Jose Luis Gonzalez is 63 years old. His trailer home has been broken into several times. He is sick and tired of it. 15 year old Jesus Soto, 13 year old Francisco Anguiano and two other teenage boys were prowling his neighborhood one night. They were hungry. Word must have been out that the Gonzalez trailer was an easy mark for free food. The boys decided to let themselves in and help themselves. They apparently thought the coast was clear. Gonzalez was in a nearby building at the time. He returned home and confronted the boys with a 16-gauge shotgun. Soto testified at trial that they were all unarmed. Soto testified that Gonzalez forced them all to their knees. There was testimony that the boys begged for forgiveness while Gonzalez hit them with the barrel of the shotgun and kicked them repeatedly. Gonzalez then shot and killed 13 year old Anguiano. Gonzalez was charged with the murder.
At trial Gonzalez testified that he thought Anguiano was lunging at him when he fired the shotgun. The medical examiner testified that Anguiano was shot in the back at close range. There was testimony that two mashed Twinkies and some cookies belonging to Gonzalez were stuffed in the pockets of his Anguianos’s shorts.
It was the opinion of the Assistant District Attorney that the Texas “Castle Law” did not apply. He stated:
“What really took place here was a case of vigilantism. A 13-year-old boy was killed because a man was enraged.“
What is the Texas Castle Doctrine? Here is an overview:
In 1995, the Texas Legislature created an exception to a 1973 statute, which required a person to retreat in the face of a criminal attack. The exception allowed a person to use force without retreat when an intruder unlawfully entered their home. Is this what happened in this situation? The law also extends a person’s right to stand their ground beyond the home to vehicles and workplaces. The Castle Law allowing the reasonable use of deadly force when an intruder is:
- Committing certain violent crimes, such as murder or sexual assault, or is attempting to commit such crimes;
- Unlawfully trying to enter a protected place; or
- Unlawfully trying to remove a person from a protected place.
The law also provides civil immunity for a person who lawfully uses deadly force in the above circumstances.
It took the jury of eight men and four women three hours Friday to find Jose Luis Gonzalez not guilty of murdering 13 year old Anguiano. Should Mr. Gonzalez should have been acquitted? This sounds more like a “gangland” execution than a person afraid for his life. It is not clear how Aguiano who was on his knees could have “lunged” at Gonzalez and get shot in the back. Did he rise up and hop backwards at him? If anyone was afraid for their lives it was the subdued teenagers as they were being kicked and beaten by Gonzalez.
Unfortunately for Francisco Anguiano the Texas Castle Doctrine statute does not distinguish between Twinkies, jewelry or a plasma television. The statute does not impose any circumstances to define when something transitions from a deadly force situation to the requirement of a non-deadly response. There is no question that the boys entered his home unlawfully. Under the statute he had no duty to retreat. He had no duty to ask them what they were doing there. He had no duty to call the police. He had no duty to ask the to leave. He had no obligation to anything or anyone but the danger he perceived himself in even if that perception was flawed. Assistant District Attorney Uriel Druker maintained during his closing arguments that the case was not about homeowners’ right to protect their property, but about when a person is justified in using deadly force to do so.
Druker’s argument seems reasonable but is legislatively flawed. The legislature passed the Castle Law in part so homeowners would not have to go through that thought process before defending themselves. If someone enters your home unlawfully the intent is to do you harm. End of story. A story however with many unwritten chapters and thousands of possible scenarios in between. After his acquittal Gonzalez said he was sorry for Anguiano’s death, but “it was a situation in which I feared for my life.”
Did the venue matter? Laredo is town plagued by cross-border Mexican drug cartel violence. Fears are high. Tempers are short. Triggers are quick. Juries both empathize and sympathize with residents under siege. It should also be noted that Gonzalez’s attorney Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz, is running unopposed for district attorney. That does not bode well for any future hungry kids looking for a free snack.
Motto of Story? If you live in Texas steal your Twinkies from the local 7-11. You will live longer.
Here is another example of how far Texas grand juries and juries are willing to go to protect homeowners T In June, a grand jury in Houston cleared a homeowner who shot and killed two burglars outside his neighbor’s house despite the dispatcher’s repeated request that he stay inside his own home. The video is below.
Man Shoots Thieves Robbing Neighbor’s House; 911 Tapes Released