If you’ve read an article recently about a California man who claims he killed his ex-girlfriend by beheading her out of self-defense, you may be wondering if beheading can be considered self-defense in a court of law.
In the case involving Jose Rafael Solano, now in San Mateo County Jail for killing his former girlfriend Karina Castro, it doesn’t look that way. And in Texas, a claim of self-defense would not automatically absolve a defendant who defended themself by cutting off the head of an attacker or a presumed attacker.
What are Texas laws on self-defense?
Texas laws on self-defense clearly state that any actions taken in self-defense must not be greater than the amount of force used or threatened by the perpetrator. Using too much force in self-defense is a crime in itself, and claims of legal self-defense do not change that.
In Texas, the so-called “burden of proof” to establish self-defense in court lies with the defense attorney, not the prosecutor.
Texas Penal Code 9.31 also holds that it must be shown that the defendant did not provoke the person against whom the force was used and was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity.
Additionally, Texas self-defense law holds that the “use of force against another is not justified” in response to “verbal provocation alone.” It also states that a defendant who claims self-defense cannot have provoked the other person’s use, or attempted use, of unlawful force.
Self-defense can be a viable legal strategy, and the prosecutor must disprove self-defense (once raised) beyond a reasonable doubt.
Were you wrongfully accused of assault? Learn about potential penalties and defenses for assault crimes in Texas.
What must be proven to establish self-defense?
As for what must be proven to establish self-defense, a defense lawyer in Texas must prove that the defendant was in immediate danger.
To establish when self-defense was justified, a defense attorney also must prove that the defendant believed force was necessary to prevent serious injury.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, the defense lawyer must prove that only enough force was used to prevent such an injury, rather than excessive force that was disproportionate to the threat.
In other words, any force applied in self-defense must be the minimal amount of force that was needed to fend off an attack. That is considered to be “reasonable” force.
Can you use self-defense to defend property?
As for proving self-defense, such a claim can be the basis of a legal defense under the so-called “Castle Doctrine.” This refers to acting in self-defense in the defense of one’s property. That right is the strongest when a person is defending themself at home.
This distinction makes Texas a “Stand Your Ground” state. In fact, even deadly force can be used to defend property.
Texas Penal Code 9.01 was known as the “Castle Doctrine” when it became law in 1995. After an expansion of the law in 2007, it became known as a “Stand Your Ground” law, which more than half of the states have enacted. Such a law holds that a person may use reasonable force when defending their property, and such property can include not just their home but also their vehicle.
Also, self-defense laws in Texas include defending others who may be in danger. Further, a person can use force to stop various crimes in progress, depending on the circumstances.
But basically, Texas self-defense laws apply if “a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.”
As you can see, there are many ways in which self-defense can be established to absolve a defendant of liability for a violent crime. In fact, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to get prosecutors to drop an assault or murder charge even before a trial is held, provided that self-defense can be established.
Even with a trial, self-defense can be proven in order to win an acquittal. Recently in Houston, a woman who’d suffered years of abuse from her husband was acquitted of killing him after a trial in which she pleaded she’d acted in self-defense—and the jury agreed.
Learn why criminal charges might be dropped or dismissed before trial and how an attorney can help protect your rights.
California beheading was with a samurai sword
The beheading case in California involved Solano, 33, using a samurai sword to behead ex-girlfriend Castro, 27, in San Carlos, California, last September.
In an interview with ABC7’s KGO-TV published online on February 3, Solano reportedly told reporter Dan Noyes that he went to the apartment of Castro, the mother of his child, and she met him outside with a knife she’d taken out of her car.
Solano reportedly said Castro marched toward him with the knife, and he responded by swinging a samurai sword he’d brought with him, beheading her—which he claimed was in self-defense.
Law enforcement authorities say there was no sign of a knife at the scene, and none of the many witnesses on the street saw one.
Snapchat messages show that the two had argued several hours before the deadly encounter.
Months before the killing, Castro had obtained a temporary restraining order against Solano, who is known to suffer from schizophrenia, according to Newsweek.
The killing has been investigated by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department in Northern California.
Get the best self-defense lawyer you can find
If you or a loved one is accused of a violent crime which, in fact, was a case of self-defense, you must get the best self-defense lawyer you can find.