Thursday, June 06, 2013

Only in Texas?

The Google doesn't have a lot about this story, so you may wish to take that into account in judging it.  But the outline is this:

In 2009 a man, Ezekiel Gilbert,  contacts a woman working as an escort, Lenora Ivie Frago,  via Craigslist,  and gives her $150, in expectation of sexual services which are not forthcoming.  Rather, the escort leaves the man's house with the money.

He shoots her, paralyzing her. Ms Frago  dies several months later from the consequences of the shooting.   The case goes to court, and the jury acquits the man in her shooting death:

The verdict came after almost 11 hours of deliberations that stretched over two days. The trial began May 17 but had a long hiatus after a juror unexpectedly had to leave town for a funeral.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Gilbert's defense team conceded the shooting did occur but said the intent wasn't to kill. Gilbert's actions were justified, they argued, because he was trying to retrieve stolen property: the $150 he paid Frago. It became theft when she refused to have sex with him or give the money back, they said.
Gilbert testified earlier Tuesday that he had found Frago's escort ad on Craigslist and believed sex was included in her $150 fee. But instead, Frago walked around his apartment and after about 20 minutes left, saying she had to give the money to her driver, he said.
That driver, the defense contended, was Frago's pimp and her partner in the theft scheme.
The Texas law that allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft was put in place for “law-abiding” citizens, prosecutors Matt Lovell and Jessica Schulze countered. It's not intended for someone trying to force another person into an illegal act such as prostitution, they argued.

Can this really be true?  If it is, why is a transaction that is illegal in Texas (selling sex) given this type of property rights protection?  If I hired someone to kill another person in Texas, and the hired killer ran off with my money without doing the agreed-upon murder, could I then kill him or her and not get punished for it at all?  Or is it the case that Mr Gilbert will get a separate punishment for being a john?  Is that even illegal in Texas?  (I'm too lazy to research it.)

Then there's the sum of money which is deemed adequate to cause someone's death, 150 dollars.  Is that the worth of a life?

The story is hard to believe.  I'm also concerned about the jury thinking that being an escort automatically means selling sexual services, when that is not written down anywhere at all.  My concern is because similar one-sided interpretations could spread to all sorts of exchanges, and juries appear to be ready to favor the "buyer's" interpretation here.

Let's flip this over.  Suppose that Ms Frago had had sex with Mr Gilbert and Mr Gilbert then refused to pay her.  Would she have been within her rights in Texas if she had then killed Mr Gilbert?  As far as I can tell, that should be the case.  But I very much doubt the jury would have acquitted her.
Via Gawker