Senator West seeks new approach in cases where deadly force is used

Thursday, April 5th, 2012 @ 1:57PM

DALLAS — State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) announced his intentions to file legislation that addresses the use of deadly force by armed citizens. This comes in the wake and controversy surrounding the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer. The shooter claimed to have acted in self-defense, invoking use of a Florida “Stand Your Ground” law that provides a defense in situations involving the use of deadly force in response to an attack presumed to be life-threatening. Texas passed a similar law in 2007 commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine.

“Texans believe strongly in the right to bear arms and I share that belief” said Senator West. “But when tensions escalate and situations turn fatally tragic, we should have a thoughtful, consistent and thorough procedure in place to examine the incident in question.

“While another young man’s life has been lost under what are questionable circumstances is tragic in itself, what has caused both alarm and outrage across this country is how the matter was handled by local police,” Senator West added.

To date, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has not been formally charged or arrested for the shooting that took place February 26. His semi-automatic weapon used in the shooting was not taken into evidence by Sanford, Fla. police. Reports say the 17 year-old victim was tested for alcohol and drugs. Zimmerman was not. The victim’s family was not contacted for several days after his death.

In major cities across Texas, any firearm used in a shooting involving the use of deadly force by a private citizen would be secured by law enforcement. In several of those cities, including Dallas, those cases would be forwarded for grand jury review regardless of whether or not an arrest had been made.

Senator West’s bill will call for presentation of all deadly force cases to a grand jury for disposition. Also under the proposal, any weapon involved in a shooting fatality would be taken at the scene and held by police pending investigation. While the case is being investigated, a concealed handgun license held by the person in question would be temporarily suspended.

Senator West has also asked Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to assign an interim charge to the appropriate committee to study the use of deadly force by citizens and the manner by which such cases are investigated.


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