Since Texas expanded its “Castle Doctrine” – in some states known as “Stand Your Ground” – in 2007, justifiable killings have steadily increased, from 32 statewide in 2006 to 48 in the 2010, a Houston Chronicle review shows. Texas law always has allowed deadly force against intruders and thieves to protect lives and property, but where it once required a duty to try to retreat if possible when facing imminent danger, it no longer does.
“Traditionally, if you felt your life was threatened, you could use deadly force to protect yourself, except if you could get away safely where nobody got hurt, then you were required to do that,” said University of Houston law Prof. Sandra Thompson. “Even if somebody is just stealing from your front yard, and they are not threatening anybody, (and) there’s no threat of being hurt at all, you can kill them, if it’s reasonably necessary protecting your property,” she added. Killings by civilians long have piqued national outcries over the use of deadly force and whether it was necessary – or feigned to be necessary – to protect lives or property. Few have reached the fevered pitch of former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager.