Mr. Charles Payne is on trial for his life in Dallas.
He is accused of Capital Murder in the shooting death of Dallas Police Senior Corporal Norm Smith.
Mr. Payne admits to pulling the trigger and firing the shot through his front door that killed Cpl. Smith. At the time, Cpl. Smith and other Police officers were storming into Mr. Payne's house, serving a warrant.
Mr. Payne's defense is that he never heard anyone identify themselves as Police either before, or after the door was broken down. Another Police office who was present at the incident testified under oath that he never heard anyone identify themselves as Police prior to the violent entry through the front door.
It is legal in Texas to shoot an intruder in self defense. In these days, if you are not prepared to defend yourself and your family against intruders, especially in certain neighborhoods, you are just asking to be robbed, raped, or murdered. Home intrusions in heavily minority sections of the city are almost nightly occurences.
The defendant is black. The officer was white.
The officer's death is a tragedy, one that hurt the City of Dallas and his family. From the defendant's testimony, it has hurt him and his family as well. Mr. Payne has repeatedly apologized in public for what happened.
With the conflicting evidence, there is no way to know for certain what the defendant believed was happening as he pulled the trigger. Was he shooting a Police Officer, or was he defending himself and his family from a home invasion?
It will be interesting to see how the jury responds to the case. One can only hope and pray that justice is done, though Mr. Payne will be the only one who truly knows for certain.
Update - The jury found Mr. Payne guilty of First Degree Murder. He will not face the death penalty, but may spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The jury is still in the punishment phase, so no comments from them. My guess is that they reached a compromise in their own minds. They weren't going to let a cop killer go, no matter what the circumstances, but there was enough doubt there to keep them from executing Mr. Payne.
Several details came out in the testimony that bear scrutiny.
Cpl. Smith's wife is a Lt. in the Dallas Police Department.
The team serving the warrant was after someone else, Mr. Payne's cousin. The team got the names mixed up, and were serving the warrant to the wrong person at the wrong address. Mr. Payne had no criminal record, and wasn't wanted for anything.
Cpl. Smith got Mr. Payne to open the door slightly by using a false name, and did not identify himself as a Police Officer. When Mr. Payne cracked the door open a bit to look, Cpl. Smith threw his weight against the door to break it in. Cpl. Smith was wearing black tactical gear, not a Police uniform. Mr. Payne threw his own weight against the door to try and block it, and fired 4 shots through the door. He was not in visual contact with Cpl. Smith when he pulled the trigger, there is no way he could have been aiming specifically at him.
The prosecution convinced the jury that Mr. Payne knew for certain he was shooting at a Police Officer who was operating in the line of duty. With so much doubt, with so much riding on what exactly Mr. Payne was thinking at the time, I cannot understand how the jury reached this verdict given all the information that was presented.
As I said above, I hope that justice has been served. Mr. Payne knows - no one else does.
Update II - Charles Payne was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, the harshest punishment allowed for the conviction. The jury had leeway to give him anywhere from 2 years to life.after they convicted him.
This is a chilling result. It tells me that if I shoot someone dressed head to toe in black, who refuses to identify themselves, and who violently breaks into my house, I have to somehow prove he is not a Police Officer before I pull the trigger. What am I to do - call timeout and ask to see their identification?