No Charges for Texas Man Who Shot Neighbor's Burglars

Laws covering deadly force under scrutiny
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2008 2:59 PM CDT
Supporters of homeowner Joe Horn, who fatally shot two suspected burglars, confront activist Quanell X, center, as he toured the site of the incident Dec. 2, 2007, in Pasadena, Texas.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A Texas grand jury’s decision to take no action against Joe Horn, who killed two burglars on his front lawn, has focused attention on the state’s “deadly force” laws, the Houston Chronicle reports. Horn’s life was not in danger until he confronted the thieves fleeing his neighbor’s house, but his actions were legally protected by a statute dating from the 1850s.

That statute justifies the use of deadly force if the shooter “reasonably believes” it’s necessary to stop the theft—a stance opponents see as a catch-all vigilante loophole. Horn also brought attention, by incorrectly citing it in his defense, to the newly enacted “castle doctrine,” which also would have cleared him of all culpability—if it had been his own house, not his neighbor’s.