Raul Rodriguez in court in Houston. (Mayra Beltran / Associated…)
HOUSTON -- Attorneys for a Houston-area man convicted of murder despite claiming self-defense under Texas' version of a "stand-your-ground" law were expected to present more character witnesses Tuesday as jurors consider his sentence.
Raul Rodriguez, 46, was convicted of murder June 13 and faces up to life in prison for the 2010 killing of neighbor Kelly Danaher, 36, an elementary school teacher.
Among those expected to testify Tuesday is Rodriguez’s wife.
Rodriguez, a retired Houston-area firefighter living in Huffman, an unincorporated area 30 miles northeast of Houston, had gone to Danaher's home to complain about the noise coming from a party. There, he got into an argument with Danaher and two other men.
In a video that Rodriguez recorded the night of the shooting, he tells a police dispatcher "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me."
"I'm standing my ground here," Rodriguez says in the video just before shooting Danaher.
Rodriguez's claim echoes that of George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who says he fatally shot an unarmed Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, in self-defense in February.
Prosecution witnesses, including former co-workers and neighbors, told jurors during the punishment phase of the trial that Rodriguez was an abusive neighbor who showed off his gun to intimidate them and once shot a dog.
But nearly a dozen witnesses testified on Rodriguez’s behalf Monday, including many relatives, his attorney told the Los Angeles Times.
“What has come out is the truth, which is that Raul has been a very supportive, caring father to his children and husband to his wife,” attorney Neal Davis told The Times. “He has basically dedicated his entire professional career to serving his country and his community,” first in the U.S. Navy, which he left with an honorable discharge, then as a firefighter until he became disabled.
Witnesses said Rodriguez was not a violent person and always stressed the importance of gun safety, according to the Associated Press.
"He was strict but he was fair with us. He was never abusive to us," said James Coleman, one of Rodriguez's stepsons, according to the AP. Coleman, 20, said Rodriguez would reread his gun safety manual and taught his children to respect weapons.
Austin Coleman, 16, testified that he never saw his stepfather brandish the gun.
Rodriguez's 18-year-old son, Daniel Rodriguez, told jurors that the dog his father shot had crossed onto their property and threatened them.
Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law, the Castle Doctrine, was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force and now allows people to defend themselves at home, work or in vehicles.
“I’m hopeful that they will see that the evidence, while they convicted Raul, was mitigating,” Davis said.
“For better or worse, ‘stand your ground’ is the law we have in Texas and I expect there to be more cases like this that arise as people stand their ground in public locations and use deadly force,” he said. “I believe this is just the beginning of lots of cases we’re going to see in the future. It is going to be up to a jury to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the ‘stand your ground’ law applies.”
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