A jury has convicted a Texas man for murdering his neighbor during a confrontation over loud music two years ago, rejecting a claim that he was within his rights to fatally shoot the man under Texas' version of a "stand-your-ground" law.
Raul Rodriguez, 47, faces up to life in prison for the killing of Kelly Danaher, 36. Sentencing is scheduled to begin today.
"I'm just glad he can't hurt anybody else," Danaher's wife, Mindy, said. "I love my husband, and I miss him so much ... and he helped all of us get through this today."
It took the jury less than six hours Wednesday to decide between self-defense and murder. Jurors, apparently agreeing with prosecutors that Rodriguez, a retired Houston-area firefighter, was a trigger-happy neighborhood bully.
"He felt like he had ultimate control, control to determine who lives and who dies," Donna Logan, Harris County Assistant District Attorney, said.
Rodriguez recorded the argument in May of 2010 when he killed Danaher, an elementary school teacher, and wounded two other people. The 22-minute homemade video was the key to the trial as Rodriguez's lawyers argued it was self-defense under Texas' version of the so-called stand-your-ground law, which is also at the center of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
It was after midnight when Rodriguez, complaining to police via telephone that the music was too loud, walked up to Danaher's driveway with a flashlight and gun.
In the video, Rodriguez can be heard talking to a 911 operator, saying, "I'm running the video camera right now and I'm talking to you and I mean, I'm scared to death here."
In the unfolding confrontation between Rodriguez and several unidentified men, one yells, "Tell you what, pal, you just pulled a gun on the wrong [expletive], OK?"
When one of the party-goers saw Rodriguez's gun, he suggested he is getting his own. "When I go in that house and come back," he warned, "don't think I won't be equal to you, baby."
"It's about to get out of hand sir, please help me. Please help me, my life is in danger now ...," Rodriguez told police over the phone. "Now, I'm standing my ground here. Now, these people are going to try and kill me."
Seconds later, a fight about loud music ends with the crack of gunfire.
"Look, I'm not losing to these people anymore," Rodriguez said. "I'm just totally going to stay back, because they're drunk, they're ..."
Rodriguez is interrupted by wild laughter, and then the sound of gunfire, before the tape stops as Rodriguez is tackled to the ground. In addition to the shot that killed Danaher, Houston Fire Capt. Ricky Johnson and Marshall Stetson received multiple gunshot wounds after the camera stopped recording. Rodriguez, a father of six, walked away from the incident unharmed.
"This has eaten me up for two years," Johnson said. "Hopefully, now I can begin to heal from it."
The defense did not present much of a case as it called no witnesses and Rodriguez didn't testify. Legal experts say if defendants are going to successfully argue self-defense, the jury wants to hear from them.