http://www.kvue.com/news/local/stories/032007kvuecastle-eh.2f023ddb.html Legislature: Measure heads to Perry despite prosecutors' worries [SIZE=-1]03:28 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 [/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]By KAREN BROOKS / The Dallas Morning News [email protected][/SIZE] AUSTIN – A self-defense bill opposed by prosecutors across the state breezed through the House on Monday and was given final approval on Tuesday. The bill is expected to be on the governor's desk by the end of the week. The legislation, pushed by gun-rights advocates in several states, will allow any law-abiding citizen who feels threatened by someone to kill that person without first trying to get away, prosecutors say. The bill is an extension of the current "castle doctrine" in Texas, under which a homeowner has the right to shoot an intruder to protect himself. The new legislation extends that to anywhere a person "has a right to be," according to the bill. Prosecutors say that means cars, jobs, parks, malls, street corners or anywhere else a person might feel threatened. Lawmakers say that interpretation is too broad. The bill was approved by the House on a voice vote Monday with no debate; the Senate unanimously approved it last week. The House gave final approval Tuesday before sending the measure to the governor. The bill makes three major changes to current law. First, it extends the "castle doctrine" beyond the home. Second, it protects a person from being sued by his attacker – or the attacker's family – for injuries if the shooter was found to have been acting in self-defense. Presumes self-defense And it creates a "presumption of self-defense" much like the presumption of innocence, but applied in deadly-force cases. It's the third part of the bill that supporters say is most important to protect law-abiding gun owners who aren't afraid to use deadly force. That's also the part that worries prosecutors and gun-control advocates. The bill would require a jury to presume that a defendant who has hurt or killed someone was acting in self-defense as long as the defendant wasn't breaking the law at the time, didn't provoke the attack and had reason to believe that the other person wanted to rape, kidnap, kill or rob him. Sponsors say the bill is intended only for people who are in their homes, cars or businesses – or their loved ones are – and who use deadly force to protect against someone who is "unlawfully" and "forcibly" trying to enter the car or business to hurt them. Prosecutors' fears But prosecutors point to this section of the bill as having the potential for unintended consequences, such as gang-style murders that leave no witnesses and trigger-happy people who kill a panhandler for approaching them on the street with his hand in his pocket. They say that prosecutors rarely file charges on someone with a clear case of self-defense but that the new bill will make it easy to beat a murder rap and, in some cases, impossible to convict. "There will be a presumption that their actions were reasonable, and 99.99 percent of the people that's going to apply to are going to be murderers, capital murders, shootings at the bar, aggravated robberies and that sort of thing," said Randall Sims, a district attorney whose jurisdiction includes Amarillo. "They can't give me one example of someone who's been wrongly convicted under the current self-defense laws. ... They're trying to fix a series of laws in Texas that aren't broken." Bill sponsors say its intent is to protect innocent gun owners. A prosecutor should have a difficult time convicting an innocent person who used a gun in self-defense, said Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland. The law is restoring a right Texans had 40 years ago, he said, and it doesn't stop police and DAs from investigating and building cases against murderers, carjackers, and even trigger-happy motorists with road rage. It just stops authorities from persecuting law-abiding citizens with guns, he said. "What the prosecutors are saying, they're just whining," Mr. Driver said. "They're not reading this bill. They're reading comic books or something. ... If you're driving down the road and you're afraid someone's going to shoot you, and you shoot them, they know they can prosecute you."