HOUSTON -- A jury sentenced a Texas man Wednesday to 40 years in prison for killing a neighbor, despite his contention that he was merely standing his ground.
Raul Rodriguez, 47, had faced a possible life sentence.
His attorneys had asked for a five-year sentence, arguing that Rodriguez thought he was within his rights under the state’s "stand-your-ground" self-defense law when he fatally shot neighbor Kelly Danaher, 36, in 2010.
Such laws have drawn added scrutiny since Florida's version was invoked by George Zimmerman, the Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February.
"I believe this is only the beginning of the cases we're going to see" involving "stand your ground" laws, Rodriguez's attorney, Neal Davis, told The Times. He added that "the emotion overwhelmed the law" for the jury because the case involved a sympathetic victim.
Rodriguez must serve at least half of his 40-year sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.
"It's a sentence no one is happy with," Davis said.
Houston prosecutors could not immediately be reached by phone.
Rodriguez was stone-faced as he heard the decision, while Danaher's widow wiped away tears, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Rodriguez, a disabled firefighter and Navy veteran, was convicted June 13 of murdering Danaher after coming over to complain about a noisy birthday party. Rodriguez videotaped his dispute with the elementary school teacher, narrating that he was defending himself and “standing my ground here.”
But prosecutors Wednesday excoriated Rodriguez for pretending to cry during the trial, "brainwashing" his wife, who testified on his behalf, and turning his children into "soldiers" willing to lie for him, according to the Chronicle.
Prosecutors argued that the attack wasn't about self-defense, but was premeditated murder by a man who always liked to be in control of his surroundings.
"When you take your gun, your two magazines, your videocamera and your cellphone and you document how you feel, that was premeditated," prosecutor Donna Logan told the jury, according to the Chronicle.
Prosecutor Kelli Johnson told jurors that Rodriguez deserved a hefty sentence, calling him "a miserable human being who wanted to control everything around him."
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