If you think it’s OK to shoot a home burglar on your porch, then drag his body inside before calling police, you might want to attend the People’s Law School on Saturday at Baylor Law School.
Law professors and lawyers at the event will teach hourlong courses on 18 topics, including “Stand Your Ground, Self-Defense and the Castle Doctrine: What’s the Difference?”
The People’s Law School is from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Saturday and is free and open to the public. Last year, about 250 people attended and Baylor officials hope for a bigger turnout this year.
Those wanting to attend can participate in up to three courses and should register by noon Friday online at www.Baylor.edu/law/pls.
Baylor Law Professor Pat Wilson, who is organizing the event, said the course featuring discussion of stand your ground and self-defense, which will be taught by Waco attorney Susan Kelly Johnston, was inspired by the real-life shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in February 2012 in Sanford, Fla.
“This is the ninth year that we are offering the People’s Law School for the community, and it is offered to help them become better consumers of legal information, if you will,” Wilson said. “In the sense that we want people to know when they might need a lawyer and the questions to ask a lawyer if they get one or just to participate in a good debate about things they hear in the news.”
Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot the 17-year-old high school student, and a jury acquitted him of murder and manslaughter charges.
Johnston, a former McLennan County assistant district attorney, prosecuted a Waco man in 1997 who caught a 14-year-old boy breaking into his home, held him at gunpoint while taunting him for hours, then shot him.
The man, who had military experience, also called other people on the phone to let them know what was happening while holding his gun on the boy. The man claimed that he jabbed the boy with the gun and it accidentally went off, killing the boy.
The jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter but gave him the maximum 20-year sentence.
Johnston said she will discuss that case, the castle doctrine and self-defense issues in the course, but said, like the Texas Penal Code, she will stress the word “reasonable” in her teachings.
“The key is that we all need to behave reasonably,” she said. “If you can call 9-1-1 and get help, you should. I will just be going over the basics of the law. If you are standing in your front yard and someone is toilet-papering your house, just because they are on your property, you don’t have a right to kill them. The whole point is you need to behave reasonably.”
Johnston also will address the issues of self-defense, defense of one’s property and defense of others and their property, she said.
She will teach a second course on basics of the criminal justice system. Johnston said she will explain what happens when someone is arrested, talk about how a case goes through the system and explain terms like arraignment, grand jury, indictment and reasonable doubt.
In other courses, instructors will discuss privacy law matters, including social media privacy issues; intellectual property, such as rights involving copying another photographer’s picture onto your social media page or using a song at a wedding; family law, including an overview on divorce, protective orders, child support and custody; and elder law, which will discuss issues important to seniors and those who care for them.
Other courses will discuss veterans’ rights, real estate transactions, consumer law, landlord/tenant issues and wills and estate planning.
If you go
What: People’s Law School
Where: Baylor University Law School, 1114 S. University Parks Drive
When: 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Saturday
Cost: Free and open to the public
Why: The ninth annual People’s Law School is a half-day curriculum of courses designed to make the law “user-friendly” and to provide education about legal rights.