aggressor and the perp the victim. If the perp had a weapon, he could have shot the old man and been fine under the law (proving events actually happened that way is another story, but let's assume omnipotence for a moment). The perp was also well within his rights to run away even though an arrest had essentially been affected - he had a right to fear for his life.

Confusing stories, such as this one, make great law school exams. My Crim law exam bore some resemblance to this, actually, but was more complex and involved a postman, passerby, cheating wife... etc.

I am not familiar with Texas law on this matter AT ALL. Nothing I say should EVER be taken as legal advice because I am JUST A STUDENT. Period. But I would be surprised if Texas law did not allow for some sort of civil penalty to be levied against Williamson, if not a criminal penalty. Even if he's not legally liable, Williamson should not have fired at a man who had surrendered in good faith. That's just wrong.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Texas gun nut said...

Given that they refuse to bring charges against him, do not expect to see any civil suit result.

Trespassing is a misdemeanor here. That is correct.
Trespassing with intent to commit a felony (AFAIK) is different. Hence our ability to "stand our ground" without waiting for the criminal initiate a confrontation.

In Texas, the victim stays "the victim", and the criminal stays "the criminal"(except under EXTREME circumstances). A warning shot would not change that.

In any other state, it might be a bit of a predicament and resultingly a tough call, but not so much here.

Nor am I a lawyer, but after having see a few of these cases grace the headlines here and there, and having discussed the laws with a few lawyers around here, I merely toss in my .02, FWIW.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Carl H said...

God Bless Texas.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

I simply can't wade through Texas statutory and case law on this matter now (finals), so I'll end with this:

Williamson was "standing his ground" when he accosted the trespasser with a shotgun and forced him to surrender. Williamson went well beyond "standing his ground" when he shot at a man who had already surrendered, giving that man reason to believe that, even though he had given up and no longer posed a threat to him.

Regardless of criminal or civil liability, Williamson is morally in the wrong - it's just not right to cause someone who has surrendered to believe that he will be killed anyways.

12:45 PM  
Blogger JJR said...

NTP (law student) said:

"the kid on the ground may then be legally able to return fire if he's packing. Just think about that."

I'm no lawyer either, but if I recall from my examination for the Texas CHL, self-defense claims are voided if you are actively committing a crime at the time (criminal trespass, at the very least). If he killed the homeowner it would still be classified as murder and he'd be charged accordingly, because the homeowner would be dead ultimately because of his criminal activity (i.e. break-in).

As a hypothetical example, if you are running an illegal gambling casino and get robbed and shoot and kill the robbers, you're in for a nasty surprise in Texas if you try to claim self-defense in court.

All that said, the "warning shot", after the perp surrendered, was out of line. The homeowner may or may not face a civil suit, and if I were on the jury, I might be inclined to award damages in this particular case, if all the facts in the case add up as reported thusfar.

Guys, don't feed the troll. Let Xavier ban her if "she" keeps it up.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NTP: In other words, you're completely ignorant of the actual law involved in this case and even after being told what it is (repeatedly)... you keep on with proclamations of "It's just not RIGT!!!eleven!!".

Pretty much covers it?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

Boy do I hate to feed the trolls, but here we go. To Anonymous of 9:22 PM:

Let me explain it this way:

1) Those above claiming to explain the law have not identified themselves as lawyers or possessing any legal training whatsoever. A CCW course is not a legal education by any means, and woe and pity to the man who believes otherwise. Put frankly, I do not trust the description of the law these other posters have put forward (with all due respect to their experience, of course). Perhaps they are accurate, but they lack citations to primary sources which Texas courts would hold as mandatory law. Vague mentions of the "castle doctrine" are not at all convincing. There's a reason people hire lawyers, not CCW instructors, when they get into legal trouble. Forgive me if I tend to law school professors with decades of experience in this field over blog posters.

2) The law described in my post is a mixture of basic common law principles that are used by various courts around the U.S. I have been quite specific at pointing that out. Criminal common law changes much more rapidly and is much less uniform than other areas of law. It's difficult to pin it down.

3) Doing in-depth research into case and statutory law in this area poses several problems, most often because trial court level opinions for these cases do not have written opinions and the Texas Castle Doctrine is too young to have seen much treatment in appellate courts. Statutory research is interesting, but not particularly useful without looking into case law and how it is treated. Also, it would take several hours to get up to speed with current law. I just don't have the time or inclination right now.

4) As a law student, I run significant risks if I appear to be giving anything resembling legal advice to the general public without carefully qualifying it. This encourages me to a) not research too deeply and report my findings and b) speak in generalities with warnings. A CCW course does not make you liable for any advice you give - a legal education does. I keep everything vague and carefully qualified.

5) The law in this area is not nearly as cut and dry as those on this board imagine. The law is rarely as clear as most people think it is. I'll leave it at that.

6) If you honestly believe that it is acceptable behavior to simulate the execution of a person who has surrendered to you in good faith, relying on his surrender to offer him some safety, then you're a sick, sick man. Killing someone who gives up and stops posing any threat to you whatsoever - to property or to life and limb - is analogous to the common idea of cold blooded murder in my book. Giving that person reason to think you're about to shoot him is not much different.

2:00 AM  
Blogger Texas gun nut said...

NTP:

1. First let me declare that the anon character is not me. I may agree with them, but I digress.
2. Second, I believe you will have a hard time passing the BAR exam, as you apparently cannot read. I HAVE consulted 3 separate attorneys as to the intricacies in the law. I feel it is worth my time and trouble to KNOW the law on the the matter, should I ever have to ensure I stay within the bounds of it.
3.I have not and do not give my CCW course as grounds for my opinion. I base my opinion on FACTS that I garnered from the above said attorneys. I merely tossed out the CCW course as a means for the average person to get a basic explanation of the law.

4. You are at no risk here for giving your opinion, especially as you are still in school to become an attorney. Nor am I at any risk for repeating the advice given by three separate attorneys, whom all concur on 95% of the questions I tossed them.

5. The laws in Texas (regarding self defense and use of force) are not as vague as you might think. I would suppose that perhaps you should look to the experienced attorneys and read up on Texas law BEFORE you formulate your opinion.

6. The pattern I see developing here is quite simple and clear. You have a "moral problem" with the case, and you don't "feel" like the man should be acquitted, hence your attacking me and thoroughly trying to discredit me because I don't agree with you. That is unfortunate, but you still insist upon your opinion.

I am okay with not agreeing. That is part of life. However,I am in Texas (whereas you are not) and I see the law being used in benefit of the good people. There is no room for emotion when it comes time to enforce the law.

I think it best to say it would be unfortunate if you should let your personal biases and emotions get in the way of your career. Should that be the case, you might find yourself best suited to writing romance novels,(no offense to those who do) or perhaps something on those lines.

Your opinion lacks fact, and you grasp at strawmen and make many projections (i.e. killing someone who "gave up", or simulate the execution of someone who in good faith gave up), neither of which happened here. No one died. The old man did not want to shoot the guy to begin with, or other wise he would have without bothering with the warning shot.

Suffice to say that by your opinion, we are by the majority, sick people, who deserve a fate worse than death, i.e. having you as our legal counsel in a self defense case.

You should feel free to respond so that you can of course have the last word, as I know that is important to you.However I will not respond here. We have wasted enough of Xavier's blog space arguing over a matter that has already been settled within the confines of the law.
If you really wish to further the discussion rationally and peacefully, feel free to contact me.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

For what it's worth, it appears that Mr. Williamson's story changed the day after the shooting: http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou080405_tnt_shootfolo.2fa6372c.html

“I was holding him on the ground and he decided he didn’t want to stay there no more and he tried to run,” said Williamson. “I shot him twice.”

No mention of the "warning shot" clearly mentioned in the video, and the order of events has generally changed - now we have a running suspect shot at twice instead of once instead of one shot to the ground, suspect runs, one shot at suspect.

I wonder if Mr. Williamson was counseled to change his previous statements.

In any case, here's a valuable lesson for all - never talk to the press after an incident like this. Ever.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe the warning shot occurred after the criminal tried to get up.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

(With apologies to Xavier. Actual statutory research is at the very bottom, which should be of more general interest. The back and forth up top are, sadly, more personal. I dislike littering on your blog in this manner, but I believe the post does contain merit and is a worthy addition to the discussion. If you have the capability of editing or truncating, you may certainly do so according to your desire.)

Oh good gravy. Texas Gun Nut:

NTP:

1. First let me declare that the anon character is not me. I may agree with them, but I digress.

2. Second, I believe you will have a hard time passing the BAR exam, as you apparently cannot read.

Well, good to see we have a comedian among us. Har-de-har-har-har.

I HAVE consulted 3 separate attorneys as to the intricacies in the law.

Have you consulted them as to the specifics of this case?

I feel it is worth my time and trouble to KNOW the law on the the matter, should I ever have to ensure I stay within the bounds of it.

Good for you. Honestly.

3.I have not and do not give my CCW course as grounds for my opinion. I base my opinion on FACTS that I garnered from the above said attorneys. I merely tossed out the CCW course as a means for the average person to get a basic explanation of the law.

And I point out that this is insufficient. I fail to see the point here.

4. You are at no risk here for giving your opinion, especially as you are still in school to become an attorney.

Uh, no. Sorry, no. Simply not true. Ask your three attorney friends about that.

Nor am I at any risk for repeating the advice given by three separate attorneys, whom all concur on 95% of the questions I tossed them.

Correct. Can't argue here. You're not at risk at all. You can repeat what they tell you. Go for it. Have fun.

5. The laws in Texas (regarding self defense and use of force) are not as vague as you might think. I would suppose that perhaps you should look to the experienced attorneys and read up on Texas law BEFORE you formulate your opinion.

I have been quite clear that my understanding is based on American common law traditions which vary state from state, and that I have not researched Texas law on this matter.

6. The pattern I see developing here is quite simple and clear. You have a "moral problem" with the case, and you don't "feel" like the man should be acquitted, hence your attacking me and thoroughly trying to discredit me because I don't agree with you. That is unfortunate, but you still insist upon your opinion.

Yes, I do think it is wrong to put a person who has just surrendered in a perfectly reasonable fear of his life. Perhaps you believe that it is normal to act this way, for police officers, for example, to put someone on the ground in a prone position and then fire off a round into the ground just to "show they mean business". If that is the case, I hope you do not go into law enforcement.

Next, the man has not been acquitted because he has not even been charged with a crime as of yet.

And here's where it gets even better - the law does react to "feeling". It's called "public policy arguments". Lawyers make them all the time for persuasion, and they often work out.

I am okay with not agreeing. That is part of life. However,I am in Texas (whereas you are not) and I see the law being used in benefit of the good people. There is no room for emotion when it comes time to enforce the law.

Once again, emotion does play an important part of law. The law is not a machine. It is not an automaton which refuses to follow basic principles of human decency.

Further, a rational argument can be made (and has been made above) for why Mr. Williamson's behavior is unacceptable - if a private citizen can shoot a person after his surrender, why on earth should anyone surrender? If people don't surrender, more people get killed. Perhaps that burglar's life isn't worth much to society, but he remains a person with rights under the law (pretty limited at the moment, to be sure, but not so limited that he could simply be killed at will).

That the burglar was not actually killed by the first shot in this case is, in my view (and a very good argument could be made for it) a distinction entirely without difference - he had no way of knowing if Williamson had simply missed him, or if Williamson was preparing to shoot a third time.

And, yes, in criminal law (and contracts law, and torts law, and...) there are vague standards of things that "shock the conscience". Conscience, inherently emotional, plays a part in law.

I think it best to say it would be unfortunate if you should let your personal biases and emotions get in the way of your career. Should that be the case, you might find yourself best suited to writing romance novels,(no offense to those who do) or perhaps something on those lines.

I love it when people with no legal education and a tenuous grasp of the legal system speak this way. It's like a Democrat talking about "assault weapons". Thanks so much for the advice...

Your opinion lacks fact, and you grasp at strawmen and make many projections (i.e. killing someone who "gave up", or simulate the execution of someone who in good faith gave up), neither of which happened here.

See above.

No one died.

People could have. Easily. And a burglar has a torso full of shot. Death isn't the only standard the courts will look at, nor does it even matter - it's intent in this case, and deadly force is what courts concern themselves with, even if a death did not occur.

The old man did not want to shoot the guy to begin with, or other wise he would have without bothering with the warning shot.

I can't give too much credit to Williamson for not shooting him when he already had a duty under law not to do so.

Suffice to say that by your opinion, we are by the majority, sick people, who deserve a fate worse than death, i.e. having you as our legal counsel in a self defense case.

Ah, that sweet smell of hyperbole in the morning.

So, are you saying that you, personally, would shoot a person who surrendered to you and got down on the ground? Who posed no threat to you, or even your property? With police en route, with a gun trained directly on him, and no indication that he would move? Would you pop a round off near him just to "show him you meant business" (because Lord knows a shotgun pointed at his head which has already convinced him to give up on the idea of even running away hasn't accomplished that)?

Mr. Williamson has changed his story pretty clearly. (See above) A curious change indeed. Press reports indicate that no criminal charges will be filed at this time.

You should feel free to respond so that you can of course have the last word, as I know that is important to you.However I will not respond here. We have wasted enough of Xavier's blog space arguing over a matter that has already been settled within the confines of the law.
If you really wish to further the discussion rationally and peacefully, feel free to contact me.


I love how the ad hominem is always followed by puffy-chested honor. We have the gleeful, "well, I wouldn't want you as a lawyer, you illiterate idiot!" followed by demands for "rational", "peaceful" discussion. You don't want rational, peaceful discussion, TGN. You just want that chance to prove some dumb law kid wrong with your "intellect" and "knowledge". The claims that I also always seem to want to have the last word could well be true, but are tempered by your obvious desire for the same.

And I'm certain that any response will include some whining about my suddenly using ad hominem attacks as well. Whine away, but look up the definitions of "reciprocity" and "irony" beforehand.

(And here I decide to do a bit of quick research to look at things. The annotated statues are roughly 200 pages combined, so I've looked pretty strictly at statutory language rather than case law, and haven't looked up a thing in Shepard's or West's Key Cite - use this at your own risk and consult a real attorney before trusting it. Cites below come from Lexis Nexis, Texas Penal Code 9.31, 9.32, quotes gathered 13 April 2008)

In the meantime, I would strongly encourage you to examine Texas Penal Code 9.31 and 9.32. (http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/PE/content/htm/pe.002.00.000009.00.htm). While I must state, once again, that I am not offering any legal advice, the relevant sub-sections are:

(b) The use of force against another is not justified: [...]

(4) if the actor provoked the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force, unless:

(A) the actor abandons the encounter, or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely abandon the encounter; and

(B) the other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful force against the actor...

The pronouns get hairy here, but Texas law is pretty clear that a person using deadly force cannot provoke the encounter that leads to its use (which, I hope all can agree, is good common sense). It also allows a person who provoked the encounter to abandon it and become safe (or at least clearly communicate intent when it is not possible to do so, i.e. surrender).

The burglar provoked the first encounter by his actions, but abandoned it by surrender, as demanded by the statute.

Williamson provoked the second by using deadly force on a person who posed no imminent threat to his person or property, but pressed on and shot the burglar. (Depending on which version of the facts is correct - see below.)

(Or so would be my argument if I were picked to prosecute the case... although I would prefer not to be involved in criminal law, and I think the case is a loser anyways, see below.)

It should also be noted that Texas law permits self-defense even against a peace officer if that person uses greater than necessary force while effecting an arrest if the person has not previously resisted.

See posts above citing common law notions on this same point. It looks like it's actually a part of Texas statutory law, even.


9.32 - the "castle doctrine" statute, specifically presumes deadly force is reasonable if the shooter did "not provoke the person against whom the force was used". The use of deadly force under the Texas castle doctrine is directly limited to it being allowed in 9.31, described in part above.

Like I said, the annotated statute is very long - thanks, no doubt, to the honorable Texan tradition of self-defense. I'm not 100% certain how this has been interpreted by Texas courts (although it is unlikely they will move far from the statutory language). If someone else really wants to look it up on Lexis or Westlaw and sift through it and all of the pertinent cross-references, then all my best to them.

If Mr. Williamson shot a warning shot into the ground to scare a prone person - which that person could reasonably assume was aimed at killing him - this could be the provocation that the burglar would need to flee from the scene. In any case, discharging a firearm in such a manner can be seen as the use of deadly force. Note that deadly force need not actually cause death - it only need to be deadly in its nature, and a shotgun blast is particularly deadly and definitely would easily meet any such standard.

The "castle doctrine" is actually more of a response to law (mostly case law, to my knowledge) which held that a person must retreat when he is aware that he can do so in "perfect safety". Even this retreat requirement had a lot of limitations - it did not apply in the home, and "perfect safety" was interpreted quite narrowly. The "castle doctrine" does away with this and allows a person to stand his ground, whether or not he can retreat, regardless of where he is (so long as he is there legally) when faced with a threat.

So, the law isn't nearly as friendly to Williamson as TGN - or a lot on this post - would want to believe. In my super-ultra-quick search, I also found no statute or case law that did not allow for civil recovery in a case where a person had not been held criminally liable. Given differing standards of evidence, differing requirements for juries, etc., this would be a peculiar law indeed, but it may well exist in Texas. So even if the DA lets him loose, a civil case could be pending. (The effect of the criminal statute on a civil case is also beyond the scope of this research.)

Will he be charged? Well, a lot depends on the real facts - did Williamson shoot first, causing the burglar to run, and then shoot him (as he says in the first piece) or did the burglar run off and then Williamson shot twice. Under the scenario Mr. Williams first discusses, he's on unsteady ground. Under the second, he's likely better off. A lot also depends on that bane of TGN's existence, emotion - will the DA want to try an old man who was protecting his property? Will a jury want to convict him? All of these are emotional questions, and all should be carefully weighed before going forward with a trial. As I point out in my first post on the matter, the DA probably will not go ahead because of just these reasons - emotional, realistic ones.

But you never know when a DA will decide that the time has come to "make an example" of someone. You never know just how good he will be in court. And you can rest assured that the cost of defending yourself in court will be astronomical, unless you make the ill-advised decision of depending on a public defender. Moral of the story - kids, don't try this at home. And definitely don't blab about it to reporters in conflicting accounts.

So, TGN, I ask again - did you consult your attorney friends on this specific case? Did you examine the statutes yourself? Or did you base your entire knowledge on this law on simple residence in Texas and having taken a CCW course there? Or are you simply too emotional here, and believe it is *right* to act this way, and are thus bound to defend these actions in any case, regardless of law? Respond where and how you wish, should you so wish.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Texas gun nut said...

Okie dokie. Done

http://texasgunnut.blogspot.com/2008/04/response-to-ntp.html

see you there.

Xavier, thanks for the use of the forum and topic.

10:22 AM  

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