The Associated Press
A retired Texas firefighter convicted of fatally shooting his unarmed neighbor during a dispute over a noisy birthday party was described as abusive and a bad neighbor Thursday during the punishment phase of his trial.
Raul Rodriguez, 47, was convicted of murder Wednesday in the 2010 death of Kelly Danaher, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher. Rodriguez had argued he was within his rights under Texas’ version of a stand-your-ground law.
The punishment phase began Thursday with prosecutors in Houston presenting neighbors, former co-workers and Rodriguez’s ex-wife. They testified Rodriguez was abusive, a bad neighbor and had once shot a dog.
Defense attorneys won’t get their chance to call witnesses until June 25. The delay was caused by scheduling conflicts.
Rodriguez could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
Rodriguez was angry about the noise coming from Danaher’s home, where the family was having a birthday party for Danaher’s wife and young daughter. Rodriguez went to the home and got into an argument with Danaher and two other men attending the party.
In a 22-minute video he recorded that night, 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 after somebody appeared to grab his camera. The two other men were wounded.
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.
Texas’ version of the law was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. It allows people to defend themselves in their homes, workplaces or vehicles, but a person using force can’t provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.