Update December 16, 2020: Add paragraphs 7-9 to further explain how Meza’s changes would affect the principles of “castle doctrine” in Texas.
Social media users share a paragraph online alleging that Texas representative Thresa ‘Terry’ Meza introduced a bill called HB 196 to repeal the ‘Castle Doctrine’, which allows homeowners to use deadly force against an armed intruder breaking into their home. It also contains lengthy quotes that allegedly belong to Meza. These allegations are false. Meza sought to amend this law and not repeal it. The quotes stem from a satirical source, John Semmens, whose writing has ripped out of context previously causing confusion and misrepresentation.
Examples of the claim: here and here.
HB 196 is an authentic legislation in Texas: here the Castle Doctrine can be amended and not repealed. The bill was tabled on 9 November 2020 (here) by Meza.
Meza explained in a Twitter thread that the bill was misrepresented and its purpose is to amend the existing law to require a homeowner to exhaust the option to retire safely before using lethal force to kill themselves or defend their home (here).
She added: ‘I introduced this bill because the doctrine of the castle, as it currently exists, encourages people to take justice into their own hands. While theft is apparently wrong, we have laws to address it. I do not believe that stealing someone’s lawn should be an offense punishable by death. ‘
The bill would add a requirement to try to retreat safely before using lethal force against an intruder, removing ‘robbery’ and ‘aggravating robbery’ from a list of crimes involving lethal force outside a person’s home allow and change certain language, such as “Occupancy on land” when referring to the use of lethal force to protect property. The changes can be seen in detail here.
Users wrote by saying Meza’s changes are not an amendment but a repeal of the doctrine. Reuters consulted legal experts by email to inform whether the amendment would be an amendment or an effective elimination of the ‘castle doctrine’ in Texas.
Susan T. Philips, executive professor at Texas A&M University of Law School (here), told Reuters that “according to Meza’s amendment, a person must withdraw before using lethal force as a defense to protect a person. , ” but that “there is no duty to retreat into your own home before using lethal force in defense of a person.” In her opinion, this shows that the amendment retains the doctrine of the castle.
Geary S. Reamey, professor of law at the St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio (here), said Meza’s bill actually ‘restores the withdrawal requirement and the’ castle doctrine ‘to Texas law. “He argued that the exception to the right to waive applies only to a person in their home, the ‘castle doctrine’ in Texas. According to Reamey, Texas did not have a ‘castle doctrine’ at all prior to this statement. , and stated that the doctrine “exists only in states in which there is a duty to withdraw” and that “the doctrine of the castle is an exception to the duty to withdraw.”
The posts spread on Facebook contain several quotes attributed to Meza, including:
‘In most cases, thieves need the money more than the homeowner needs. The homeowner’s insurance compensates us for his losses. On balance, the transfer of property is likely to lead to a fairer distribution of wealth. If my account can help so much to make this transfer peaceful. ”
Reuters could find no evidence or coverage of the fact that Meza had ever made such statements in local or national media reports.
Vince Leibowitz, chief of staff at Meza, told Reuters in an email: “These quotes are 100 percent FALSE and completely fabricated. Rep. Meza NEVER said any of these things. ”
In addition to social media, the quotes attributed to Meza also appear in several blog posts here, here and here, written by Semmens and labeled as ‘Semi-satire’.
Semmens is a political satire writer who writes a column entitled ‘Semi-News – A Satirical Look at Recent News’. Previous examples of his writing presented as fact include: here, here, and here.
The earliest version posted by Semmens is here on December 4, 2020. The story was posted as part of his “Semi-News / Semi-Satire: December 6, 2020 issue”
A search on CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring tool, shows that one of the earliest iterations of these Facebook posts with the manufactured quote was posted here on December 7th.
These quotes were then posted on other blogs and social media without acknowledging the author or declaring the content satire. Examples of this can be seen here, here and here.
Untrue. The HB 196 bill would amend the “Castle Doctrine” to exhaust the potential for safe withdrawal before using lethal force on an intruder. The quotes attributed to Representative Terry Meza originated as satire.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.