Law Prof.: Claim Of Self-Defense In Deadly Road Rage Fight Appears Justified

Houston Police continue their investigation into Monday's deadly road rage incident on the Gulf Freeway.  One of the men involved says he was acting in self-defense when he put another man in a headlock.  The man later died.  David Pitman spoke with a local law professor who says, based on the facts that are known right now, it appears the self-defense claim will likely hold up.


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Police say on Monday evening, 28-year-old Johnathan Darling got into an argument with a man who rear-ended Darling on the feeder road of the Gulf Freeway near Monroe.

Darling told police the other man, whose name hasn’t been released, verbally threatened him.  Darling says he was walking back to his SUV to ask his wife to call police when the other man hit him in the back of the head.

Darling says the other man kept hitting him after he fell on the ground.  According to authorities, Darling got the other man in a headlock, with the intent of restraining him until police arrived.  The man later died at a nearby hospital.

Geoffrey Corn is a professor at South Texas College of Law.   He says Darling’s self-defense claim hinges on Darling trying to retreat when the other man threw the first punch.

“So now he’s been the victim of an unlawful act of aggression.  He then has a right, under the law, to take proportional, responsive measures — if he believes they are immediately necessary to protect himself.”

Corn says the word “proportional” is key in this situation, with Darling meeting the other man’s aggression with non-lethal force.

“He doesn’t seem to have intended to have caused the death of this guy.  He responded with ‘restraining’ force, which, I think, is going to be viewed by the prosecutors or, if it ever gets to a grand jury, as reasonable, under the circumstances.”

Corn says Darling’s attempt to walk away from the man and get the police involved will likely work in his favor. 

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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host & Announcer

David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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