Texas Man No Billed in Shooting Death of Deputy During Drug Raid
No Bills by a Texas Grand Jury for Murder is rare, but even more rare is a No Bill when the murder involves the death of a law enforcement officer. That is exactly what happened recently in a Burleson County case.
This past December Burleson County Sheriff Deputies were executing a “no knock” search warrant on the rural home of Henry Magee. An informant had told deputies that Mr. Magee was a large scale drug dealer and that in his house they would find 12 to 14 large marijuana plants growing, a vicious dog, and several guns, one of which had been stolen from the Burleson County Sheriff’s Department. When deputies forced their way into Magee’s home he fired in self defense and killed one of the deputies. He was charged with Capital Murder.
The subsequent search of the house only found two 6 inch plants and three guns, two of which were locked in a safe. None of the guns were stolen. Magee’s dog barked at officers but did not attack. It appeared that the police informant’s information was completely wrong.
Texas like all other states’ has self defense laws in place. Citizens are allowed to use deadly force to protect their lives and the lives of others if they have a reasonable belief their life is in danger. The key issues in this case was first, whether Mr. Magee knew law enforcement officers were breaking into his home and secondly whether Magee had a reasonable belief to use deadly force.
The facts produced to this Texas Grand jury showed Mr. Magee had no idea law enforcement officers were breaking into his home. “No knock” warrants are issued to allow law enforcement to enter homes without knocking on the door or announcing that they are outside. This is done in situations in which the police believe that suspects inside a home would do harm to the police if they knew they were making entry and the suspects would destroy evidence before entry could be made. No knock warrants are very dangerous for law enforcement and the persons in the home that is the target of the search.
In this case the grand jury believed that Mr. Magee had no idea that police officers were making entry into his home. It appeared he had a reasonable belief that some intruders were forcing their way in and he shot to defend himself. In Texas grand juries and juries are open to self defense and will side with a defendant if the facts are there and presented to them in a persuasive presentation. However it is much tougher to convince a grand jury or jury that a citizen had the right to use deadly force when it is a law enforcement officer who is killed.