Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why I don't live in Texas

In Texas, it is perfectly acceptable, and possibly legal, to shoot two people, intentionally and with premeditation in the back.

Joe Horn called 911 and told the dispatcher he saw two men crawling out a window of his neighbor's house. Then he told the dispatcher he was going to kill them. As promised, he went outside, confronted the two guys, and blew shotgun holes in both of their backs.

Now I'm no gun expert, but if he shot them both in their backs, that suggests to me that they were running away. You know, not facing the crazy man with the shotgun. Not threatening him. Not posing any danger, immediate or otherwise, to Mr. Horn.

A Texas grand jury just decided that under Texas law, Mr. Horn should not be indicted on any criminal charge because Texas law allows the use of deadly force to protect property. As I understand it, deadly force is a-ok if necessary to terminate a trespass/burglary and there is no other reasonable means to regain the property being taken. (Sidenote: Is killing someone really a reasonable means of regaining a laptop? Well, taking a laptop might not qualify under the statute, but I'm not sure I trust juries always to make those technical distinctions.) Regardless of whether Joe Horn really fits that exception under the Texas statute (from what I've read, I'd have to question that), the mere fact that Texas has a statute that values property over a human life shows that Texas really is a foreign land.

I guess in Texas, if you break into someone's house, you've lost the "right" to live. The homeowner has now gained the right to shoot you in cold blood, even if you're just lost, cold, and starving, and have taken a loaf of bread. Once you've eaten part of that loaf of bread, what other option does the homeowner have to retrieve that bread? Obviously an absurd example (and probably not technically fitting under the actual statute), but seriously, if we start allowing mere things to be worth more than the life of a human being, no matter how flawed that human being, what difference does it really make how big or small the thing is? I cannot comprehend the mindset that would allow an entire state to think you taking my t.v. justifies me blowing your head off. I can buy another t.v. No mere thing is worth me having to live with the knowledge that I've ended another human life. Non-homicide crimes are not eligible for the death penalty anywhere in the US, but Texas has worked out a nice little way around that. As long as you get to it before the cops show up, you can execute a burglar!

Let's be clear about one thing, lest anyone wants to be too zealous in defending Mr. Horn: The neighbors were out of town and Mr. Horn knew it. So there's not even an argument that anyone in the neighbor's house was in danger. And since the two guys were leaving the area, Mr. Horn wasn't in any danger, either. The only time anyone's lives appeared in imminent danger was when Mr. Horn went outside and leveled his shotgun at the two fleeing burglars. I also have yet to hear anything about what this property was that Mr. Horn could only protect by lethal force. I worry that this particular jury wasn't all that particular about making sure Mr. Horn really fit the specific nuances of the statute. It seems to me like maybe the immediacy justifying Mr. Horn's killing two people was nothing more than they were two burglars who appeared to be getting away.

What Joe Horn did is premeditated, cold-blooded murder. No ifs, ands, or buts. He said he was going to kill them and he did. But in Texas, where they just can't kill those damned criminals fast enough, the legislature and the general public seem to be ok with Mr. Horn making himself judge, jury, and executioner.

It's a good thing for Joe Horn and others like him that I don't live in Texas because this case would have severely tested my abilities to advocate zealously on behalf of any defendant whose case is put before me. I don't think I'm a good enough actor to convince any jury that Joe Horn was justified in his actions. He wasn't. He committed murder and he should be punished like any other murderer.


Phokuz said...

If these people had any moral value's or sense of logic they wouldn't have commited the crime in the first place. But they did, and they had to expect the possibility that they might get shot, and quite possibly killed for their actions. And for that I say it's their own fault. If they hadn't taken that chance they would still be alive today. I don't understand how someone can take those kind of chances with their life. Joe Horn did what he thought was right and I stand behind his decision. As someone who has been a victim of robbery before I probably would have done the same thing.

You say "It seems folks in Houston feel that property is now more valuable than human life."

I say you are correct...the robbers thought that someone else's property was more valuable to them than their own lives...and they paid the ultimate price for that choice.

I only hope that others like them take this as a lesson, that this can happen to you too. So think about your actions before you jeopardize your own life.

Jay said...

The 2 "victims" attempted to take more than just property. They also were in the process of stealing someone's safety and security. Had Mr. Horn let the 2 criminals just walk away, he would be condoning that theft. Let's play out that scenario: house owner comes home, Mr. Horn tells them about the theft and that there was no attempt to stop it even though there were witnesses because the 911 operator said to wait for the police. Anger, resentment, fear sets in. Criminals tell their friends that there is a real nice house in this neighborhood that you can get valuable stuff from. Another more dangerous pair of burglars break in while that family is home and they kill everyone in the house before taking off with a TV, a couple of pieces of jewelry and $53. Mr. Horn hears gun shots, runs outside with his shotgun gets off one shot and kills one of the burglars before being shot in the head and dying. One burglar gets away. He's never going to try this again in this neighborhood - too dangerous. Very possible scenario.

S said...

Watching burglars run away from the scene of the crime without shooting them is most definitely not "condoning" the theft. Sometimes, for everyone's safety, the best thing a bystander can do is stay the heck out of it. Mr. Horn is the one who chose to escalate the situation.

Yes, the victims made bad choices, too. Wrong, stupid choices. I can't quite write them off has having absolutely no moral values, though. People are far too complex for that kind of black and white statement. Nor can I agree that because they made these horrible, wrong, criminal choices, regular citizens should be authorized by law to kill them in this scenario.

Woman in Black said...

We just got a castle law here as of the 1st. Even our prosecutors did not want it. They know what will happen.

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