Family of burglar shot and killed by homeowner fight back

Published: Jul. 21, 2009 at 9:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2009 at 6:03 PM CDT
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By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Josh Chambers was shot in the head and killed after authorities say he broke into Terry Graham's home, outside Bullard.

Attorneys representing Chambers' family told Smith County jurors his crime did not warrant an execution. But, Graham's defense attorneys argue the law is and was on Mr. Graham's side.

"Only God and the State of Texas had a right to punish Josh Chambers," said Greg Porter, the plaintiff's attorney.

"Nobody knows what Josh Chambers had in his mind," said Tracy Crawford, Terry Graham's attorney. "Certainly Mr. Graham didn't [know]."

"That wasn't self defense, that was an execution," said Porter.

"They accuse this man of executing him," said Crawford. "I can't tell you how angry that makes me."

Wasting no time, the legal gauntlets were thrown down. During opening arguments, both sides detailed what happened that Sunday afternoon two and a half years ago. Authorities say when Terry Graham returned home to his farm, there was a car he didn't recognize. The door to his home had been kicked open. That's when he and a ranch-hand found Josh Chambers. At the time, Chambers was an alleged cocaine addict on probation for a previous burglary. Chambers was able to make it to his car outside of Graham's home with a stolen bag packed with cash, guns and a bottle of alcohol. But, Chambers would not make it out of the driveway alive.

"He never pulled a firearm on Mr. Graham," said Porter. "[He] never pointed any gun or weapon at him. He was trying to flee."

"Even if he was just trying to get away, the law in the State of Texas says what he did was justified," said Crawford.

"There's no death penalty in Texas for burglary or for being a drug addict," said Porter.

Ron Shaffer, Josh Chambers' father-in-law, was the first witness called, but not before the plaintiff's introduced Chambers' two children to the jury. The defense asked Shaffer to read a letter written by his grandson to Chambers during a stay in prison. Things quickly got personal.

"I understand you're busy, but [it] just take five or 10 minutes each day and write a little bit," read Shaffer.

"That man loved his children more than anything," said Shaffer to Crawford.

"More than drugs?" asked Crawford.

"I don't know about that," Shaffer replied.

The trial then turned emotional. The plaintiffs asked Shaffer to read a letter Chambers wrote to his family.

"It was very good to see you when came down with Nanny," read Shaffer. "I hope to see you soon. Have faith in God and remember to pray every night."

Jurors also heard taped testimony from the Smith County sheriff's deputy who investigated the shooting. A forensic scientist also testified. It is unknown how much in damages Chambers' ex-wife and children are seeking.

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