It was dark when Rhainell Madrona, 57, went out of his home to investigate a noise. He was on edge because his home in Antioch, CA, had been burglarized and vandalized multiple times. The police had been unresponsive to his calls for help.
He saw two tall males dressed in black in his driveway. Madrona started to crawl under his garage door at 11 PM on October, 26, 2012, when he saw a 5-foot-11 teenage boy hoisting a garbage bin and charging at him. The same bin had been used to smash in Madron’a car window three days earlier.
Madrona pulled a gun from his pocket, accidentally fired one shot and grazed the boy, while the other two teens were uninjured. “I didn’t have time to think,” Madrona said.
The prosecutor charged him with two felonies: assault with a firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm. But thanks to National Trial Lawyers member Joseph Tully of Tully & Weiss Attorneys in Martinez, CA, the homeowner was acquitted of defending his home.
Tully employed a “stand your ground” defense under California law to argue successfully that Madrona had the right to use his firearm to defend himself on his own property. A jury in Contra Costa County Superior Court acquitted Madrona on June 22.
Prosecutor Jay Melaas argued that Madrona was not acting in self-defense but that he overreacted. “He hears a noise, goes and get his gun,” Melaas said. He argued the homeowner had a “shoot-first” mentality because Madrona stored the gun with a bullet in the chamber and the safety off. After the shooting, Madrona did not call 911 but instead hid the gun in a roof vent.
“He says nothing about self-defense,” Melass argued. “Somebody who’s forced to shoot somebody in self-defense will shout it from the rooftops.”
Tully countered that Madrona felt a need to protect himself on the night of the shooting, especially when he saw two figures outside his home. "When you're scared," Tully told the jury, "when fight or flight kicks in, you pull the trigger. He did not trust Antioch Police Department to listen to him. So really, how could you blame him? If you find it reasonable that he acted in self-defense -- defense of himself, or his wife, who was in bed asleep that night -- he's not guilty of both charges."
Part of the jury instructions given by Judge Lewis A. Davis told jurors that “a defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand their ground.”
The jury found Madona not guilty. Tully said his client lost his longtime job at San Francisco international Airport after his arrest, and is hoping to regain the job now that he has been acquitted.
“I’m happy the jury was able to see the truth of what happened here and I hope that Mr. Madrona can begin the healing process of a victim who wrongfully became the accused,” Tully said.