LUBBOCK, Texas — Several high-profile homicide cases in the Lubbock area have involved one common element: the allegation of self-defense.
Rene Quintanilla was arrested and charged with murder for shooting Robert Rodriguez in 2020. However, he never faced a criminal trial after a grand jury deemed his actions to be in self-defense and refused to arrest him. ‘charge.
William “Kyle” Carruth also claimed self-defense after shooting Chad Read on November 5, 2021, and he was never arrested or charged. As with Quintanilla, a grand jury declined to indict Carruth.
Also on November 5, Ryan Menegay claimed he was acting in the defense of a woman by fatally shooting Christopher Guerra. He was arrested and still faced murder charges.
Jonathan Mermella has maintained his actions were defensive as he awaits murder charges for the fatal stabbing of Robert Flores on April 11.
“You can’t compare one murder case to another,” defense attorney Chuck Lanehart said. “But I’ll tell you this, there’s been a lot more murder cases that have happened in the last two or three years than we had before. I do not know why. But there are more out there, so it’s more likely that some of them will be good self-defense cases.
According to the Penal Code of Texas Sec. 9.31, Texas law permits deadly force “when and to the extent it reasonably believes that force is immediately necessary to protect against the unlawful use or attempted use of force by another.”
The Texas Castle Doctrine, under Tex. Crime Code. Pro. Second. 9.42, also authorizes lethal force “to protect land or tangible, movable property… [if] he reasonably believes that the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means…”
However, Texas law prohibits the use of force in self-defense if deadly force is used to protect against a less than lethal threat, if it is used in response to a mere verbal provocation or threat, or if the danger is caused by the actor himself.
“[If] someone comes at you with a fist and tries to hit you, you can’t use deadly force to protect yourself from that,” Lanehart said.
Still, Mr. Lanehart said his experience leads him to believe that jurors in Texas are particularly sensitive to allegations of self-defense.
“Vigil is very popular with jurors, especially in this part of the country,” he said. “Using force to protect yourself is part of Texas culture, basically, so if you have the facts, you can get an acquittal.”
However, the ability to prove these facts can make the difference. Notably, the two shooters who recently avoided charges – Carruth and Quintanilla – had their altercations recorded in full on video.
“If you raise the issue of self-defense by showing that you reasonably believe someone is using force against you … then the state must disprove your justification beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lanehart said. So it’s a very effective tool if you have the facts.