A 17-year old Magnolia, Texas resident was charged on July 16, 2019, for the murder of Houston teenager Ryan Bates. The defendant, William Underwood, came to be known by the police through an alleged Snapchat video Underwood purportedly made at the crime scene. Now, the defendant has pleaded not guilty, arguing self-defense.
The Alleged Crime: Murder in Houston TX
The body of Bates was discovered by Harris County Sheriff's deputies near Highway 6 in the northwestern part of Harris County. Upon arriving, the deputies discovered Bates' body outside of an apartment complex on Park Point Drive. His body was discovered with multiple gunshot wounds.
Nearly a month passed before Underwood was arrested for murder. According to the police, the defendant filmed himself driving by the scene of the crime as officers processed the scene.
An eyewitness also identified Underwood. According to the witness, Underwood attempted to enter multiple parked vehicles armed with a Taser before entering the victim's car shortly before the shooting. The witness informed the police that she saw Underwood tase the victim repeatedly and then heard gunshots.
The Self-Defense Claim in Texas
According to the defendant, the killing was done in self-defense. Underwood informed the police that he met the victim through Snapchat in an attempt to buy marijuana. After feeling threatened, Underwood admitted tazing the victim before shooting him.
Following the shooting, Underwood allegedly returned to his sister's apartment and logged in to Snapchat in order to create an alibi.
The Use of Self-Defense under Texas Law
The strength of Underwood's self-defense claim remains to be seen. Regardless, a self-defense claim is one of the most powerful affirmative defenses available under Texas law. The basis of a self-defense claim is not to allege that you did not commit the act, only that you were justified in doing so.
Generally speaking, self-defense allows for the use of force that would be unlawful in other situations. According to Texas Penal Code § 9.31, this use of force is only justified if you:
reasonably believe the force is immediately necessary to protect [yourself] against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force.
For a self-defense claim to be valid, your belief that force was necessary must be reasonable. In other words, irrational fear will not result in viable grounds for self-defense. Texas law outlines the situations where force may be used, which include:
1. Unlawfully entering or attempting to enter your home, vehicle, or place of business;
2. Removing or attempting to remove you from your home, vehicle, or place of employment;
3. Committing or attempting to commit any of the following crimes:
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Robbery, or
- Aggravated robbery.
Discuss Your Case with a Houston Attorney Who Will Fight For You
If you are facing charges of a violent crime in Houston, attorney Doug Murphy is ready to help. A certified expert in criminal law, Doug Murphy can review the facts of your case to identify any viable defenses that should be raised. To learn more about your options, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.