Controversial laws in Texas that can effectively allow homeowners to kill people coming on to their property are to be thrown into the spotlight after the shocking case of a Moroccan man who was shot dead after pulling over in the driveway of a San Antonio-area house, possibly because he was lost.
Adil Dghoughi, 31, was killed earlier this month by the homeowner Terry Turner, who has been charged with murder.
Turner’s lawyers say they will defend their client under the rubric of Texas’s stand-your-ground law and castle doctrine that allows homeowners to use deadly force against someone on their property if the actions are seen as immediately necessary.
Stand-your-ground laws counter the notion that in the event of danger, one must retreat or run away. Rather, a person may “stand their ground” and justifiably defend themselves.
Critics of the laws say they lead to unnecessary deaths and are often a cover for racism. The first stand-your-ground law in the US was enacted in Florida in 2005, with heavy lobbying from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The law came under national scrutiny in the wake of the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch person.
The details of the Texas killing have shocked many.
Dghoughi, a Muslim who immigrated to the US in 2013 and studied finance, had borrowed the Audi of his girlfriend, Sarah Todd, after a barbecue in Converse, a town just outside San Antonio. On the way back home, he stopped and pulled over in Turner’s neighborhood in Martindale, a city about 55 miles north-east of San Antonio. Dghoughi’s family and girlfriend believe he was possibly lost in an unfamiliar town and was checking for directions.
According to the affidavit provided to a Texas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), it was 3.30am when Turner got up to use the bathroom and noticed a car parked in his driveway.
Turner, documents say, retrieved his gun, and when he came outside, the car Dghoughi was driving had its headlights on and was reversing out of the driveway. Turner shot Dghoughi through the car window as he was leaving, and the bullet hit his hand and his head. Turner then called 911 and said: “I just killed a guy.”
Turner claimed Dghoughi pointed a gun at him. No gun was found.
Sandra Guerra Thompson, a law professor at the University of Houston, said: “The law will presume the use of force was immediately necessary if the other person forcibly entered a person’s occupied habitation or vehicle.
“It requires you to have evidence that the individual who was killed was in the process of committing some kind of crime. If there isn’t any evidence of any kind of criminality, [self] defense just doesn’t apply.”
Thompson added: “It’s customary to drive into people’s driveways without it being considered trespass … There are other reasonable steps a concerned homeowner could take, like calling the police.”
Faizan Syed, a spokesperson for CAIR, said: “We believe the death of Adil is murder, plain and simple. Terry Turner should have been arrested the same day he shot and killed Adil.”
Syed added: “It’s a disgrace to this country and to our legal system that it took 14 days almost, along with calls to the Department of Justice, the Texas Rangers and other agencies, before the police department did their very minimal job of finding, arresting, and charging Terry Turner.”
Dghoughi’s family and attorney say he posed no threat to Turner. Dghoughi’s family is now arranging for his burial in Morocco.
This article was amended on 29 October 2021 to correct the location of Martindale, Texas.