Defending your home is not a crime even when it leads to the death of a sheriff’s deputy, a grand jury in Texas has ruled.
In December Magee shot Sowders, who was part of a SWAT team searching for marijuana and guns at Magee’s mobile home around 6 a.m. Magee mistook Sowders for a robber and shot and killed him.
“He did what a lot of people would have done,” Magee’s defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told the Associated Press. “He defended himself and his girlfriend and his home.”
Protecting his home
“This is something that could have happened to anyone protecting their home at night,” DeGuerin told Britain’s Daily Mail.
Magee believed that he and his pregnant girlfriend were the victims of a home invasion robbery, TV station KBTX reported. Officers did find marijuana plants growing in Magge’s home, as well as marijuana seeds. They also found some guns that Magee legally owned.
“Well, we feel that the grand jury acted fairly and reasonably and had all of the information that it needed to make the decision that it did. That is that this was a justified shooting, but we need to say that this is a tragedy,” DeGuerin said.
Magee’s case might set an important precedent in Texas. DeGuerin, a veteran attorney, said he had never heard of a Texas grand jury refusing to indict a person in the shooting of a law enforcement officer during a raid.
The grand jury refused to charge Magee with capital murder. Capital murder could lead to the death penalty in Texas. The grand jury did charge DeGuerin with possession of marijuana while in possession of a weapon, a third-degree felony.
Magee could still face murder charges because Burleson County District Attorney Julie Renken could refile them with another grand jury. Renken hasn’t said whether she will take that action.
“However, there is not enough evidence that Mr. Magee knew that day that Peace Officers were entering his home,” Renken admitted. Renken also said that the raid on Magee’s home was “complete chaos.” Although she claimed that deputies had announced their presence before the shooting.
Tragedy could have been averted
“It need not have happened,” DeGuerin said of Sowders’ death. “They could have walked up to his house in the daylight and he would have let him in or they could have stopped him as he left his house to go to the store.”
The Burleson County Sheriff’s Office contends that a no-knock raid was necessary because knocking would have given Magee a chance to dispose of his marijuana. The raid on Magee’s house near Somerville, Texas, was carried out after an informant told deputies he was dealing drugs.
“The Burleson County Sheriff’s Office would not have been there that day if Mr. Magee had not decided to live a lifestyle of doing and producing illegal drugs in his home,” a statement from the Burleson County district attorney’s office noted. “Therefore, we will fully prosecute the drug charges against him.”
After the raid the deputies found 12 to 15 marijuana plants and around five pounds of the drug in the home. Magee is still in jail on drug possession charges.
Deputies apparently considered Magee dangerous because an informant had seen guns in his home. The SWAT team was called in because the informant claimed Magee might have had a guard dog as well as guns. Deputies believed the guns might have been stolen in a burglary. The guns, though, were legal.