Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vigilante Justice?

Sunday I wrote about my thoughts on Joe Horn, his shooting two men and his acquittal of wrongdoing by a Texas grand jury. Monday I found this comment posted to my blog.

Anonymous said...
"As a people, we look down our noses at Arabs dancing in the street, firing their rifles into the air. We condemn them as violent heathens, yet Joe Horn gets called a hero for shooting two men in cold blood."

Joe Horn isn't out celebrating in the street. He said he wishes he could take it back. Your moral equivalence says as much about your wrongheaded ideological cynicism as it does about your abysmal ignorance of the law of your land.


I could be catty and make the assumption that Anonymous is signing her/himself "Idiot", but I'm 99.9% sure it was meant as a comment on my mental acuity.

Perhaps, Anonymous, you shouldn't assume I am ignorant of the law. I have indeed read the text of Texas SB 378 and more than one analysis of it.

Have you, Anonymous, listened to the full recording of Joe Horn's 911 call? Have you read the full text of the law, listened to the follow up interviews and analyses?

Nowhere in SB 378 is there specific mention of defending one's neighbor's home from anything.

Of the clauses stating what constitutes justification for using force the only one that doesn't specifically state that the threat is against "the actor" or his property/territory is, quote:
Section 2 (a) (1) (C) was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery;

This is an extremely broad definition of what constitutes justification. I don't see where it would prohibit "the actor" from blowing away a kid he thinks is stealing an Xbox from a toy store. A ridiculous example, true, but I can see a lawyer arguing it.

Okay, so let's take that as giving anyone who legally owns a gun in Texas the right to shoot anyone they think is stealing anything.

There are still a couple of bounds "the actor" has to stay within -- he can't be committing a crime himself, other than a minor infraction or traffic offence, and he has to have a legal right to be where he is. If he was trespassing, he wouldn't have the right to use force against a robber or a rapist.

But then we have: Section 2 (a) (2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used;

Joe Horn was safe in his own home. He deliberately chose to walk out and draw the attention of two men younger and presumably stronger than himself. He did this despite being told repeatedly not to do it. This was not "not retreating", it was aggressing. Seems to me, he was provoking those two men. If you don't want to get stung, you don't poke your hand into a hornet's nest.

I have not only listened to the full 911 call where he plainly states that he will kill the burglars before he leaves his house, I have listened to several follow-up interviews with Joe Horn and numerous legal analyses. Even Wentworth, the primary sponsor of the bill, has protested some of the broader ways in which it has been interpreted.

In Joe Horn's follow up interviews - the interviews where he has his lawyer sitting at his side - he insists he "had" to do it because they were charging him. Interesting considering that the shotgun wounds were in both men's backs.

Sounds to me like Horn's been listening to his lawyer's advice and is trying to cover the bones of what happened with what the lawyer thinks are the most palatable modifications of the truth.

The plain fact of the matter is, if Joe Horn had not walked out of his house with his shotgun intent on killing some burglars, Ortiz and Torres would still be alive. They would probably be in jail, captured by the police who had already arrived on the scene when Horn took justice into his own hands.

Horn has stated several times that he has lived his whole life, 61 years, without being a vigilante, so what could possibly make him a vigilante now.



bioephemera said...

I agree - I found this verdict shocking. I agree with what the 911 operator is supposed to have said - that no material goods are worth a person's life.

If he had fired because he believed his neighbors were at home or in danger, I'd be behind him. But he clearly initiated the conflict to prevent the men from getting away with what he believed to be stolen property, after the fact. Since death is not a punishment for minor burglary in any US jurisdiction I know of, that was totally inappropriate. . . Honestly, I think this law will be used to circumvent sentencing guidelines many people see as too weak and lenient, by killing criminals before they even get prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wunx - I agree with you and hope the anonymous idiot doesn't own a gun too. KC

Kate said...

Hey, Wunx

Nice job of putting anonymous in his or her place. Anonymous is a coward. It's so very easy to be mean and nasty when nobody knows who are.

And, I suppose that's why this person defends this shooter. Because it doesn't take a lot of courage to shoot a person in the back.