In December of last year, members of the Burleson County, Texas SWAT team executed a pre-dawn, no-knock warrant by breaking through the door of Henry Goedrich Magee’s mobile home. Believing criminals to have broken in, Magee picked up a rifle positioned near his bedroom door and fired, killing county Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Sowders. Charged with capital murder, Magee faced the prospect of either life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.
On December 30th, we posted an article that reviewed the known information concerning this early morning raid.
On February 5th, “…the 21st Judicial District Grand Jury returned a No Bill on Capital Murder charges against Henry Goedrick Magee.” That is, the Grand Jury refused to indict Magee for capital murder, deciding there was not enough evidence to prove that Magee knew the intruders to be police officers. The Jury did, however, indict him for “’Possession of Marijuana more than 4 oz. but less than 5 lbs.’ while in possession of a deadly weapon.”
Immediately following the Jury’s decision, District Attorney Julie Renken issued a statement that must embarrass not only the State of Texas, but principled attorneys and peace officers throughout. According to Renken:
The self-defense laws in Texas are viewed in the mindset of the actor, not the victim, which allows for tragedies to occur when one party is acting lawfully, but it can be reasonably seen as a threat of deadly force by another. However, 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. Therefore, we will fully prosecute the drug charges against him. This event should wake the community up that drug crimes are not victimless.
According to Renken, if the Grand Jury returned a shameful decision, blame Texas self-defense law, which offers far too much latitude to people like Henry Magee, providing them essentially unrestricted license to decide whether the use of deadly force is justified in a particular situation. This misrepresentation of the law allows the disingenuous Renken to portray Sowders–who in this case was clearly the attacker–as the victim!
Renken also claims that Texas self-defense statute “…allows for tragedies to occur when one party is acting lawfully, but it can be reasonably seen as a threat of deadly force by another.” Baloney! Lawful activity clearly may not be used as grounds for the use of deadly force. Nor may it be “…reasonably seen as a threat of deadly force by another.”
Incredibly, Renken decides that Magee must be held responsible for what seems a wanton use of unnecessary force by the Burleson County SWAT team. Magee’s arrest record consisted of 2 misdemeanor drug arrests and 2 arrests for DUI. Yet law enforcement concluded that a pre-dawn, no-knock home invasion by a SWAT team was necessary to serve such an individual with a search warrant.
It’s a terrible thing that Adam Sowders was shot and killed. But if law enforcement elects to use no-knock, home invasion tactics for the purpose of serving a search warrant, members of the strike team must be willing to accept the fact that citizens have the right to protect themselves, their families, and their property from the threat of unknown assailants.
That D.A. Renken doesn’t understand this does not mean that Texas needs a new law. It means the 21st Judicial District needs a new District Attorney.