It seems like the headline above should be about something happening in California, not Texas, but prosecutors in Milam County in the Lone Star State are indeed going after a guy for carrying a firearm, even though he had a valid Texas Concealed Handgun License.
According to prosecutors, the problem is that Patrick Lewis Vaden isn’t just licensed to carry a handgun, he’s a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, which has been designated a criminal gang by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The local District Attorneys says the way he reads the law in Texas, that means Vaden can’t legally carry a gun. Vaden’s defense attorney disagrees, and the issue ultimately led to a mistrial this week.
More than 24 hours after jury selection, on Tuesday, the case abruptly ended in a mistrial and an appeal. Defense Attorney Kurt Glass told 6 News that Judge Steve Young ruled a mistrial after Glass refused to exclude a critical fact in the trial.
“What we have to appeal is whether or not Mr. Vaden and his license to carry are able to be mentioned in front of the jury,” Glass said.
Glass said the prosecution filed a motion last week requesting that Vaden’s license to carry, which was valid at the time of the arrest, was not to be admitted into evidence. He said Young agreed with prosecutors on Monday, but he had to risk bringing the LTC up in court regardless in order to lay the groundwork for a possible appeal after the case. He hopes it won’t come to that.
“Depends upon what the court of appeals does,” Glass said. “The court of appeals has the option to send the case back down with no decision, or they can tell the judge, ‘Hey, you have to follow the law and allow Mr. Vaden to tell the jury he was allowed to carry a weapon.’”
At issue is a dispute between prosecutors and the defense attorney about the section of the laws in Texas that was used to charge Vaden. The prosecutor says the statutes state that a member of a designated criminal street gang cannot legally carry a firearm, but Vaden’s attorney says the prosecutor needs to read a little further.
Texas Penal Code Section 46.02(a-1)(2)(C) states a person cannot carry a handgun if they are a member of a criminal street gang, as defined by Section 71.01. The Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang has been labeled a criminal gang by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
However, Section 46.15(b)(6)(A)(B) says the previous section mentioned (Section 46.02) does not apply to a person who is carrying an LTC issued under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, provided they are carrying correctly. Glass said Vaden was carrying the gun correctly.
The judge in this case ruled in favor of the prosecutor, which meant that the jury would never learn that Vaden possessed a valid CHL. I’m not an attorney, but if I were a juror and I found out after the trial that the defendant had a concealed carry license, I’d feel misled by prosecutors.
I wish I were the judge in the case, because the proper course of action seems pretty clear to me. The fact that Vaden possessed a valid CHL is clearly instrumental to the defense’s case, as well as being an actual fact. Of course the jury should be made aware of that fact. Let the prosecutor make his case to the jury that the law in Texas doesn’t allow Vaden to carry, and let the defense attorney argue to the jury that the law, in fact, does allow his client to bear arms. Then let the jury decide the case.
The case is now up before a Texas court of appeals, and hopefully they’ll rule in the Solomonic fashion that I would. It sounds like Mr. Vaden may not be the greatest ambassador for the right to keep and bear arms, but it sounds like he has a good attorney who makes a very good argument. We’ll definitely keep our eyes out for any word from the court of appeals and bring you an update as soon as there’s any news.