What is going to happen in the case of the Dallas police officer who shot a man in his own home? She was allegedly mistaken in thinking it was her apartment and that he was a burglar.
Should she be charged with murder?
What is the State required to prove for a murder case?
Murder is intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person without justification. Justification meaning, for example, that you were defending yourself or another person. Intentionally or Knowingly means that you knew what you were doing and you did on purpose or were reasonably certain that your actions would cause the others death.
Maybe that doesn’t fit the facts as we have heard them so far. What else could she be charged with? Manslaughter is a lesser charge than murder. For now, that is what she has officially been charged with. What about that?
Manslaughter is recklessly causing the death of another. Recklessness as defined by the law in Texas is that you are aware of but consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that someone will die because of your actions.
How did they decide on that? That doesn’t really seem to fit the situation either. She supposedly said that she thought that she was at the door to her own apartment. How can she be aware of a risk and consciously disregard it when she is mistaken about key facts in the situation?
There is another lower offense in Texas as well called Criminally Negligent Homicide. Acting with Criminal Negligence is where you should have been aware of risk but you didn’t recognize it and the failure to recognize it is a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise in that situation. This could fit because supposedly he had a red door mat outside and she did not have one of those. So maybe she should have recognized that it was the wrong apartment.
The most reasonable criticism of her actions that I have heard so far in the media discussion of this case was speculation that maybe she should have backed out of the area as quickly as possible and called for backup before engaging.
She was just coming off a 15 hour shift so how tired was she? Would anyone else in her shoes been able to make better judgments? But she is trained as a police officer. Do we hold her to a higher standard of care in this type of circumstance than an average citizen?
This will come down to the mental state of the defendant and, based on all the credible evidence that can be found about the situation, whether her actions were reasonable from the perspective of an ordinary person in her situation.
It looks to me like, if anything, this was a mental state more closely associated with Criminal Negligence than an Intentional, Knowing or Reckless act. But of course we may not have all the facts yet so things could change.
There do seem to be some additional difficult to explain pieces of the story, such as the door being ajar. Supposedly he was a very conscientious person and he wouldn’t have left the door unlocked. Stay tuned for more as the case unfolds.
What do you think?