Monday, July 7, 2008

Fallout in Houston From the Vigilante Case

The outrageous decision not to indict a Houston man who ignored repeated requests from a 911 operator not to shoot two men burglarizing his neighbor's home has forced a US Congresswoman to call for an inquiry into how they do business down there:
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has called for a congressional inquiry into the state's most populous county, saying recent events show that its legal system "has been tarnished." The Democrat primarily cited a recent Harris County grand jury decision not to indict a suburban homeowner who shot to death two men he suspected of burglarizing a neighbor's home.

"As far as many are concerned, justice was not rendered," said Jackson Lee, speaking at news conference Sunday. "There needs to be a question about how the case was presented. Was there no basis for this individual to be tried by a jury of his peers?"

Jackson Lee said her call for a federal inquiry also was spurred by a string of other controversial cases and scandals involving Harris County criminal justice agencies.

"With the many misgivings surrounding the Harris County legal system, it is fair to say that this local judicial system has been tarnished," Jackson Lee said. "It is time for all officials to be held accountable and true justice and democracy to be restored."

This is the story that Lee is referring to:
A Harris County grand jury on Monday ended the rancorous seven-month debate over Pasadena resident Joe Horn's decision to gun down two illegal immigrant burglars in his front yard, concluding the act was a justifiable use of deadly force and not murder.

The grand jury heard two weeks of testimony from witnesses, including Horn. They likely also heard his breathless 911 call, during which the increasingly frustrated retiree ignored a dispatcher's pleas to stay inside and out of harm's way. The Nov. 14 call ended with the sound of Horn racking a shell into his 12-gauge shotgun's chamber followed by three gunshots that killed Colombians Diego Ortiz, 30, and Hernando Riascos Torres, 38.

Each man was shot in the back. They had taken about $2,000 in the burglary.

Horn's defense hinged on his assertion that he fired out of fear for his life, making the shooting justifiable under Texas law. The law also permits the use of deadly force to protect property under some circumstances.

Having heard the 911 tape, I can tell you that there is no reason Horn should have been allowed to go free. He is the classic vigilante, confused, emotional and freaked out by the experience, not calm and collected. He is told, plainly and clearly, by the dispatcher to do nothing. He is told to put his gun down. He runs outside, yells, "move and you're dead!" at the men, and shoots both of them in the back. Moments later, the police arrive, and they almost certainly would have caught both of the men.

I hope the Congressional inquiry accomplishes something, because there is something wrong with our country--and it isn't guns. It's the idiots who get guns who don't know how to use guns or do what they're told.

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