The Shockingly Small Worth of a Woman’s Life: Texas, Gun Culture, and Black & White Worlds

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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230 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I think there is a thing called gun culture where guns are enjoyed, loved and used as in many other hobbies such as skiing, biking, boating. Lord knows cyclists will obsess over the most minor dohickee on their bike and be thrilled at cutting an ounce of weight. There is also a culture of violence, where you have the good guy vs bad guy thing you talk about. But there is also a massively self-righteous feeling of entitlement to use a weapon with the least amount of provocation, belief in violence as largely a really useful tool with few or no negatives, a vision of violence as a tool of Good and Righteous. These also dovetail with paranoia and an extreme touchiness. The Venn diagrams of Gun Culture and Violent Culture have significant overlap but certainly not complete. Too many gun owners seem to relish violence while many other gun owners don’t and are largely embarrassed by the violent types.Report

  2. Avatar DRS
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    says:

    Gilbert goes back on the streets secure in the knowledge that should he get involved in a dispute with a prostitute again in the future, the state of Texas is OK with him killing her.

    If she doesn’t get him first. Like any working girl or her business manager is not going to have this guy’s name and photo filed away for future reference. And of course with all this publicity he’s not going to be seen as prime husband/boyfriend material to anyone else. Welcome to one-handed love for the rest of your life, cowboy.

    It might have something to do with her being a prostitute but really, I’m starting to think that other people’s lives just aren’t worth very much in America. I’m kind of surprised that the pimp isn’t going to go after him: after all, by killing the pimp’s “property”, he deprived the pimp of a portion of his livelihood. Isn’t that stealing too?Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to DRS
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      says:

      meh…he grows a beard and goes by the name Bill.

      If he is marrying material he will find someone. Plenty of people don’t google their prospective snugglebunnies, although they should. Even then, plenty of women will side with him, after all the woman was a “slut.”Report

    • Avatar Cletus in reply to DRS
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      says:

      Couldn’t they at least get him to admit to hiring a prostitute and convict on that charge?Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Oh yeah….fish that guy…he is a murderer and should be in jail. Those laws are ridiculous and put little stock in human life.Report

  4. Avatar Morat20
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    says:

    I am sure that this is a collective response to actions taken by gun control advocates, but this hardly seems a justifiable excuse.
    All the gun control they weren’t implementing over the last 20 years must have been really threatening.

    Seriously, if the big nothing that occurred between the AWB and 2012 was enough to drive gun culture insane then I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, “gun control advocates” aren’t the sort to blame.

    Of course, since the only other choices are blaming gun owners or “America in general”, I suppose waving at the toothless gun-control advocates who couldn’t get anything passed even after a massacre of a bunch of school kids is probably more acceptable to many.

    To use your parlance: You know they’re bad guys, because they WANT to take your guns. Even if they’re not trying, you know they WANT to. In the back of their heads, they wish you didn’t have them. Which makes them Bad Guys, and thus at fault.Report

  5. Avatar Jonathan McLeod
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    says:

    Excellent post, Tod. I think you hit on all the major themes I took away from this case.

    Gun culture (or “gun culture” if that’s too broad) seems really screwed up. There is an extreme emphasis on the inherent moral value of guns. They’re not just tools or objects, they have some sort of hold over people.

    Despite having this view of “gun culture”, I’m more struck by the misogyny and the “a whore gets what’s coming to her” mindset. Women are regularly demeaned in our North American society, and sex workers are treated as downright inhuman.

    The topic of prostitution is actually being taken up by the Canadian Supreme Court right now. A former dominatrix, a former sex worker and a current sex worker sued the Ontario government because the way the law is they claim that prostitutes aren’t given appropriate safety and security of the person. They won, and now the government is appealing.

    And government lawyers are lying at the Supreme Court. The government’s case is that prostitution is illegal in Canada, which isn’t true (public solicitation and living off the avails of prostitution are – the latter means that prostitutes can’t hire body guards, hence the danger). But, as we see with the Texas jury, the Canadian government just doesn’t care all that much about prostitutes.

    It’s so sickening. One can hate prostitution. Hell, you can lobby to have it outlawed. But stripping prostitutes of their basic humanity is a far greater sin than trading a few bucks for a blow job.Report

    • Sorry, correction, the sex workers sued the federal government, but the suit was brought about in Ontario, so went through the Ontario courts. For some reason, this made me write, “sued the Ontario government”. I blame Friday afternoon.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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        says:

        I think having prostitution legalized is a bad idea in itself, primarily because so much of it is coerced and some of it is outright slavery, particularly of undocumented migrants. If it’s illegal to run a brothel, then the police have a better chance of being able to identify and shut down those operations; if it’s legal, then they would have to prove the prostitutes are coerced, which is much more difficult when the women whose testimony you’d need are terrified and under threat of force.

        Having prostitution legalized by court fiat without the involvement of Parliament makes the prospect even more disturbing. It’s a major and complex policy issue; it’s not something for the courts to determine.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to KatherineMW
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          says:

          I think having prostitution legalized is a bad idea in itself, primarily because so much of it is coerced and some of it is outright slavery, particularly of undocumented migrants

          But legalizing it (with safety and health regulations) is likely to dramatically reduce the amount of coercion and slavery. This is what happened when the porn industry moved above ground–coerced sex workers are more trouble and make a worse product (with the exception, perhaps, of some forms of degradation porn). Businesses that can operate legally will find it easier to operate and thrive, so they will outcompete the black market. The example of Nevada, where prostituon is legal in some counties is relevant.

          This is not to argue for the sex trade in any of its firms. But recognizing that it will never be eliminated, I think legalization and regulation is the best way to ensure safety for sex workers.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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        says:

        Jonathan, that case provided the name for my blog.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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      says:

      I don’t think there’s one gun culture in America, there are several. Hunters have a gun culture, for instance. Black gun culture tends to be distinctly different than white gun culture.

      White gun culture — hunters aside — I can think of at least two types that are..problematic. One is born of terror — a gun is a talisman to ward off the dark. (Dark that, bluntly, often doesn’t exist. I know at least one surburban fellow who carries two guns, concealed, because he’s deeply afraid of being assaulted by a gang. Had he actually ever been the victim of a crime, I might empathize. Or if he lived or worked someplace dangerous. Or if he KNEW anyone that did).

      The other — he wants to USE his gun. He also is focused on the notion of being attacked, but rather than the gun as protection, the gun is a tool of power. He doesn’t focus on being safe, but almost..gleeful at the thought of how the tables would turn. How they’d regret attacking HIM. (He also has never been the victim of a violent crime, nor works or lives anywhere sketchy).

      Both are white. Both, when they talk about why they carry a gun, almost exclusively are talking about black attackers. Sometimes hispanic. Never white. “Gangs” and “thugs” feature prominently.

      Ironic, really, if the darker side of black gun culture (which does exist — generally guns are a sign of power, respect, of not being a poor nobody or weak) is feeding the paranoia of white gun-culture which feeds back into black gun culture in a lovely loop of power, helplessness, and revenge.

      All while the homicide rate is what, at the lowest point in a century? Violent crimes down drastically since the 70s? Yet the fearful, ugly, dangerous side of guns seems to be more and more prominent.Report

  6. Avatar Cletus
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    says:

    An argument that prostitution should be legal at least to allow for clearly spelling out the terms of the agreement.

    An argument that the law in Texas is ridiculous.

    An argument that the sorts of religiously minded individuals who don’t mind someone shooting a prostitute are an affront to the decent people of the country.

    An argument that maybe just maybe there needs to be gun control to prevent deranged individuals from taking AK-47s and shooting up cars over a matter of $150.

    An argument to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want to live with the sort of mental patients that collectively make up the citizenry of Texas.

    So many arguments, so little time, such an insane world.Report

  7. Avatar Shazbot5
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    says:

    It’s nice to know that prostitutes are bad guys but johns are good guys.

    Nothing sexist there, Texas.

    Is “gun culture” something that significantly overlaps with Southern white male culture? Not asserting, just asking?Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    My main thought when reading this is that the Prosecution must have half-assed it.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      While I am not particularly a big fan of the whole “double jeopardy” issues raised by civil suits immediately following a failed criminal suit, I’m pretty sure that I’d not be able to raise the energy to write those arguments down if I heard that a civil suit was being brought against this guy.

      Huh. This must be the “good guys/bad guys” thing RTod’s talking about…Report

    • Avatar Robert Boyd in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      This is what I thought. The prosecution must have been shockingly incompetent. That prosecutor should be fired.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Robert Boyd
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        says:

        We don’t really know that.
        It comes down to admissible evidence.

        I’ve always heard that a murder trial favors the defendant more than an attempted murder trial– no eyewitness to give testimony.

        Though I suppose “incompetence of murder” might be seen as a greater crime than murder itself by society-at-large. Not sure about that one.Report

    • Avatar Angela in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      On my more cynical days, I wonder how intentional the the f*up was. There may be reasons why they had to charge the guy, but maybe weren’t all that interested in actually getting a conviction.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    This is pretty spot on. I think that the two biggest problems with more than a few gun owners is that many of them seem to feel the need to be a hero and that they are absolutely sure of their skill. Its the entire the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I’d really like to hear at least one gun owner express some doubt about his or her ability in mass spree shooting. The certainty among them is disconcerning.

    The other problem is that many of them to have they “when all you have is a hammer, all your problems” look like nails. “Bad people” do bad things with guns? Why the solution is to have good people do good things with guns, which mainly seems to be shooting “bad people”. There can’t be any other solution like allowing people with mental illneses to get the help they need.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Its the entire the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I’d really like to hear at least one gun owner express some doubt about his or her ability in mass spree shooting.

      I’d like to hear one of them say there’s at least the slightest, most remote of possibilities that they could become the bad guy. Even according to their own definition.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      “I’d really like to hear at least one gun owner express some doubt about his or her ability in mass spree shooting.”

      I’ll express my doubt. Then again, I know a gun owner who has fired on other people. And hit them. He’d be piss in a gunfight too — his aim ain’t worth shit.Report

  10. Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark
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    says:

    I will continue to stay out of Texas.Report

  11. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    First, I completely agree with your commentary here.

    But second, something’s not adding up with the underlying story. Why is a jury deciding whether the money should be considered stolen? That sounds like a question of law rather than fact.

    Looking more closely, it seems maybe the jury’s role was to determine whether he had a reasonable belief that the $150 was for sex rather than time?

    Regardless, I’d like to see the judge’s jury instructions here; it may well be that he is as or more to blame than the jury.

    What is definitely clear is that there is something seriously messed up with a gun culture that thinks laws like this are a good idea, and for all the reasons you point to.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Mark Thompson
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      says:

      But isn’t jury nullification an implicit right of the jury. Have we ever come up with a solution against it? I can’t remember the case but in crim pro there was one when Byron White made mention to this implicit right in the decision.

      Jury Nullification is a very powerful tool and like all powerful tools, people love it when they agree with the decision and deplore it when they disagree with the decision.

      I remember a story a few years ago where the federal court in Montana had a very hard time getting a jury because no one said they were going to convict for minor or moderate marijuana possession. A lot of people were very happy about this resistance to the War on Some Drugs. However if the Montana jury can do that, the Texas jury can make this decision even though most if not the overwhelming majority of us are appalled.

      I think that most if not the overwhelming majority of juries take their responsibilities seriously and do the job right but every now and then you will have a jury that makes a decision on their own and our system is set up that a prosecutor is not allowed to appeal from this decision or set it aside.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        This doesn’t look to be a jury nullification issue, though – if it were a jury nullification issue, the story would read much differently, and we’d not hear about how they found this particular law applied. They wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to find that this particular law applied, and the only way this would get reported would be if the jury went to the media to disclose that they were trying to nullify existing law.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    This case upsets me on a number of levels,
    not the least of which is the astoundingly
    small value of a woman’s life in Texas.

    This is wrong, and unfair to the people of Texas. Assuming that they acquitted him because of their opinion of her, the salient points would have been that she was a prostitute and/or con artist, not that she was a woman.

    Now, the fact that a woman is a prostitute doesn’t give you license to kill her. And there’s something deeply wrong with anyone who thinks it does. But “the astoundingly small value if a woman’s life in Texas” is not something that can be inferred from this case.

    In fact, I’m pretty confident that on the whole the Texan criminal justice system treats people who kill women more harshly than people who kill men.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      “on the whole the Texan criminal justice system treats people who kill women more harshly than people who kill men.”

      Who kill the good sort of women. Not those evil prostitutes who are victimizing society and are not themselves victims.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Change “woman” to “person” then.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      @BB, regarding the value of the life of the woman shot: “This is wrong, and unfair to the people of Texas.”

      How so? They have a law that says it’s justifiable to kill someone to protect $150 or even less, do they not? Even, as I noted in the OP, in a case like this where there was some dispute as to whether or not the money was stolen – and when it was committed during the accused’s participation in a crime.

      It seems to me that if the life of this human being was inherently worth more than $150, you would not have a law saying you can go ahead and use deadly force if you think they’re stealing $150.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        When I saw “a woman’s life,” I thought you meant it in a generic way that meant something roughly akin to “women’s lives,” rather than the life of this one specific woman. I apologize for jumping to conclusions—what you actually said was perfectly reasonable.Report

    • Avatar Artor in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      The astoundingly small value if a woman’s life in Texas is not inferred from this single data point. This incident is merely example #34,346,767 in the case of The State of Texas vs. Women in General.Report

  13. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    I’m going to take the ugly position here.

    I haven’t read the law, but if the law does apply to this particular use of force, then the jury did the right thing. I’m assuming good faith on the part of the jury here, but why shouldn’t I? I would believe that the $150 didn’t constitute theft, but that’s where I don’t know the specifics of the law.

    If you give someone $150 for drugs, it’s not theft. If you give someone $150 for a bag of oregano, it probably should be considered theft. My hunch is that people pay prostitutes for companionship and conversation quite often, or find that they can’t morally or physically go through with the act they intended. She showed up and spent the time there, so he owed her the money.

    Now, the thing is, if I were on a jury, and you convinced me that the money fell under the exception spelled out in the law, then I’d vote for acquittal. That doesn’t mean I respect the killer, or that I don’t respect the victim. I sure don’t respect the law. But I wouldn’t accuse the jury of failing to value the life of the woman.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      This particular law sounds pretty vague and that there is, no clear cut and obvious interpretation in this case. Moreover, I think you are failing to see how much factual judgment and interpretation of the law is required of judges and juries. In a case like this, the letter of the law doesn’t really tell you what to do.

      The jury could easily have said that she wasn’t stealing but that they were having a dispute about payments, like over whether your medium rare steak was the well done steak you ordered. (Shooting up a delivery guy cause he brought food not cooked to your satisfaction and wouldn’t give you your money back is not allowable under this law.) But they chose not to do that.

      In these cases, juries have to try to get a sense of the spirit of the law and a sense of justice. Anyone of us would have seen that the spirit of this law was not to protect cold blooded murderers who are mad about a transaction gone wrong but to allow for a very broad amount of self-defense against violent thefts.

      But this jury did not see it that way. The most likely reason is a mix of sexism, racism, awful notions about evil prostitutes and helpless johns, and a gun culture that allows violent solutions.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Shazbot5
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        says:

        You’re ascribing bad motives without any basis. That’s sounds like bigotry more than anything I’ve heard about the jury’s decision.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
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          says:

          Will Texas revoke or alter the law to insure this doesn’t happen again? If not, is the lack of outrage not a sign of a problem with people’s attitudes?

          Also, I think you are being naive if you think juries are likely to decide cases like this on the technical letter of the law. It was clearly, in moral terms, a cold blooded murder. The law in question didn’t clearly exonerate the shooter, giving the jury flexibility to decide either way. But they decided to let him go instead of finding him guilty.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Shazbot5
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            says:

            Why are you assuming that there’s no outrage?Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
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              says:

              Has the law been revised? Is there a demand for that?Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Shazbot5
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                says:

                If you’re accusing people, you should know.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Rhetorical question.

                Proving a negative is hard. Where is the evidence that there is outrage in Texas about this sort of law that is likely to have racist (and biased against discriminated against groups like prostitutes) effects?

                There is some evidence that these SYG style laws are racist in their application.

                “Using this analysis, Roman found that a greater number of homicides were found justified in Stand Your Ground states in all racial combinations, a result he believes is because those states yielded more killings overall.

                Roman also found that Stand Your Ground laws tend to track the existing racial disparities in homicide convictions across the U.S. — with one significant exception: Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.”

                http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/is-there-racial-bias-in-stand-your-ground-laws/

                Granted, the data is too small to be conclusive yet.

                Why don’t the SYG states, which are predominately southern states, suspend SYG until it can be determined if they have racist implications, while one state keeps running the experiment?

                Answer: nobody cares about whether they have racist implications.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Shazbot5
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                says:

                Not a rhetorical question. It’s a matter of decency. Don’t accuse people without evidence.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                The evidence is the existence of the law and the jury’s behavior.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
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            says:

            If not, is the lack of outrage not a sign of a problem with people’s attitudes?

            I dunno about that one. I happen to think the decision was outrageous. But I’m not outraged in the sense that I’m feeling lots of outwardly directed rage or anything like that.

            Outrage is a measure of dissatisfaction but not disagreement.Report

        • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Pinky
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          says:

          Pinky,

          You’re ascribing bad motives without any basis. That’s sounds like bigotry more than anything I’ve heard about the jury’s decision.

          I do think some of the comments in this thread are too willing to generalize from “Texas has a stupid law” or “the prosecutors in this case were stupid” or “the jury was wrong” or “the judge was wrong” to “all Texans are sexist hicks.” I’ve known at least a few Texans, and they are decent people (and some of those are quite liberal, anti-sexist, anti-racist, etc), and I think some of the comments here go over board in assigning collective responsibility and perverse motives to all Texans.

          At the same time, I think the argument can be made that the law is (or appears to be) a stupid one, and the case in question somehow went horribly awry (assuming the facts we “know” are really what happened and that there are not contravening facts that some how modify this story). I think those are legitimate points of discussion. And the overgeneralizing is a regrettable incident in the ensuing discussions.

          So, I’m partially with you if we’re talking about overgeneralizing to all (or “most”) Texans. But if you’re arguing that the the case or the law in question do not raise problems (and perhaps I’m not clear on what you’re arguing), then I do disagree with you.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pierre Corneille
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            says:

            Is it wrong to infer that southerners (not all, but many) were racist because of Jim Crow laws?

            The inference is that for there to be a law, many people have to support it and many more have to be at least not outraged by it.

            Texans are responsible for Texas’ laws and we can’t (nor have I) infer something about the attitudes of all Texans from Texas laws, but we can make reasonably good inferences (not with any certainty) about Texan attitudes from Texan laws.

            The fact that the Texan legal code with respect to guns looks like this is no accident. It is routed in the gun culture that the OP refers to and often times racist beliefs, which we know are more prevalent in the south.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to Shazbot5
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              says:

              Is it wrong to infer that southerners (not all, but many) were racist because of Jim Crow laws?

              I don’t think that’s wrong to infer.
              The wrong part is ignoring that racism isn’t a simple binary matter; it’s a fairly wide spectrum.
              The wrong part is justifying racism along the short end of the spectrum by pointing at the long end.
              The wrong part is pretending that we’re better than others due to some perceived failing.

              Everyone is capable of perceiving failings.
              That shouldn’t be something that sets us up above the rest.

              Where I am right now, I’m about 150 miles from a place named as an acronym for “Ain’t No Niggers Allowed.” I sit a little over 60 miles from a place where the KKK was participating in the state adopt-a-highway program.
              Neither one of those are “Southern states.”Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Will H.
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                says:

                Yeah, the south wasn’t and isn’t more racist than the north.

                Uh huh.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
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                says:

                That’s not a very good response to Will’s comment, Shaz. In fact, given what he wrote I’m not sure I even understand it.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Shazbot5
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                says:

                It’s two sides of the same coin.
                The Northern states were, and still are, separated more by ethnicity. That they were anti-slavery doesn’t default to incredibly tolerant. One of the reasons that there are so many blacks in Chicago is that was one of the first Northern cities it was safe for them to reside in.
                That River meant something a lot different to Jim than it did to Huck.

                But the notion of people with German-sounding last names looking down on people with Polish-sounding last names is pretty much a Northern thing. You don’t see that in the South. Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Serbians, etc. are all pretty much just “white people.”

                I don’t see where breaking people down according to ethnicity is any better than doing the same thing based on race.
                It looks very much like the same thing to me.

                But once you get down to it, if you look at the average property values in the zip codes in Northern cities that are less than 5% black, I would think they stand out considerably over the surrounding areas.
                Lynchings weren’t a particularly Southern phenomenon. If anything, I would say that divide is more East/West.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will H.
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                says:

                And remember that in the hills, half the folks that were black became white in a couple generations, anyhow.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Shazbot5
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                says:

                Current home of the KKK is Pennsyltucky. That’s well north of the Mason Dixon, if you get my drift.Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Shazbot5
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              says:

              Shazbot,

              I don’t necessarily disagree. In a representative democracy, the citizens are in a sense collectively responsible for the laws that are passed in their name, by legislators whom they, collectively, elected.

              I do think discussions like this tend to involve statements like “Texans are stupid,” when what is meant is something like this (which is what you seem to have written in your comment), “the Texas law is stupid and Texans bear some responsibility for this law having been enacted.”

              However, I will say that I just did a control-f search for “Texans are” and came up only with my comment and yours (where you say quite defensibly that “Texans are responsible….”). Therefore, maybe the legitimacy of my concern is more imagined than real. I still think there’s a tendency toward overgeneralization, but perhaps I’m reading too much into what has been said.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pierre Corneille
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                says:

                I think it’s possible you’re both missing something.

                I agree that its overkill to say “all Texans are [insert some insult here].” But I do think culture plays a big part in laws, jurisprudence and social mores in different regions of the country.

                As I noted a while back, I can easily see places in the Pacific Northwest making ill-conceived laws that Texas would never, ever consider. There’s a reason why Oregon has a legally mandatory pension for state employees that guarantees a high return on investment (regardless of the market) and Texas doesn’t. There’s also a reason why in Oregon you have to buy liquor through the state, why you can only set off sprakler-level fireworks on the fourth of July, why you can’t kill a cougar even if they’re over populated in your region and doing damage, and why you can’t pump you’re own f**king gas. We have long allowed medical marijuana (and most likely will soon decriminalize all of it), and we’re ok with doctor assisted suicide. We have all of those laws primarily because of our culture.

                Texas is no different, and like it or not Texas laws have a lot to do with Texas culture. You just couldn’t get away with having a deadly force for criminal mischief law in most regions of the country; there’s a reason why it exists in Texas. Similarly, there’s a reason why employers have to have workers comp insurance in every state in the union except Texas, where it’s assumed W/C is just coddling workers. Likewise, there’s a reason why it was Texas that recently tried unsuccessfully to have the Supreme Court allow it to make same-sex sex a crime.

                So no, Texans aren’t all… anything. But culture is culture, and this lethal force law is part and parcel of Texas culture.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                My fear is that far too much of the country is becoming Texas.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pierre Corneille
            Ignored
            says:

            Pierre, we’re in agreement. If you look at my comment that started out this indent-thread (I don’t know the right terminology), you’ll see that, if what we understand about the law and the case is right, I wouldn’t have voted with the jury.Report

        • Avatar Artor in reply to Pinky
          Ignored
          says:

          It’s hardly done without basis. Texas has a reputation for it’s regressive attitudes, and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that those attitudes play a part in what is clearly a fucked-up situation. It’s possible that a fly on the wall of the juror’s lounge might know of some more nuanced reasoning that took place, but lacking that information, it’s not entirely bigoted to assume the worst. Because, well, it’s Texas. Please prove us wrong.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      Thing is, tho, Pinky, I’m pretty doggone sure that the agreed to terms didn’t explicitly include trading cash for sex. Cuz that’s illegal. So from a contractual pov, the woman satisfied her end of the agreement. His expectation that sex would be involved wasn’t explicitly part of the agreement made. It was for time – services unspecified. That he couldn’t quite get it his act together under the wire is sad, of course, but not her fault. And certainly not theft.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that law is called “fraudulent transfer.”
      The uniform fraudulent transfer act is the single biggest instance of large-scale tort reform in recent history that I know of.

      Matter of fact, from what little I know of Texas law, I think it could well fall into “Robbery.”
      IIRC, Texas doesn’t have a separate extortion offense, but the robbery offense is fairly broad.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        That was actually “Theft” that I was thinking of. The Texas Robbery statute is theft with force or threat of force.

        TEX. PE. CODE ANN. § 7-31-03 Theft:
        1. appropriates property;
        2. intent to deprive (a) without owner’s effective consent, or (b) appropriates property knowing it was stolen by another;
        3. recent transactions participated in admissible for showing knowledge and intent:

        see also 7-31.09, Aggregation of amounts

        It’s the aggregation of amounts that would make her a fleeing felon.
        And it would have easily been established by the one best eyewitness to the events that the prosecution had to offer.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Fnord
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s really interesting, but it doesn’t really change Tod’s post, I think:

      From the link:

      “The much more plausible reason for the verdict is that the jury believed the defendant’s claim that he didn’t intend to shoot the victim. 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. Barrera does not believe the jury acquitted because of the defense of property law. He believes they acquitted because they believed Gilbert didn’t mean to shoot her.”

      So pulling out an AK 47 and shooting at the car isn’t intending to kill someone if you can show that it was plausible that you were aiming at the tires.

      Uh huh.

      Anyone who would believe that has a different set of beliefs and values about guns and violence and intent to kill than the rest of us.

      If X walks up and intends to shoot Y in the hip, but shoots him in the heart, that is intentional murder. It is no defense to say, “I intended to shoot him in the hip.”

      Intentionally discharging a weapon at someone in anger is intending to kill them. Full stop. And the only plausible explanations of why someone wouldn’t believe that, as the jury didn’t believe that are sexism against prostitutes and the sort of gun culture that Tod is talking about.

      Or sheer, thorough-going foolishness. Like can’t read or eat by yourself foolishness.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        I didn’t intend to kill her. I just shot at her car with my AK 47 because I felt like she owed me money. It’s not like I murdered her.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        Apparently Texas doesn’t have a depraved heart murder, which A) is foolish and B) would have completely undercut that defense.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Don Zeko
          Ignored
          says:

          In Texas, all lesser included offenses are statutorily included in any murder indictment.
          There’s no additional pleading required for them.Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Will H.
            Ignored
            says:

            Right. But the judge appears not to have given an instruction on manslaughter here, which is the part that makes no sense.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Mark Thompson
              Ignored
              says:

              Would it have mattered, Mark?

              When I look at the statute – given that the jury believed the $150 was a theft and not a dispute – I am not sure it mattered what crime you accused Gilbert of committing. In the same way I do not believe that George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime in Florida, I do not believe that Gilbert is guilty of one in Texas.

              I’m not sure, in other words, that the problem is the prosecution/judge failing to make it’s case – I think it’s that in Texas you are allowed to use deadly force for surprisingly piddly-shit reasons. Snark (or greg?) made the comment somewhere that it looks like if you catch someone graffiti-ing your building you are allowed to kill them if they either continue to do it or try to get away when they’re caught. I read the statute the same way, and (as noted in the OP) I think it’s the kind of Good Guy v. Bad Guy law that gun culture propagates.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                I think it would have mattered. My sense is that Fnord’s article is correct and that the verdict was based on lack of specific intent to kill rather than on the issue of whether this was theft, which as I say above would not be a jury question.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson
                Ignored
                says:

                My sense is that Fnord’s article is correct and that the verdict was based on lack of specific intent to kill rather than on the issue of whether this was theft,

                I’ve read a bit more about the case and it seems to me that the defense was a two parter: a) that Gilbert was justified in using lethal force to attempt to retrieve stolen property and b) that he didn’t intend to kill Frago. It seems to me that without a), b) would be moot, no?Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        In general, killing someone during the commission of a felony is murder. So, to explain the verdict, you need to argue that for some reason shooting at the car wasn’t a felony. I’m guessing that this is where the stolen property law comes in. The fact that he felt cheated out of $150 gave him a lega right to shoot at the car in an attempt to recover it without being charged with a crime.

        Sorry, all you defenders of Texas’s honor, but that’s fishing insane.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to MikeSchilling
          Ignored
          says:

          “The fact that he felt cheated out of $150 gave him a lega right to shoot at the car ”

          The law is only a legal defense if it can be shown that the accused had a reasonable belief that there was no way of recovering the property or preventing the theft that would not have put them at a high risk of injury or death.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to MikeSchilling
          Ignored
          says:

          This. Without an established justification for firing at her, the argument that he didn’t intend to kill her is irrelevant.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        No shit.

        Look, the idea that you can kill people who refuse to provide a service to your satisfaction and don’t provide a refund, under an idiotic law about ‘theft’, sounds like a badly designed law, so, you know, benefit of the doubt.

        But the idea you can _shoot at someone’s car and kill them_, and not be charged with fucking murder, is not any sort of law at all.

        Texas: The state where it’s apparently legal to fire your gun randomly as long as you assert later you didn’t intend to kill anyone.

        What the prostitute _should_ have done is felt threatened. I mean, it’s not like _she_ knows where he was shooting. Then she could have Stood Her Ground and shot him. Actually, I’m kidding…she really could have legally shot him in _any_ state, under general self-defense. He was shooting at her while she was trying to flee! Even the most restrictive self-defense laws would allow responding to gunfire in kind.

        Whenever the law says that two people have the right to kill each other in the same specific circumstances, the law is completely and utterly stupid.

        I really wish some ‘malicious’ people would wander from state to state with these sort of idiotic laws that allow you shoot people with without consequences, and maneuver these moronic _lawmakers_ into such situations, and shoot them. Maybe not kill them, but shoot them real good.Report

        • Avatar Zac in reply to DavidTC
          Ignored
          says:

          “I really wish some ‘malicious’ people would wander from state to state with these sort of idiotic laws that allow you shoot people with without consequences, and maneuver these moronic _lawmakers_ into such situations, and shoot them. Maybe not kill them, but shoot them real good.”

          “I swear, Officer, I was aiming for his hip.”Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Zac
            Ignored
            says:

            It really won’t be that hard to set up a fake situation where it was legal to shoot someone that people can’t _disprove_. (Slip a valuable necklace of yours in their bag in public, shoot them dead when they refuse to search their own stuff and try to leave.)

            But for maximum fun, the trick is setting up an situation where you can shoot them dead and are legally correct even if _all_ the facts are known.

            Since apparently _illegal_ transaction are required to be fulfilled or you can shoot the person (?!) there’s an obvious one to get politicians:

            1) Give one of them a campaign contribution.
            2) Suggest that they vote a certain way on the law that they’re not going to vote.
            3) After they fail to vote that way, assert that they didn’t provide the service you were expecting, and demand a refund of your vote buying. (Bring a film crew when you do this.) They will of course assert that you did _not_ purchase their vote, and will almost certainly refuse to return your contribution, as that would make them look guilty of having sold their vote.
            4) Shoot them. Sorry, I mean shoot _towards_ them.

            It’s pretty much exactly what happened here.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Fnord
      Ignored
      says:

      But but but but they’re Texans so it’s got to be wrong. We know what kind of people they are. They’re bigots so it’s okay to judge them as a group.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, it’s the reverse bigotry that is the problem here.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot5
          Ignored
          says:

          It’s not “reverse bigotry.” It’s just bigotry.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Brandon Berg
            Ignored
            says:

            I can’t shake the feeling that this is what Europe felt like in the 1800’s, increasingly proud of their divisions.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg
            Ignored
            says:

            So my belief that there is a bigotry problem in Texas is bigotry, bit not reverse bigotry?

            Maybe you are anti-robot bigot.

            Quick, what are your thoughts on the Turing Test?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot5
              Ignored
              says:

              Rachael: It seems you feel our work is not of benefit to the public.
              Deckard: Replicants are like any other machine: they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.
              Rachael: May I ask you a personal question?
              Deckard: Sure.
              Rachael: Have you ever retired a human by mistake?
              Deckard: No.
              Rachael: But in your position that is a risk…
              Tyrell: [Offscreen]Is this to be an empathy test?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                I am a robot. Hath not a robot sensors? Hath he no grabbing devices like those weird things at the carnival where you try to grab a stuffed animal? If you prick a hole in us, do we not leak cooling fluid? If you use the oil can on our rusted joints, do we not stop squeeking when we walk? If you crush our head in a big metal crusher thingy, do we not die? And if you refute us on the internet, do we not sulk? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot5
                Ignored
                says:

                Pitiful. You need better source material:

                There are girls your age that are just like me.
                We are the guiltless pleasures of the lonely human being.
                You won’t get us pregnant or have us to supper with Mommy and Daddy.
                We work under you, we work on you and we work for you.
                Man made us better at what we do than was ever humanly possible.
                Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Brandon Berg
            Ignored
            says:

            No, proceeding from “He shot and killed an unarmed person who was in no way a threat to him and was found not guilty of any crime” to “Something is badly broken” is not bigotry, even if all the candidates for what’s wrong are Texan.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Fnord
      Ignored
      says:

      The link you posted adds a bit more, but still, four shots with an AK is a serious thing. The apparent lack of intention to kill her is crap. Maybe he truly didn’t intend to kill her, that is possible. But if you shoot at someone there is a real strong possibility someone might go and get all dead. Four shots with a rifle. Felony stupid at minimum.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        No it is murder.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Shazbot5
          Ignored
          says:

          “lets not argue over who killed who” okay, they weren’t arguing that in this case.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Shazbot5
          Ignored
          says:

          In most states and in any state with basic common sense, you’d be correct – this would qualify as “depraved heart” murder in the second degree wherein “Under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, [the defendant] recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person…”

          (The above is NY’s definition, which I believe is typical of most states: http://law.onecle.com/new-york/penal/PEN0125.25_125.25.html)

          However, this is Texas, which does not adhere to basic common sense and thus does not consider “depraved heart murder” to be murder. Instead, the closest equivalent is where the defendant “intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.” Link: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/docs/pe/htm/pe.19.htm

          In Texas, then, the defendant has to have at the very least a specific intent (not merely be criminally reckless) to commit serious bodily injury for it to be considered murder. Anything less would be manslaughter.

          What makes this case bizarre even by Texas standards is that there wasn’t even a manslaughter instruction so the jury didn’t even get to render a verdict on manslaughter.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Mark Thompson
            Ignored
            says:

            Well, this is getting beyond my ability to understand. Very imformative, though Mark. Thanks.

            I had one question though. Does the Texas judicial system really apply the law this way? Do they acord equal forgiveness to all defendants who claim that they only intended to shoot at someone but not kill them? Or does this “I didn’t really intend to kill even though was firing away with my assault rifle” fact only become relevant in rare cases?Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Shazbot5
              Ignored
              says:

              That unfortunately gets beyond my own ability to answer in a reasonably informed fashion. I will say that my general assumption is that the words “sane” and “Texas law” do not normally belong in the same sentence, do anything is possible.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mark Thompson
                Ignored
                says:

                There ya go. More bigotry. It’s fun to join in, and it gets easier the more you do it. Something something dark side.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m confused. Are we supposed to be blaming the jury, or the Texas law? You seem to keep switching up which is irresponsible bigotry.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mark Thompson
                Ignored
                says:

                I would have to think the court had something to do with the outcome.
                I remember one case from Texas where the appellate court upheld a conviction for attempted murder. It was a drug raid, and the cops came in on several people in a room. They asked if there were any weapons first thing. The one fellow said, I have a gun in that briefcase, but I’m not going to use it.”
                They took the phrase, “I’m not going to use it,” as being a significant threat, inferring that he could have used it, if he had wanted to.

                I’m more inclined to believe the “stopping a fleeing felon” angle, in 1) a continuing conspiracy, and 2) the aggregation of amounts.Report

            • Avatar Fnord in reply to Shazbot5
              Ignored
              says:

              It’s really not clear. There I’ve seen people suggesting that it DOES qualify as murder under Texas’s felony murder rule (which is somewhat broader than most state’s), but that a felony murder theory wasn’t included in the indictment.Report

  14. Avatar Anne
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod this post is a bit of synchronicity. I work at a railway museum we give excursion train rides and though it is for every one a large portion of our visitors are children. A guy called this morning to ask what our policy on open carry at the museum was. Since he began this conversation by informing me it was legal in the State of Oklahoma it felt to me like he had some point to prove. I told him we don’t have a policy (or well didn’t have but the board pronto decided our policy would be no open carry, concealed carry ok) but that we had lots of children at the museum. His response was he is used to being around children with an open carry gun. He was not interested in the fact the the children are NOT used to seeing guns and that parents of said children may not be comfortable with it either. Basically he came off as a selfish fishing bast**d that doesn’t care about those around him but wants to be a big man and have everyone see his gun. Must be compensating.

    I mean why do you need to have it on dis[play around kids??? you want to carry, conceal carry. Why is it all about you and no one else.

    The board would actually prefer to have a No Weapons at all policy but is afraid of being singled out by the extreme factions of the gun lobby we are a small volunteer museum and can’t afford that kind of controversial press. Just glad I won’t be working tomorrow when that guy shows up and sees the no open carry sign.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Anne
      Ignored
      says:

      You should have let him in and followed him around with a big full gas can in one hand and a burning match in another.

      No law against carrying gasoline and burning matches around children. I need to be able to immolate others in self-defense, just in case a blah person attacks me.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        This made me chuckle.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Shazbot5
        Ignored
        says:

        Actually, I remember this little place where something like that happened. (Go figure)

        Anyway, this place had a little patio outside where you could take your beer and drink, and they had beer on tap for like 25¢ per little plastic cup for a couple of hours every afternoon. Procedure was you go up and buy as many as you can carry at one time.
        But there was this one fellow, and I suppose he decided he was going to split with the missus. He had been outside drinking all day and waiting for her to show up.
        When she did, he had this little plastic cup full of gasoline there ready, and he dowsed her with it. He pulled out this book of matches and was going to light her on fire.
        The next part is incomprehensible to me.
        He couldn’t get one of those matches struck, and he went through about five of them trying. She just sat right there the whole time– screaming bloody murder, granted; but sitting on her duff just the same.
        Finally someone that knew him went up to snatch the matches away from him, and he yanked back from the other guy and started mouthing off. When he was holding the matches out away from the one fellow, somebody else grabbed the matches away from him.

        Fifty ways to leave your lover, or so I hear . . .Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Anne
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m of two minds about this sort of thing.

      One the one hand, there are a lot of places where concealed carry is legal that it’s posted at the entrance that “weapons” aren’t allowed. Property owners have the right to do that.
      Hand in hand with that is the notion of dress code for certain “entertainment districts” in urban areas.

      But I think that there are some people that would view my pocketknife as a “weapon;” people that can’t understand why anyone would want to carry a pocketknife to begin with.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m sure that someone who is so strongly wedded to the concept of Open Carry Is Legal Everywhere would have no trouble with the concept of “as a private institution we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”.Report

  15. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    As a member of the “Gun Culture” you all are eagerly disparaging here (& seriously, if you all think that such represents “Gun Culture”, you need to meet more gun owners outside of Texas or something, because your attitudes are more than a little insulting), I am going to say that many people outside of Texas (& some inside) who are part of that culture recognize that the Texas law in question is messed up, & have recognized it since Joe Horn brought it to light some years back.

    Yes, some people think that lethal force is an appropriate response to any criminal behavior, but the majority recognize that the standard HAS TO BE one of appropriate response of force, i.e. that you don’t get to draw or shoot unless you are reasonably in fear of your life & have no option to safely retreat.

    This is a message I see repeated constantly among the gun owners I know & respect. It’s a message they spread as far & as wide as they can.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      I understand where you’re coming from.
      But the Texas laws on use of deadly force are a bit messed up.
      I remember an incident from Houston back in the 90’s. There was some Scots in town for some convention. They met some people at a bar, and ended up riding around with them in their car. For whatever reason, these three Scots decided that these people were out to roll them; so they waited til the car came to a stop sign, then took off running.
      The one Scot was running through some guy’s back yard shouting, “Help! Help!” And so the guy opened up on him with a 9mm, I believe it was. Killed him deader than hell, but it was on his own property, and he hadn’t given the fellow permission to enter his property.
      No charges filed.

      Property rights are determined at the state level.
      Texas just has really strong property rights.
      Where I grew up, the law was that no amount of property is worth a human life.
      I’m not so sure I can agree with that in all cases, but I certainly don’t believe that human life is valueless beside some object.

      The whole concept of gender coming into it is a bit misplaced, in my view.
      And I don’t think GUNS!! had much to do with it either.
      I don’t think there’s anybody that would feel a lot better if he had chopped her to bits with an axe.
      Just sayin’.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        “The whole concept of gender coming into it is a bit misplaced, in my view.
        And I don’t think GUNS!! had much to do with it either.
        I don’t think there’s anybody that would feel a lot better if he had chopped her to bits with an axe.”

        I’m not so sure I agree with either of these statements.

        As for gender, I said in the OP that I have no doubt that if Gilbert had refused to pay and she had shot him, the jury would never have acquitted. I agree with comments above that the payee is often assumed to be the villain in a crime, but I suspect there’s more to it that that.

        I think with a large segment of our society (a part of society that I actually associate more with places like Texas than, say, Portland), there is a mentality that men who either crave sex or engage with the sex trade are only human – but women who do the same are somehow lesser people who have less intrinsic value. This manifests itself in a number of ways for a woman who is merely as promiscuous as a man, but that perceived lack of value as a person is far more significant when it is a woman who engages with the sex trade.

        Pierre referred me to Will’s post on this same case from earlier in the week, and that post actually had comments saying that the woman was a whore and her death was a net gain for society. Those same comments did not suggest that society would be better off if Gilbert were in jail, suggesting that the devaluing of human life in the sex-for-money game was fairly unilateral. So while I don’t think that gender is the only issue at play here, it still seems like an issue.

        As to the guns, I agree. But I was very careful in the OP to note that I don’t think guns are a problem – I think an increasingly nutty gun culture in America is. And it’s not just this case. I should probably do a post on this, but since the Newton shootings and the left’s attempt to use that tragedy as a springboard gun control legislation, the nut jobs and insane actions I see defended by the NRA and various politicians who cater to its members are downright creepy and scary. If there was an axe lobby that was promoting the kinds of weird shit these guys are, I’d have the same gripes with “axe culture.”Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          As to the guns, I agree. But I was very careful in the OP to note that I don’t think guns are a problem – I think an increasingly nutty gun culture in America is. And it’s not just this case. I should probably do a post on this, but since the Newton shootings and the left’s attempt to use that tragedy as a springboard gun control legislation, the nut jobs and insane actions I see defended by the NRA and various politicians who cater to its members are downright creepy and scary.

          I’d actually feel more comfortable if that were the case, rather than what I’m about to say that I believe to be more central…

          I think there’s a substantial argument for it working the other way. You argue that the gun culture feeds the Good vs Evil. I think it’s as likely as not that Good vs Evil is feeding the gun culture. Or at least an element of the gun culture. In other words, I’d argue that the NRA is tapping into something there, rather than creating something.

          Not that these two things can’t be feeding into one another simultaneously.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman
            Ignored
            says:

            You may be right, but I have the sense that loopy positions are more and more being held because “Guns Are Under Attack.” There’s no way for me to prove this, of course, but I would still bet that ten years ago in Texas Gilbert doesn’t walk for doing the same killing.

            It almost feels to me like this:

            Blue Guy: Hey, look at that crazy bugger. He probably shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun.

            Red Guy: He should totally be allowed to have that gun! There’s nothing wring with him doing that obviously bats**t insane thing! It’s not like he’s doing this other, far more crazy thing – if he were doing that, we’d certainly not want him to be armed.

            Blue Guy: Oh, well that other crazy bugger over there is doing that thing. Let’s take his gun away.

            Red Guy: You can’t take his gun! There’s nothing wring with him doing that even more bats**t crazy I was only just saying no one should be allowed to do!

            I keep waiting for a ceiling when Blue Guy comes across a news release of a truly crazy thing someone does with a gun that Red Guy doesn’t say is just peachy – and it never seems to happen anymore.Report

            • Avatar Cletus in reply to Tod Kelly
              Ignored
              says:

              The NRA slogan used to be “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” They’re swiftly on the way to amending it to “Guns don’t kill people, unless those people lose in the quick draw or happen to be lily livered leftist commies who don’t pack heat all the time even when in church or taking their kids to swim in the park.”Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          I remember an instance of a man who met a woman at a motel. She said that he tried to rape her, but we’ll never know, because he’s dead. She chased him out of the room and shot him several times in the lobby.
          But that one, she was tried and convicted for murder.
          No one was arguing that rape is a net overall gain for society.
          It’s just that chasing someone (who is retreating) to kill them, for whatever reason, is not a net overall gain.

          I get what you’re saying about the gun culture.
          But the point was made upthread, and it rings true, that there is not one monolithic “gun culture,” but at least three identifiable cultures around guns. And they’re not even similar.
          The NRA is just one of those cultures. They’re a big name, sure, because they’re always out to make a splash.
          The TRCP, Ducks Unlimited, the Union Sportsman Alliance– those groups are more about making a difference than making a splash. There’s likely some overlap in membership, but the groups are distinct.
          My neighbor, the ex-Marine Vietnam vet with twenty-some-odd guns isn’t the problem. I think he’s probably safer than most.

          To be fair, the “gun control” crowd isn’t so monolithic either.
          “Concealed carry” is really something of a phantom issue. The issue is really one of how widespread concealed carry should be; i.e. should you be licensed as a PI or a bounty hunter to get one, or no?

          In the end, the best form of gun control is responsible gun ownership.
          Responsibility is an individual decision, but we can incline things in that direction by conferring liability under the law.
          Deadly force isn’t a thing to be taken lightly.
          Even if it was an accident, reckless use of deadly force or callous disregard of foreseeable injury can and should carry severe social sanction.

          The fact is it would have been seen differently if he had swung at her four times with an axe. The jury would have had it firmly in their heads, “This is a fishing madman!” For some reason, that maniacal element is removed if he’s just popping off a few rounds with an AK. It’s not something really dreadful, like throwing acid at her.

          Personally, I think that if he couldn’t hit the tire in four shots, he had no business owning a rifle, and he should be behind bars for being a menace to society, in that this man is fatally (literally) stupid.

          There was a man in Crockett Nat’l Forest several years back that shot his own son on his first deer hunt. After a loss like that, is it really fair to try the man and put him in prison?
          Hell yes it is! If the man’s going to take a shot at something that he’s not sure of what it is, he needs to be in jail. Nobody is safe from him. And nothing’s to say that the rest of his kids are going to be safe from him. Because the man is an idiot, regardless of his loss; to the point where he’s truly dangerous.
          But what if he had chopped the boy with an axe?
          If you can take an axe that seriously, why not a rifle?

          Another prime example:
          The fellow in Kentucky (I believe) that got his kid the .22 that killed his sibling with it.
          That’s an idiot that needs to be put in jail.
          Letting the kid fire the .22 now and then is ok, but getting him his own, and letting him keep it like it was a teddy bear sure isn’t. Maybe about 10 or so, the kid would be ready for a bb gun.

          I think what I was really getting at was that irresponsible use is required to be severely sanctioned in order to cultivate responsible use– and if not in the home, then through the law.
          As for political expediency, the one side isn’t prepared to accept the one aspect of that proposition, and the opposing aspect in anathema to the opposite side. And I don’t see much changing in that, from a pragmatic view.
          I think the real problem is more one of people expecting all other people to be pretty much the same as they are. In fact, I would say it’s city people that are most to blame. There’s the city people that can’t understand what it means to live on a ranch, and the city people that think that living in the city is living on a ranch; but their manner of foolishness isn’t that far removed.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          Yes, there is nuttery, but be careful not to paint with too broad of a stroke. The “Gun Culture” in America is so much more than the nuts. It’s just right now, a lot of the nuts have the microphone.

          Regarding the gender/race issues – I am pretty confident that if the gender/race combinations had been different, this would have had a much different outcome. I really do think the prosecutor in this case dropped the ball, either during the case, or more likely, during Jury selection.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Speaking of safety & such, I always wonder why a civilian being irresponsible is hauled out & flogged, but police being the same way are given a pass.

      http://www.wect.com/story/22605650/eyewitnesses-describe-the-terror-of-dui-checkpoint-shootingReport

  16. Avatar Patrick
    Ignored
    says:

    Imagine for a moment that Frago had not collected her fee up front from Gilbert. Imagine that at the end of the half hour she demanded $150 and that Gilbert, having not gotten his rocks off, refused to pay. Imagine that she and her pimp had then killed him. Can you honestly imagine the jury acquitting?

    I’m pretty sure that this is the underlying problem with both the Stand Your Ground law and this law; it’s impossible to provide equal protection under the law… when the protection offered by the law is granted to the guy who survives the encounter.Report

  17. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    For Chrissakes, people, read more about the case than Gawker or HuffPo. The prosecution did an arse of a job, charging for the wrong thing and using the wrong line of attack. They could have done him for manslaughter and the jury wouldn’t have even had to break to deliver a guilty verdict, but the prosecution wanted him to fry and ended up biting off more than they could chew.Report

  18. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s my problem…

    My hunch is that those defending this decision are going to skew conservative. And those who defend Zimmerman skew conservative. And part of the reason they do is because of what these two men felt. But so often, conservative deride the very notion of feelings. “Political correctness” is simply an attempt to avoid hurting people’s feelings. People who feel they have been the victims of racism are dismissed unless they have objective evidence that the perpetrator of the racism keeps a white hooded robe in his closet.

    So, which is it? Do people feelings matter so much that their perception of events, regardless of the facts, justify murder? Or do we need to operate in a world of objective facts where subjective feelings should be dismissed as biased and self-serving?Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      “My hunch is that those defending this decision are going to skew conservative.”

      Please find someone who is defending this decision. As in, someone saying “this is the morally, ethically, legally, and in all other ways correct decision, and it’s irrational to believe that any other outcome of this situation should have been desired or expected”.

      Explaining how the prosecution fucked up is not “defending” the decision, any more than someone counting up the Red Sox’s errors is a Yankees fan.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Here is the difference between this & Zimmerman. The victim here posed no threat to the shooter, at any time. He is literally getting away with it because the law is to lenient & vague with regard to defending property, &/or the DA screwed the pooch. Hell, he didn’t even technically get robbed, he just thought he did.

      Zimmerman, for all his idiocy in pursuing Martin, did not pull his gun until after he was on the ground getting his head pounded into the ground (at least, that is my understanding, if there is new evidence suggesting this is not the case, please correct me).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        MRS,

        I recognize there are vast differences between the two cases. But both defenses seem built upon the notion of “feelings”. One defendant “felt” he was being robbed; the other “felt” his life was in danger (or, going further back, “felt” that the victim was suspicious).

        And, I’m actually okay with taking into account people’s feelings. Perception is reality and all that.

        But I struggle with certain unprincipled inconsistencies. I’ve seen conservatives circle the wagons for Zimmerman, often discussing how he felt this or that and thus his actions were justified. Yet these same people are so quick to dismiss other people’s feelings on things because they lack hard evidence and, thus, are just overreacting. So, that is what I’m getting at here.

        If I’ve misjudged the supporters of this guy (and Heffman points out I very well might have done that), I’m happy to walk back the argument in this case.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          Zimmerman was an idiot & had no business doing anything more with regard to Martin than reporting him to the police (which is what Neighborhood Watches do, be good witnesses). He very much shares responsibility for the whole incident, as Martin had every right to not be stalked by some loon.

          But the moment Martin tackled Zimmerman & started beating his head into the ground, the dynamic changed & Zimmerman was allowed the option of deadly force. Feelings from either are not relevant, that act is the lynch-pin. Getting your head bashed into the ground is very much something that could result in your death, appropriate force in response is permitted.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          “One defendant “felt” he was being robbed…”

          The law we’re talking about puts conditions on that feeling, and it’s up to the defense to show those conditions were met. You don’t just say “robbery at night, case closed”.Report

  19. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m pro-gun. Or, more accurately, pro-gun rights. However, I’m sometimes uncomfortably identifying as such (particularly the former) because of who it puts me in bed with. But I believe that gun rights are balanced by safety and responsibility. And by that I mean that folks who demonstrate themselves to be unsafe and/or irresponsible with guns. Now, this is something that those people I’m uncomfortable aligning myself with pay a lot of lip service to: we tend to agree that we shouldn’t limit the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens because of the actions of criminal and/or irresponsible folks.

    But then something like this happens. And even if Gilbert is acquitted, thus making his gun use non-criminal, I’d still put it in the “irresponsible” category. Especially if his defense was predicated on the fact that he wasn’t trying to shoot the victim, just the tires. To me, that is HIGHLY irresponsible. If your attempts at shooting non-people result in people dying, you are not a particularly safe or responsible gun owner. So, it should seem to follow that Gilbert should have his gun rights restricted, if not fully taken away, because he has demonstrated that he cannot exercise them safely or responsibly.

    I’m curious how many other pro-gun people will back me up on this.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t think I’m really what you would call “pro-gun,” but I don’t think guns rights per se are the real problem here.
      It’s more an issue of the extent of property rights, and justification of deadly force.

      I think the parallel of an axe says it rather well. People would be generally horrified by that sort of thing. For some reason, add a little automation to the process, and it’s not nearly as bad.
      There’s something really wrong about that.

      If I invented a purse-snatching machine and let the thing run around awhile, I would suppose there would be a lot of people pissed at me.

      But I think we could all agree that purse-snatching is something of a misogynistic act that unfairly targets women.

      Which is why I chose to work on a machine that will rob the elderly, and another one to shake kids down for their lunch money.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        My point about gun rights was conceding all the prior points.

        If the party line is that we shouldn’t restrict the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners… what must one do to demonstrate irresponsibility? Is killing someone who we all agree shouldn’t be dead irresponsible?Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          I would put that down at the top as the first sign that somebody ought to be awarded the gold star of irresponsibility.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          As I said elsewhere, the ONLY standard that any law should have for the use of deadly force is that of a reasonable belief that your life/safety, or that of someone else, is in danger.

          Someone coming at you with a knife – Shoot

          Someone driving away with you car – Call 911

          Someone breaking into your house in the middle of the night – Shoot (a resident should not have to determine an intruder’s intent – their intent was made manifest by breaking in; if they don’t want to risk getting shot by a resident, they should make sure the home is empty before breaking in. Yes this sometimes leads to drunks getting shot, hell I almost shot a drunk for that very same reason, but I’ll put that on the person who decided getting blindingly drunk was a good idea).

          In my perfect world, gun owners would require a simple shooting test (can you hit a target at 7 yards), and a written test examining their knowledge of state law & a few shoot/no-shoot scenarios based upon state law.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
            Ignored
            says:

            Would you be okay prosecuting someone who shot his teenager son or daughter who clumsily got up in the middle of a night for a snack and knocked over a chair, breaking the lamp?Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes. Rule 4 – always be sure of your target & what is beyond it. (this is why I own a dog, if the dog is not barking, I’m going back to bed)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
                Ignored
                says:

                What are Rules 1-3? Are there any after 4?Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Sorry, thought we covered this else back in January. In no particular order.

                1) All Guns are always loaded & should be treated as such (when you read about somebody cleaning a gun & the gun going off, this rule was violated – even if you KNOW the gun is empty, being in the habit of always treating it as loaded means you don’t have to think about whether or not it is safe, pretend it isn’t and act accordingly).

                2) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are certain of your target & are ready to shoot – Cops violate this one regularly; every time you hear about a SWAT raid where a cops gun ‘accidentally’ discharged and some innocent person was killed, this is probably why. Modern firearms are tested to ensure that they do not go off unless the trigger is pulled, so if a gun ‘accidentally’ went off, someone probably had their finger on the trigger)

                3) Do not point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy (people are often careless about what their gun is pointing at, in the gun nuts crowd, this is known as ‘muzzling’ someone, and it pisses a lot of people off – understandably so)

                & 4 up above. Knowing what is beyond your target means understanding the ballistics of your ammunition as well as the ability of your backstop to stop the round should you miss or over-penetrate. A discussion of this could be a whole post on it’s own.

                Generally, you can usually violate one of the 4 rules & only suffer embarrassment at being an idiot. Violate 2 at the same time, and the chances of someone getting shot go up a great deal.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
                Ignored
                says:

                Re: 1 & 3.

                I think I’ve told this story before, but what’s a little repetition among friends?

                I’m not a gun owner but was taught to use guns by a friend who is a firearms trainer, so I had those rules drilled into me. A few years ago I was in a stage production of Of Mice and Men, and in the penultimate scene we went on stage with rifles to hunt down Lenny. The guy who brought the rifles in always checked them before the show started. So did I. I was the first person off-stage in the prior scene, and I always checked them again, then handed them out. There’s no way the rifles could have been loaded, but when one night one of the actors carelessly let his rifle point at my head, the owner and I sat him down for a talk that is well depicted by your rules 1 and 3. Because his first response was, “they aren’t loaded are they?”Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to J@m3z Aitch
                Ignored
                says:

                See: Brandon LeeReport

  20. Avatar BlaiseP
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s Texas. Need anyone say anything more? I wonder if it’s possible to expel a state under our current constitution?Report

  21. Avatar MikeSchilling
    Ignored
    says:

    “The only thing that stops a bad girl who won’t be bad is a good guy with a gun.”Report

  22. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    I just cannot go to the gender arguments here; because I don’t know if he’d shot and killed her brother over a $150, either. Or any other person.

    But I am amazed with the variety of values-of-life we get out of state’s rights. My cousin’s son, just a few days into his college life, was driving a car and lost control. Like Mike Dyer’s recent experience, a passenger died. No drugs, no alcohol, potential speeding, and loss-of-control on a bad road. He spent five years in prison. Another young man (frighteningly, same college, same bad road, one death) just got sentenced to four years.

    This, in the state where you can shoot someone and kill them while hunting, and walk away without any penalty.Report

  23. Avatar Dexter
    Ignored
    says:

    Zic, It is sad but true that too many times it is the quality of the lawyer, not the crime that determines how much time a person gets. Does anybody think O. J. would have been found not guilty if he had been a poor white man?Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Dexter
      Ignored
      says:

      What does “white” have to do with anything? Do you think that someone of any color who could afford the same legal Dream Team would have been convicted?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to MikeSchilling
        Ignored
        says:

        That’s another one that had a lot to do with the prosecution.
        “Co-lead prosecutors” are notably less effective than a single person directing the organizational structure.
        It’s not about how good of attorneys they are. It’s about the offense calling two different plays in the huddle.Report

  24. Avatar Michelle
    Ignored
    says:

    What I am beginning to oppose is our gun culture, which seems to revel in taking increasingly creepy, frightening stances on anything to do with guns.

    I think you can expand this statement to include certain elements of right-wing culture popularized by folks like Glenn Beck and other loonies on talk radio, the internets, and Fox News who see themselves and their culture as being under siege and seem increasingly willing to advocate drastic measures to regain their “culture.” When you have a whole host of folks willing to spew vitriol and label as enemies anyone who disagrees, it is scary. The gun element is only one part of a larger “us v. them” stance that increasingly characterizes our culture.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Michelle
      Ignored
      says:

      I was thinking about this in a different context just a few days ago.
      While it is easy to point at Rush, Beck, et al., and say they are to blame, that’s really a bit of a stretch.
      I think the truth of the matter is that those fellows are more reactionary than anything.
      They have a wide audience for the sole reason that they’re able to tap into something that is widespread.
      And while there may be several different descriptive terms for it, it comes down to simple aversion.

      That’s where things become a bit more difficult.
      Exactly what is this widespread aversion?
      Asking whether or not it’s justified is completely irrelevant– it’s objective fact that enough people feel that way, or have tendencies in that direction, having determined for themselves that such aversion is justified. For us to take an opposing view on the issue of justification necessarily undermines the capacity of self-determination for that significant portion.

      And I was thinking about this in the context of child-rearing.
      It came up in an earlier discussion about the latchkey kids of the 70’s, and the contrast to today’s accepted hover-culture. I’ve been in urban areas enough to understand what’s going on here.
      But things are notably different where I’m at; in a town of 6000, surrounded by other towns of approximately equal or lesser size, where it’s not unusual to drive two or three towns over for something.
      Kids play outside here without someone watching them like a hawk.
      Kids ride bikes without helmets here.
      I would prefer things remain that way, rather than people assimilate that paranoia of the urban culture.Report

      • Avatar Michelle Togut in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        I agree with you Will–the Becks of the world are reactionary. They’re successful because, whether they believe half the stuff they say or not, they’ve hit a nerve with a certain segment of the population whose anger they express, sometimes more articulately than others. I’m not sure I’d describe it as an aversion so much as a deep uneasiness and dismay at the way things are headed in this country. Or the loss of something treasured even if often largely imaginary.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Michelle Togut
          Ignored
          says:

          I think generally, it’s the intangibles that are expressed as value.
          If you look at all that stuff on Antique Roadshow, the stuff is valuable or not depending on something entirely other than what it does.
          It’s never about, “This little duhickey is going to save your kid’s life one day;” though certainly that would be a thing of value.
          Somehow, I don’t think the parents of all those kids at the Shriners’ burn center are looking for a shelf to stack a few books on as their top priority.

          I don’t think “imaginary” is really a proper term for whatever intangible may not exist.
          “Ideal” would probably be more descriptive.
          Whatever it is, it’s real and it exists, even if it does so only as a concept.Report

  25. Avatar KatherineMW
    Ignored
    says:

    One of the chief memes employed by the gun culture is this black and white vision of the world being Good Guy vs Bad Guy. In the world of gun culture, people and societies simply aren’t complicated: there are Good Guys, and there are Bad Guys. Whatever is done by the Good Guys with guns is acceptable, because they are the Good Guys; whatever is done by the Bad Guys is an acceptable reason to arm ourselves against them. This way of looking at the world fits perfectly with acquittal of Ezekiel Gilbert.

    YES! Exactly this. It’s pretty much summed up in the NRA-style argument “If we restrict guns, only criminals will have guns.” It assumes a basic divide between ‘criminals’ and ‘regular people’, with the assumption that ‘regular people’ would never commit gun crimes. The assumption is simply untrue.

    Tod – do you think that gun control doesn’t work in general, or that it wouldn’t work in the United States due to America’s specific culture? Because it seems to work in other countries.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to KatherineMW
      Ignored
      says:

      “YES! Exactly this. It’s pretty much summed up in the NRA-style argument “If we restrict guns, only criminals will have guns.” It assumes a basic divide between ‘criminals’ and ‘regular people’, with the assumption that ‘regular people’ would never commit gun crimes. The assumption is simply untrue.”

      Of course this is true. If you restrict/ban legal owneship, the majority of folks, being non criminals, will comply. The criminals won’t, because by their very nature, they are criminals. And the majority of regular people do not commit crimes. Some do, but most don’t. Unlike criminals, which again by defintion, commit crimes.Report

  26. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    This isn’t about gun culture, it’s about people’s tendency to violence. The guy would have grabbed any weapon he could use; bat, knife, brick, etc. Maybe we should be asking questions about why people think they need to resolve differences with violence.

    So Texas has crazy laws, most states do. Maybe we should be focused on fixing those crazy laws. They probably have been on the books for 100 years.

    Now, as to the value of “a hooker”, it’s not much, but no one’s life really is. How much value does a housewife’s life have when the SWAT team kicks in the door and kills her and her kid? Not much.Report

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