This week a Texas grand jury declined to indict a marijuana grower for shooting and killing a sheriff’s deputy who burst into his home in the early morning to execute a search warrant. Henry Goedrich Magee, who was indicted on drug and weapon charges (the latter only because he was growing marijuana), said he believed Burleson County Sgt. Adam Sowders was a burglar. “This was a terrible tragedy that a deputy sheriff was killed, but Hank Magee believed that he and his pregnant girlfriend were being robbed,” Magee’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, told A.P. “He did what a lot of people would have done. He defended himself and his girlfriend and his home.”
DeGuerin, a well-known defense attorney who has been practicing for half a century, said “he could not immediately remember another example of a Texas grand jury declining to indict a defendant in the death of a law enforcement officer.” That sort of outcome is rare not just in Texas but throughout the country, since people who shoot cops invading their homes usually do not get the same benefit of the doubt as cops do when the roles are reversed. (Just ask Cory Maye.) This double standard is reflected in the reaction from the local district attorney:
Julie Renken, the district attorney for Burleson County, said in a statement Thursday she thought the sheriff’s office acted correctly during events that “occurred in a matter of seconds amongst chaos.”
“I believe the evidence also shows that an announcement was made,” Renken said. “However, there is not enough evidence that Mr. Magee knew that day that Peace Officers were entering his home.”
If there was not enough evidence that Magee knew Sowders was a cop rather than an armed robber, why did Renken try to indict Magee for capital murder? It was the police, not Magee, who created the “chaos” in which Sowders was killed. His death is doubly senseless: because violence is not an appropriate response to cultivation of an arbitrarily proscribed plant and because, even if we take pot prohibition as a given, there is no need to enforce it by breaking down people’s doors while they are sleeping, a tactic that inevitably results in tragedies like this one.