NEW BOSTON, Texas - A Bowie County jury acquitted a Texarkana man of murder Friday in a case the defense argued was self-defense under the Texas "castle doctrine."
Kavante Lamarr Wright, 27, was also acquitted on a lesser charge of manslaughter. In his closing remarks, Texarkana lawyer Shorty Barrett argued that under Texas law, Wright had a right to shoot and kill Eric Gentry if he believed his life was in danger in his own home.
"Not all homicides are murders," Barrett argued.
Prosecutors argued that Wright was drunk and physically aggressive toward Echo Gentry. At the time, Wright was living with Gentry and her children in an apartment in the Rosehill Ridge complex on Stuckey Street in Texarkana, Texas. Kavante Wright had invited Eric Gentry, a barber school student and his girlfriend's twin, to come over and cut his hair, his nephews hair and Echo Gentry's children's hair. Eric Wright brought his first cousin, Mario Cornilius with him to the apartment.
Witnesses testified that Echo Gentry and Wright were arguing "over alcohol" and that Wright was being physically aggressive toward her. Wright retrieved a 9 mm pistol from his bedroom and began carrying it in his pocket. The state called several witnesses, including Echo Gentry, who testified that Wright becomes assaultive toward women when intoxicated.
Witnesses said that Eric Gentry asked Cornilius if he had a gun in his truck and that the two went outside. Cornilius said he repeatedly asked Eric Gentry to leave but Eric Gentry wanted to go back inside. Cornilius testified that there was no gun and that Eric Gentry said he didn't want to leave his sister and children in the apartment with Wright.
Barrett argued that when Eric Gentry came back in the apartment, Wright believed he had a gun. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards told the jury that under the law, jurors must consider what a "reasonable and prudent" person would do given the same circumstances.
Barrett argued that, "if Kavante had waited until he saw a gun it could have been too late. You don't wait until you're staring down the barrel of a gun."
Crisp and Richards argued that Wright knew Eric Gentry didn't have a gun and was engaged in criminal conduct. If a person is engaged in criminal conduct, castle doctrine statutes don't apply, the prosecutors argued. The prosecution argued that Wright was engaged in domestic violence with Echo Gentry and had committed deadly conduct when he fired a shot outside the apartment.
"The castle doctrine does not mean you can ask somebody to your house and shoot and kill them," Crisp argued. "He has already told you he was black-out drunk that night. He can't act like a reasonable person."
Barrett argued that Wright's conduct didn't rise to the level of a domestic assault and pointed to a lack of physical evidence supporting testimony from Echo Gentry and Cornilius that Wright shot the gun outside the apartment.
"We'd like to thank the jury for their verdict," Barrett said Friday. "This was a very tough case and the jury really had to pay attention to the facts and the law. In the end it came down to the castle doctrine."
Barrett said a key factor was that Eric Gentry returned after leaving the apartment.
"He could have called the police, he could have gone home. He was out of harm's way," Barrett said.
At the time of his arrest for murder, Wright was serving two terms of misdemeanor probation in Bowie County.
Wright was sentenced to a 24-month probation May 7, 2018, for resisting arrest and to an 18-month term of probation Oct. 1, 2018, for driving while intoxicated. Motions to revoke his probations are pending in both cases. It is a violation to consume alcohol while serving a term of probation in Texas.
Wright has been in jail since his arrest March 19, 2020, and the misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to a year in the county jail. Barrett said Wright was released from Bowie County custody on Friday.