Texas Jury Deadlocks Over Rifle Owner’s Resistance

Posted October 30, 2013 in Criminal Law gun rights by

Shooting AR-15

Hemera/Thinkstock

A man carrying an assault rifle on a hike with his son in Texas has avoided a conviction – for now — for misdemeanor interference with the duties of an officer, after he was arrested in a confrontation with a police officer over his response to questions about the gun.  

 

Fight Fire with Fire?

A jury in Belton, Texas, on Oct. 18 deadlocked over whether Christopher Grisham interfered with the duties of a Temple, Texas, police officer who stopped him while he was hiking with his son, who captured some of the confrontation on video

The police had received reports from worried citizens that a man was walking around with an assault rifle — in this case, an AR-15. Grisham, who is a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, and his 15-year-old son were reportedly hiking for the son’s Boy Scout merit badge. He was supposedly concerned about wild animals in the area and thus brought along his AR-15. 

Grisham, who was also carrying a concealed handgun (for which he had a permit), appears on the video to grow angry when the officer asks him about the assault rifle. Instead of explaining what he was doing, he says, “Am I doing anything wrong?” Prosecutors alleged that he resisted arrest and tried to keep the officer from taking his gun.

As a result of the deadlock, the trial ended in a mistrial, which Grisham and his lawyer and supporters celebrated as a victory.

Apparently the trial was replete with media circus and a fiery post-verdict press conference given by his lawyer, Blue Rannefeld, a solo practitioner in Fort Worth, Texas, who described how he told the judge off at one point about his “extremely biased [and] prejudicial” behavior.

Rannefeld and supporters showed up to the courthouse waving toothbrushes as a symbol of his stated willingness to go to jail for contempt of court, which did not happen 

 

Clarification Needed

The jury deliberated for four days — for a total of 16 hours — according to Rannefeld. “I think that shows how much they struggled with this, how much that this is such a controversial, passionate issue for people,” he said. “It shows that the judicial system works well.”

“The state in all its power . . . could not find my client guilty today, no matter how hard they tried,” he added. Grisham will be retried in November, according to Rannefeld’s Facebook page.

News reports said that Texas’ open carry laws don’t apply to long guns like the AR-15, meaning gun owners can carry them in public freely, so long as they don’t do so in a menacing way. A local ordinance in Temple however restricts openly carried firearms to security and police.

“We need some clarification,” Rannefeld said of the legal gray area surrounding what police can and cannot do when officer safety and gun ownership rights clash.

After the trial, Grisham was thrilled. “When we went out there that day, there was never any crime committed,” he said, adding that he plans to go out again with his son, to finish the 25-mile hike, implying he would do it with the gun(s) again.

He said he was planning on lobbying for gun law changes in Texas. He felt like the officer was unfairly demanding that he turn over his gun, and he want to fight that.

The Temple Police Department still has his AR-15, Grisham said. “I will go through this as many times as the county wants to go with me,” he said regarding the possibility of refiled charges. “Our liberty is at stake here.” 

 

Junk-Yard Dogs

Rannefeld also helps to run the “National Association for Legal Gun Defense,” which, for paying members, offers to “release a pack of j-yard dog attorney’s [sic] to defend you.” For $150 a year, members earn the right to be defended in a range of legal actions relating to gun self-defense, according to the website.

The national director of the association spoke at the press conference as well. “He has a $1-million bankroll behind him that can afford to go as many times as the county wants to go,” the director said of Grisham. “So let’s play ball.”

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