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Texas Father Kills Molester During Attack; Is it Justified Defense?

According to The Huffington Post, a father from Lavaca County, Texas killed an acquaintance, whom the he caught attempting to sexually abuse the father's 4-year-old daughter.

At a gathering, just outside Shiner, Texas, the father was outside tending to horses, when he heard his 4-year-old daughter scream from inside the residence. When the father ran into the house, he found a 47-year-old man attempting to molest the man's daughter.

In order to protect his daughter and prevent her from being sexually assaulted, the father punched the man in the head several times, resulting in the man's death. According to Lavaca County Sheriff, Micah Harmon, the father was "very remorseful" and did not realize that the man would die from his injuries. Harmon described the 4-year-old girl as "OK, besides the obvious mental trauma" of the incident.

The father and daughter's names were withheld to protect the child's privacy.  The name of the deceased was not released pending notification of his family.

"You have a right to defend your daughter," Harmon told CNN.  "[The girl's father] acted in defense of his third person. Once the investigation is completed we will submit it to the district attorney who then submits it to the grand jury, who will decide if they will indict him."

While I'm unfamiliar with Texas laws, in California, where I am a police officer, a person has the right to use deadly force to prevent serious bodily injury or death to themselves or a third party (in this case, the father protecting his 4-year-old daughter). While the definition of "serious bodily injury" can be somewhat subjective, a 47-year-old man attempting to sexually assault a 4-year-old girl would surely meet that criterion.

However, according to the California Department of Justice's publication, "California Firearms Laws 2007", "The right of self-defense ceases when there is no further danger from an assailant. Thus, where a person attacked under circumstances initially justifying self-defense renders the attacker incapable of inflicting further injuries, the law of self-defense ceases and no further force may be used."

In other words, once the assailant no longer poses a threat, you are no longer warranted in using force against him. Let's assume that this incident occurred in California, and the father's first punch incapacitated the assailant. In such case, it would no longer be legally defensible for the father to continue to punch the assailant.

Fortunately, in this case, it seems as though the father prevented his 4-year-old daughter from sustaining serious and lasting injury. Of secondary importance is the fact that it does not appear as though the father will be charged.

What are your thoughts?


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