We have previously discussed “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws. The latest such case comes from Martindale, Texas where Terry Duane Turner, 65, is charged with the first-degree murder of Adil Dghoughi, 31. Dghoughi was sitting in his car in the driveway of Turner’s home before the confrontation leading to his death.
Turner says that he went to the bathroom around 3:40 am on October 11 when he noticed a car was parked in his driveway with its lights off. He ran back to his bedroom, grabbed his handgun, and ran outside. However, the car then immediately began to back out of his driveway. Turner chased the car and “struck the front driver’s side door window twice with his handgun.”
While on the phone with CCSO 911, Turner reportedly told the dispatcher “I just killed a guy,” saying that the driver allegedly “tried to pull a gun on me.” “He started racing away and I ran after him,” Turner reportedly said. “He pointed a gun at me and I shot.”
However, no gun was found in the vehicle.
Dghoughi came to this country from Morocco and obtained a master’s degree in financial analysis from Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University.
What is notable is that Turner is relying on the SYG law rather than the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine has been extended to include the curtilage surrounding a home. We have previously discussed such shootings in driveways, including a Texas case with similar defense claims. The laws have been criticized for creating perverse results as in the controversial case of Joe Horn in Texas. Yet, the popularity of these laws have spawned “Make My Day Better” laws that extend the privilege of lethal force to businesses and cars.
The decision to rely on the SYG law may be due to the chase, which might have taken both men beyond the driveway and any claim of curtilage. The SYG law states in part:
Sec. 9.32. DEADLY FORCE IN DEFENSE OF PERSON. (a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:
(1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and
(2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or
(B) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
Of course, this turns on a “reasonable belief” on the part of Turner, who claims that he saw or thought he saw a gun. The problem is that Dghoughi did not have a gun and never even lowered his window. He was trying to leave the scene.
Dghoughi’s family can also sue in torts. Turner is clearly making a self-defense claim as opposed to a defense of property claim.
There is an allowance in torts for mistaken self-defense. In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense. The common law has long offered ample protections even for reasonable mistakes.
Of course, the difference is that, in Courvoisier, the victim was in fact armed and that was a violent confrontation occurring at the scene.
It is a case reminiscent of the most notorious case involving the shooting of a Japanese student in Baton Rouge. The 16-year-old Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, was looking for a Halloween party and scared the wife of Rodney Peairs when he spoke a strange language and approached the house. Peairs shot him in the chest with a .44 Magnum handgun and was later cleared under a Make My Day law as mistaken defense of his home and self. We also saw a tragic such case involving the killing of a law student.
The defense will face a tough time in the criminal trial given the pursuit by Turner and the absence of a handgun. Dghoughi’s girlfriend said that he often would drive around listening to music to relax and she believed that he simply got lost and pulled into the driveway to check directions. Even if Turner were able to get a hung jury or an acquittal on the criminal charges, this would seem a strong case for a wrongful death lawsuit under torts.