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Author Topic: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden  (Read 3974 times)

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Offline Jeff1857

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A Wharton County jury will begin hearing testimony today in the trial of a man accused of killing a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden, marking the county's first death penalty trial in nearly 30 years.

James Garrett Freeman, 27, of Lissie could be sentenced to death if convicted of capital murder. He is accused of shooting game warden Justin P. Hurst, 34, of El Campo, following a lengthy police chase last year.

A jury of nine women and three men will gather in state District Judge Randy Clapp's court for the trial, which is expected to last about three weeks.

Former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler will assist Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown with the case. Siegler, one of Houston's most high-profile prosecutors, resigned earlier this year after losing the race for Harris County district attorney in March's Republican primary.

Jurors will likely see video of the shootout that led to Hurst's death and the chase that preceded it footage captured by cameras mounted in police cars involved in the 90-minute pursuit.

McCown had just bought video equipment for Hurst's patrol car three months earlier with money seized from criminals.

Freeman, a welder with no history of serious crimes, did not intend to shoot anyone, said his attorney, Stanley Schneider.

"The bottom line any way you look at it this is a tragedy because you have two families that have been destroyed," Schneider said. "How do you explain the unexplainable?"

McCown argued those who kill officers in the line of duty deserve the stiffest punishment possible.

"I personally believe those guys who get up in the morning and put on a badge and strap on a gun are entitled to expect that," McCown said. " ... I believe we owe them that.

"I believe that someone who kills a cop is just a little more culpable than, say, some thug who, in the heat of an armed robbery, kills someone," McCown said.

Hurst's mother, Pat Hurst of El Campo, declined to comment, and his widow, Amanda Hurst, could not be reached.


Shot twice

Justin Hurst died on his 34th birthday from a gunshot that ripped through his left arm and torso, an autopsy report shows.

A second shot, which struck his left buttock and exited his left hip, was not fatal.

He was the first Texas game warden shot to death in the line of duty since 1973.

The confrontation began late March 16, 2007, within a half-mile of Freeman's home as Justin Hurst and another game warden checked on night hunters.

Freeman sped away when the other game warden, who had seen a spotlight and heard a gunshot, approached his pickup, officials say. The game warden followed him. Justin Hurst, working at the other end of the county, later joined in the chase.

Seven patrol cars belonging to the game wardens, Wharton County sheriff's deputies, constables and Department of Public Safety troopers chased Freeman for 90 minutes in a route that meandered all over Wharton County and dipped into part of Colorado County. Toward the end of the pursuit, Freeman's truck tires were punctured when he drove over spikes troopers threw on the road.

Officials say Freeman then stopped his truck near a cemetery in Lissie, where he got into a shootout with the officers. After Justin Hurst was shot, Freeman tried to run but fell when officers shot him four times in the legs and elbow, officials say.

Justin Hurst was flown to Houston, where he was pronounced dead at 1:42 a.m. March 17, minutes after the chase ended.

"The way he lost his life, there was no sense in that no sense whatsoever," said friend Larry Janik, a nuisance control hunter for Texas Parks and Wildlife who helps corral loose alligators.

"I was on the way home when I got the phone call. ... I don't get broken up a lot, but I cried like a baby when I heard," Janik said.

A dead opossum was later found in the area where Freeman had been parked when he first drew a game warden's attention.

Freeman had a history of only minor offenses before the shooting, such as a drunken-driving arrest in Fort Bend County in 2005 and traffic violations, Schneider said.

Freeman's family declined to comment.

He attended East Bernard High School, and his family has lived in Wharton County for several generations. His father, Jim Freeman, has owned a welding business in Lissie for 20 years.

To win a conviction, prosecutors must prove that Freeman intentionally shot Justin Hurst.


A 'Super Cadet'
Freeman's case is the first death penalty trial in Wharton since 1979.

The last was the trial of Donald Lee Vignault, who was sentenced to death for killing a Bay City convenience store clerk.

Vignault died on death row from lung cancer in 1997.

Justin Hurst, the married father of an infant boy, specialized in waterfowl and alligators during his 12-year career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. The Texas A&M University graduate worked at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur and the former Peach Point Wildlife Management Area now named in his honor in Brazoria County.

When he enrolled in the Texas Game Warden Academy in 2002, he became known as "Super Cadet" among his classmates.

Quiet and softspoken, Justin Hurst was devoted to his family, friends said. His parents had moved to El Campo to join him and his wife several months before his death.

"He's a person who will be missed around our area for a long time," Janik said.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6067593.html

Offline charliehaa

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Texas! Good state for this trial. I think the jury will probably sentences him to death.
ENFORCE THE DEATH PENALTY

Offline Aussie4DR

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Another senseless murder. Freeman, by his act of sheer stupidity, has devastated the lives of multiple families here.

My deepest condolences go out to Mr Hurst's family and friends. Also, I can't help but feel a sense of sorrow for Freeman's family. There are too many victims from this single act of utter stupidity.
Shame on you James G Freeman, shame on you.
 

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Forget it.

Offline Jeff1857

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Re: James Freeman Found Guilty in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden, May Face DP
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 02:36:35 PM »
A Wharton County jury today convicted an unemployed welder of capital murder, deciding he deliberately executed a state game warden when he fired nearly 40 shots from two guns as officers tried to capture him.

James Garrett Freeman, 27, of Lissie, could face the death penalty for killing Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden Justin Hurst at the end of a lengthy police chase last year.

Freeman showed no reaction to the verdict. Both families remained quiet after the verdict was read. The punishment phase of the trial will begin on Tuesday.

Jury deliberations began at noon today after two weeks of testimony in state District Judge Randy Clapp's court.

During closing arguments this morning, Houston defense attorney Stanley Schneider suggested Freeman was guilty only of the lesser charge of manslaughter because he acted recklessly, with no intent to hurt anyone.

Prosecutors scoffed at that, however, arguing that Freeman fired all the rounds from a Glock pistol before opening fire with an AK-47 rifle, striking Hurst twice and hitting numerous police vehicles with a barrage of 29 bullets.

Schneider has suggested depression and an alcohol problem drove Freeman to attempt "suicide by cop" provoking officers to shoot him when he opened fire on a dark, rural road after his tires were punctured during a 90-minute police chase.

Hurst, 34, who was on duty and in uniform, had joined in the chase to help other officers and was taking aim at Freeman when he was hit. He died on the morning of March 17, 2007, at a Houston hospital.

Hurst was the first Texas game warden shot to death in the line of duty since 1973.

"Garrett Freeman disregarded a known risk that if he fired a gun, someone could get hurt," Schneider told the jury.

"Did he want to kill Justin Hurst? No. Is there any evidence that he aimed at Justin Hurst? No. Is there any evidence he even saw Justin Hurst? No."

Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown and special prosecutor Kelly Siegler dismissed the "suicide by cop" theory as an insult to the jury's intelligence.

"Poor Garrett," McCown said, evoking a mantra he repeated often during his closing argument. "While he's firing, he makes himself a moving target that's harder to hit. He retreated and grabbed an AK-47 ..."

"This wasn't luck. This was cold, calculated capital murder."

Prosecutors said they could not explain why Freeman reacted so violently, leading officers on a chase at speeds reaching 120 mph, bailing out of his truck and firing his guns after another game warden tried to stop him and cite him for shooting at an animal on a dark country road on the night of March 16, 2007.

Prosecutors argued that Freeman steadily took aim at Hurst and six other police officers who closed in on him.

"There is nothing they can come up with to explain it or make it make sense," said Siegler, a former Harris County prosecutor who resigned after losing the Republican nomination for Harris County district attorney earlier this year. "To take an AK-47 and sight a human being with it a father, husband and friend that ain't reckless."

Freeman, already in trouble for not complying with the terms of his probation for a drunken-driving conviction, resisted because he knew he would go to jail if stopped by police, prosecutors said.

Dr. Vivian Lord, a nationally known expert on "suicide by cop," told jurors Friday that Freeman's behavior had some consistencies with cases she studied. But prosecutors noted that Lord made a lukewarm expert witness for the defense.

"Their own expert couldn't even call this suicide by cop," Siegler told the jury.

Jurors will be sequestered until they reach a verdict, Clapp said. If they agree that Freeman is not guilty of capital murder, they may consider lesser charges of murder and manslaughter.

Freeman's trial is the first potential death-penalty case considered by a Wharton County jury in nearly 30 years.

Source: (Houston Chronicle)

Offline Jeff1857

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2008, 07:52:18 PM »
WHARTON James Garrett Freeman should forfeit his life for killing a state game warden last year during a shootout with police, a Wharton County jury decided this afternoon.

The condemned man's parents were embraced and consoled by the parents of his victim after the trial ended.

"We feel sorry for them," said Allen Hurst, whose son, Justin Hurst, died in the shooting. "They have a loss. It may not be as big as ours, but it is there."

Freeman showed no reaction upon hearing the sentence from the jury that convicted him of capital murder on Monday for the March 2007 slaying.

After the sentence was announced, Freeman, 27, sat calmly and listened as Hurst's mother, father and widow read victim-impact statements.

Jurors announced their verdict after deliberating for a total of more than 13 hours.

Freeman, of the Lissie community in Wharton County, was captured after being wounded in the shootout that resulted in the death of Hurst, a 34-year-old Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden who lived in El Campo.

The shootout occurred after a lengthy police chase that meandered through Wharton and Colorado counties.

Video recorded by police cars' dashboard cameras showed Freeman fired nearly 40 shots in less than a minute at seven officers who closed in on him after his tires were punctured during the pursuit.

Freeman later told a Texas Ranger he didn't know why he killed Hurst, according to an audio recording played for the jury Thursday.

"I don't know why the hell I did it," Freeman said on the recording. " ... There wasn't no reason for it, I mean."

After the sentencing, Allen and Pat Hurst, of El Campo, embraced and consoled Jim and Lori Freeman, of Lissie.

"We wanted them to understand, there were no winners or losers here," Pat Hurst said. "Both families suffered losses."

She said she and her husband told the Freemans "that in no way do we want them to feel we held them accountable for what (their son) did that night.

"They expressed to us how sorry they were for all of this," she said. "It was a sharing of the grief."

The Freemans did not comment publicly after the trial.

In choosing the death sentence, jurors agreed with prosecutors that Freeman is likely to commit violent acts in the future.

During closing arguments Thursday, defense attorneys pleaded for his life, emphasizing that the unemployed welder had no history of violent crimes, but only alcohol-related and traffic violations before the shootout on March 17, 2007.

Defense attorney Lee Cox said Freeman has been a model prisoner since his arrest and would pose no threat to other inmates or prison officials. Cox's co-counsel, Stanley Schneider, said a death sentence for Freeman also would amount to a death sentence for his parents and brother.

"How do we stop the pain for this community? A life sentence without parole stops the pain, starts the healing, now," Schneider said.

Prosecutors, who alleged that Freeman intended to commit a massacre when he opened fire, said he poses a future threat because of his actions and temper.

"When will he erupt again?" Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown asked the jury. "How it will manifest itself in prison, we can't be certain of. But we can be certain that it will happen."

Special prosecutor Kelly Siegler said there were no mitigating circumstances that justify sparing Freeman's life. She scoffed at Schneider's assertion that a life sentence would stop the pain.

"How rich. How dare he? Do you really think their pain is ever going to stop?" Siegler said, pointing to Hurst's parents sitting in the audience. "That kind of pain never stops."

Jurors deliberated for about eight hours Thursday before being sequestered at a hotel overnight. They reached their decision today after more than five hours of additional consideration.

Freeman did not testify during his three-week trial.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6100749.html

Offline JT

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2008, 09:35:37 PM »
There was no other truly condign punishment sufficient for this case.  The jury made the right call.
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
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Offline Russki

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2008, 03:11:09 AM »
This one I am not so sure about A man who was not a habitual felon who seems to have completely lost the plot one night. I do not believe that this is premeditated.

It just goes to show what happens without gun control

Frenchy
Bombs do not choose. They will hit everything   ... Nikita Khrushchev

I once said, "We will bury you," and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.  ... Nikita Khrushchev

Heidi Salazar

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2008, 07:19:58 AM »
The following article gives more insight to the events leading to Mr. Hursts murder.

I do not believe gun controll is the issue in this case. Drunk driving laws need to be felonies instead of misdemeanors. Especially a third offense. Had he been a convicted felon he would not have been allowed to own firearms.

This case also raises the question as to when should a police pursuit ensue? Hindsight is always 20/20. Hopefully in the future Wharton County will choose not to persue someone suspected of baiting prey.


Lawyer: Unemployed man wanted 'suicide by cop': Death penalty case is the first in decades for Wharton County


Oct. 21--A Wharton County man accused of killing a Texas game warden after a lengthy police chase "intended to commit a massacre," firing at least 38 shots from two guns, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

But James Garrett Freeman, 27, was suicidal, his attorney said, suggesting the unemployed welder tried to provoke officers into killing him.

Freeman is the first defendant to face a potential death sentence in nearly 30 years in Wharton, a town of 9,200 people located 60 miles southwest of Houston. He could be sent to death row if convicted of capital murder in the shooting death of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden Justin Hurst last year.

As the trial began Monday, jurors saw police video of Freeman bolting from his pickup on a dark rural road and firing several shots at the officers chasing him during the early morning hours of March 17, 2007, in his hometown of Lissie.

Freeman emptied all 11 rounds from a Glock .357-caliber pistol before grabbing a semiautomatic AK-47 rifle from his truck and opening fire again, taking cover behind his pickup, prosecutor Kelly Siegler said.

Only three rounds were left in the AK-47's 30-round clip when the weapon was recovered, she said.

One video segment viewed by the jury ended abruptly, causing the screen in the courtroom to static, because the armed man had shot a police car's dashboard video camera.

"He shot right-handed and left-handed," Siegler told the jury in her opening statement. "He acted just like a military-trained or law enforcement-trained officer would. He knew exactly what he was doing."

Hurst, the first Texas game warden shot to death in the line of duty since 1973, was hit twice after he returned fire at Freeman, jurors learned. One shot, which passed through Hurst's left arm and torso, was fatal.

Freeman was caught only after officers shot him four times.

"You ask yourself why?" Siegler said of the defendant's motive. "It's not real complicated -- he didn't want to go to jail."

Freeman, on probation at the time of the shootout for a 2005 drunken driving conviction in Fort Bend County, had already been warned he faced arrest for not completing the terms of his probation, Siegler said.

The 90-minute police chase that led to the shootout and Hurst's death began when another game warden investigating illegal night hunting activity approached Freeman's truck after seeing a spotlight and hearing a gunshot.

Freeman, who also sideswiped Hurst's truck during the chase, was drunk, having a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.08, Siegler said.

But defense attorney Stanley Schneider suggested Freeman was trying to commit "suicide by cop," engaging in threatening behavior to induce police into shooting him because his life was spiraling out of control.

Freeman was depressed because his 2005 drunken driving arrest marked his third alcohol-related offense and caused him to lose his driver's license for two years, which meant he couldn't work, Schneider said.

Unemployed with little income, Freeman also was struggling with his friends leaving him behind, the pending loss of his rent house and the death of his dog, Schneider said.

"You will see a downward spiral in his life of hopelessness," Schneider told the jury. "And when he became hopeless, he became indifferent about whether he would live or die."

Freeman's friends heard him suggest he would put a bullet in his head or "check out," Schneider told the jury.

Video also shows that Freeman twice exposed himself to the officers' gunfire that night, Schneider argued.

Hurst's family and at least nine other Texas game wardens watched Monday as Hurst's partner tearfully described seeing the officer collapse.

"He was facedown," said Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden Scott Blackburn. "I rolled him over, and he wasn't responding. So I got his jacket off and opened his shirt. I was trying to figure out where there was a wound."

Blackburn performed CPR on Hurst and used a jacket to tie a tourniquet on his arm until the wounded officer was loaded on an ambulance. Blackburn recalled he was so overcome with emotion and grief that he immediately vomited.

Under questioning from Siegler, Blackburn said he started walking toward the defendant for reasons he did not know before officers yelled at him.

The trial is Wharton's first death penalty case since 1979. It is expected to last three weeks.

Siegler, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who resigned earlier this year after losing her first bid for the top prosecutor's job in the Republican primary, is assisting Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown with the trial

Offline JT

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2008, 08:02:11 AM »
This one I am not so sure about A man who was not a habitual felon who seems to have completely lost the plot one night. I do not believe that this is premeditated.


The aggravator used in this case was likely that it was the murder of a law enforcement officer.  The jury clearly agreed with the prosecutors that this was a suitable aggravator to warrant a sentence of death.

It just goes to show what happens without gun control


It can happen with gun control too. ::)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7699077.stm (happened just TWO days ago)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7710195.stm (the day before)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7688826.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7683738.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7675516.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/7700637.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7677403.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/7713696.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7698956.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/7712601.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7675696.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7656192.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7706767.stm

And, last but not least, nobody could forget this famous event: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/827536.stm

As you can see, what a fat load of good those strict British gun laws do...
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

Offline Russki

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2008, 08:22:42 AM »
gun control does prevent the type of murder recounted here but a criminal can buy an illegal gun, for sure.
Bombs do not choose. They will hit everything   ... Nikita Khrushchev

I once said, "We will bury you," and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.  ... Nikita Khrushchev

Offline JT

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2008, 12:21:25 PM »
gun control does prevent the type of murder recounted here but a criminal can buy an illegal gun, for sure.


Gun control is pathetic in Western Europe because of a steady influx of firearms from Eastern Europe, particularly the Balkans.  You should know that.

Gun control is pathetic in the United States because of the hundreds of millions of firearms already in circulation.  It is logistically impossible for such a populace to be disarmed.  Wherever it has been tried - such as in Washington, D.C. - it has lead to gun crime spirally massively out of control.  The District of Columbia has one of the highest murder rates in the U.S.  It is very easy to see why - the honest, law-abiding citizens of the District have been disarmed by the cretins populating the Council, and ergo they are at the mercy of criminals who don't give a flying **** about the laws emanating from the depths of City Hall.

Sure, additional gun control may have prevented Freeman from obtaining a handgun, and Hurst would still be alive.  If Freeman didn't have any combat tupperware (a Glock) on him, then he wouldn't have been so easily able to murder the warden.

But, nonetheless, the statistics bear out that gun ownership - with guns in the hands of honest citizens - saves more lives than it costs.  Incidents such as these are aberrations.  It is estimated that firearms are used in TWO MILLION self-defense situations (home invasion, robbery, assault, etc.) every year in the United States.  Disarming (or attempting to disarm) the population now would produce an unconscionable amount of casualties.
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

Heidi Salazar

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2008, 02:38:49 PM »
Tighter gun control my ASS!!! Our asses pucker here in VA due to the issues from DC. What happens in the nations capital trickels out into the the veins of my commonwealth.

The point I was making in the Feeman post was...legal gun control...making his crime a felony not a misdemeanor. Personally I do not own a hand gun. I own a 12 gauge shot gun. You break in my home you DIE!!

GOD BLESS TEXAS...read the story that follows..



Cleared... Joe Horn, and inset, murdered pair Diego Ortiz, top, and Hernando Riascos Torres.


Advertisement
A Texas man who shot and killed two men he suspected of burgling his neighbour's home has been cleared by a grand jury.

Joe Horn, 61, shot the two men in November after he saw them crawling out the windows of a neighbour's house in the Houston suburb of Pasadena.

Horn called authorities and told the emergency dispatcher he had a shotgun and was going to kill the men. The dispatcher pleaded with him not to go outside, but Horn confronted the men with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot both in the back.

"The message we're trying to send today is the criminal justice system works," Harris County district attorney Kenneth Magidson said.

Horn's lawyer, Tom Lambright, has said his client believed the two men had broken into his neighbour's home and he shot them only when they came into his yard and threatened him.

The suspected burglars, Hernando Riascos Torres, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, were unemployed illegal immigrants from Colombia. Torres was deported to Colombia in 1999 after a 1994 cocaine-related conviction.

The episode touched off protests from civil rights activists who said the shooting was racially motivated and Horn took the law into his own hands. Horn's supporters defended his actions, saying he was protecting himself and being a good neighbour to a homeowner who was out of town.

"I understand the concerns of some in the community regarding Mr Horn's conduct," Magidson said. "The use of deadly force is carefully limited in Texas law to certain circumstances ... In this case, however, the grand jury concluded that Mr Horn's use of deadly force did not rise to a criminal offence."

Texas law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if it is reasonable to believe they are in mortal danger. In limited circumstances, people also can use deadly force to protect a neighbour's property; for example, if a homeowner asks a neighbour to watch over his property while he's out of town.

It is not clear whether the neighbour whose home was burglarised asked Horn to watch over his house.

Offline 63Wildcat

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2008, 02:48:26 PM »
They can have my weapons when they pry them from my cold dead fingers.. until then the Gov't can kiss my ASS with any attempt to ban weapons. Wasn't there something that said ".... the right to bear arms" ? yes I'm saying sarcastically....
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat

 AS OF TOMORROW I'M TURNING GRAVITY OFF...

Heidi Salazar

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2008, 02:59:21 PM »
So it has been said....

Article the fourth [Amendment II][4]

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Heidi Salazar

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Re: James Freeman Sentenced to Death in 2007 TX Murder of Game Warden
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2008, 03:01:19 PM »
previous post NULL if you are a convicted fellon who lost that right!!