What is Texas’ Castle Doctrine and what does it mean in the Amber Guyger case?

Amber Guyger, who is charged in the killing of Botham Jean in his own home, arrives on the first day of the trial in Dallas on Sept. 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jeremy Lock

The Castle Doctrine justifies deadly force when a person intrudes on your property. Guyger’s case is murky since she thought she was in her apartment but was actually in the apartment of unarmed Botham Jean.

On Monday, State District Court Judge Tammy Kemp allowed jurors to consider what’s called the “Castle Doctrine” in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who shot and killed 26-year-old unarmed Botham Jean in his apartment after mistaking it for her own.

Jean lived one floor above Guyger and worked at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Guyger, who was fired after the 2018 shooting, had just completed a nearly 14-hour work shift.

Closing arguments were heard on Monday. The jury is expected to resume deliberations Tuesday.

What is the Castle Doctrine?

The Castle Doctrine is a term used to refer to Senate Bill 378, passed in 2007, that says if you’re in your “castle” — home, car or business — any deadly force used is presumed to be reasonable.

The jury has to interpret any force used as reasonable unless the state proves it otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt, said Pete Schulte, a Dallas-based lawyer.

According to Schulte and Fort Worth law firm Barnett Howard & Williams, a person can claim self-defense if:

  • They believed someone was on their property illegally.
  • They reasonably believed the deadly force was immediately necessary.
  • They did not provoke the person against which the deadly force was used.
  • They weren’t engaged in criminal activity (other than a minor traffic offense) at the time the deadly force was used.

What does this mean for the Guyger case?

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