(UPDATE: Make sure to read the update at the end of the post, which puts a very different spin on the jury’s decision.)
From Vanity Fair:
Frago went outside where her driver, Christopher Perkins, was waiting. Gilbert came out and confronted Perkins, who told the enraged man that he had hired Frago for 30 minutes of her time, not sex, and that was what he had received. Perkins drove away, when suddenly Frago screamed, “He’s got a gun!”
Gilbert fired at the car four times. A bullet struck Frago at the base of the skull, paralyzing her. Months later, she died as the result of the shooting. Gilbert was charged with murder. He admitted that the basic facts I just recounted were true.
On Thursday, Gilbert was acquitted. The jury agreed with his argument that he was justified in shooting and killing Frago because she had stolen his property—as in, the $150 taken without providing him the sex he wanted. Never mind that Perkins—who was labeled as Frago’s pimp by the defense—testified in court that his escorts never promise sex. “If I found out you were having sex, you were fired. Period. End of discussion,” he said.
[Texas law allows] deadly force in protection of any piece of “tangible” or “movable” property.
The Texas provision authorizes deadly force not only to “retrieve stolen property at night” but also during “criminal mischief in the nighttime” and even to prevent someone who is fleeing immediately after a theft during the night or a burglary or robbery, so long as the individual “reasonably” thinks the property cannot be protected by other means.
1) Because property is the most precious thing there is, it makes sense to legalize shooting people in the back as they’re retreating. No reasonable person, upon being fooled by a couple of con artists, could be expected to understand that a human being’s life is worth more than $150.
2) From the Vanity Fair article:
Think of the possibilities. A guy buys some pot from a drug dealer, but it turns out to be oregano. If the drug dealer attempts to drive away—at night, of course—the purchaser can kill him. Or suppose someone buys something for what is advertised as the best price in town, later finds a lower one, goes back to the store manager, demands his money back, and is refused. Can the buyer then legally shoot the manager as he heads home that night? I don’t see why not—at least that transaction involved a dispute about a legal transaction, rather than the crime Gilbert wanted performed.
But of course, in those cases, the person being killed isn’t a sex worker. And I strongly suspect that for many juries, the life of a sex worker isn’t considered as valuable as the life of a store manager or even a drug dealer. (Certainly not as valuable as something really precious, like $150.)
3) So suppose that Gilbert had produced his gun, and as a result Frago had acquiesced to have sex with him. By my lights, that would be rape. Apparently this Texas jury would have considered that consumer protection. (Or is it that his actions would have been rape if she acquiesced to sex at gunpoint, but a justifiable and legal shooting if she had run away and been shot?)
4) Gilbert is exactly the sort of law-abiding person who makes us all safer because he’s armed, right?
Suppose an escort has sex with a client in Texas, and then the client refuses to pay. It’s after nightfall, they are in the escort’s house. Based on this acquittal, she has complete rights to kill her client dead, to retrieve her stolen property.
Based on this Vanity Fair article, my interpretation should work, because the law used in the case was all about the right to use guns. But I very much doubt that the jury would have acquitted an escort for the reverse crime.
I eagerly await the gun nuts rushing to say that if only the hooker and her pimp had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened …
UPDATE: Brigette Dunlap has a good point about what the jury may have been thinking:
Per Texas’ homicide statute, the prosecution needed to prove that Gilbert “intentionally or knowingly” killed Frago or intended to cause her “serious bodily injury.” The defense argued that Gilbert lacked the requisite intent for murder because when he shot at the car as Frago and the owner of the escort service drove away, he was aiming for the tire. The bullet hit the tire and a fragment, “literally the size of your fingernail,” according to Defense Attorney Bobby Barrera, hit Frago.[…]
One would expect the jury to find that shooting at a car with an AK-47 is at least “reckless,” in which case he could have been convicted of manslaughter. But the prosecution didn’t charge him with manslaughter, only murder. Manslaughter is a “lesser included offense” of murder and the judge is entitled to instruct the jury if the evidence supports that charge, but it appears she did not. The jury can’t convict on a charge that isn’t before them.
If so, then it’s unfair to blame the jury, but entirely reasonable to ask why neither the prosecutor nor the judge put manslaughter on the table.