For many Texas legislators, last year’s “castle” law seemed like a no-brainer. Anyone breaking into your home, car, or business poses a grave threat; you should have the right to shoot first – and ask questions later. The Dallas Morning News says the law has yet to see its day in court, but homicide cases that pivot upon it could emerge by the middle of this year. Some prosecutors worry the law will cause more confusion than clarity in the courtroom, and that it will let real murderers off the hook. They are particularly concerned about a legal concept called a “presumption” put in the law by legislators who appear not to have considered its potential consequences.
The castle law says a citizen is “presumed” to be acting reasonably if he shoots someone he believes is trying to break into his occupied home, business or car. What does the word “presumed” mean in a courtroom? If your actions are “presumed” to be reasonable, does that mean they are reasonable? Common sense says no. Texas law, however, may now say yes. Jana McCown, an assistant district attorney for Williamson County, said, “This is not going to protect the law-abiding citizens. It’s going to protect the criminals.” Said Shannon Edmonds of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association: “I think, not purposefully, but unaware of what they were doing, the folks who passed the so-called castle doctrine used that same concept of a defense presumption.”