Friday, July 4, 2008

Guns and the People Who Shoot Them.

I've been pretty quiet about the Joe Horn case and the Grand Jury's No-Bill of him this week, because, quite frankly, I don't think I had anything all that original to say about it. I have absolutely no sympathy for the two burglars that he killed, but I'm also not someone who considers Horn to be a hero. I thought the Grand Jury did the right thing in returning a No Bill (especially when you look at the alternative being an indictment on Capital Murder).

But the things that Horn said on his 911 tape trouble me, and they bring to mind the fact that there are plenty of people in this world who legally own firearms and are just chomping at the bit to get a chance to use them.

These folks scare the hell out of me.

My Dad served three tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine Corps Officer, and he killed a lot of people. He never really talks about it, but he doesn't shy away from discussing it either. He took me hunting once because he thought every father and son should do that at least once, but I could tell he didn't enjoy the actual act of hunting. We had a great time together, but in the end, he summed up his feelings about hunting by telling me "I feel guilty about shooting at something that isn't shooting back at me."

He also stressed to me gun safety by telling me that he can live with all the people he killed during Vietnam, but he would never be able to live with himself if he harmed someone by accident or by being careless with a gun.

But on the flip side of my father's attitude toward firearms and lethal force are people who are much more prevalent than I'm exactly comfortable with.

You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who were first in line to get their Concealed Carry Licenses when they first were made available. The ones who have more handguns than they have hands. The ones who carry those handguns everywhere they legally can.

The ones that are just praying for the opportunity to someday get to kill somebody legally.

Those folks scare the crap out of me, and if I base my opinion of Joe Horn off of his 911 call, I think he matched that description.

I use the term "matched" rather than "matches", because I also think that what he did in his front yard turned out not to be as exciting as he probably envisioned it. The gun shots don't sound as dramatic as they do on TV. The blood is real.

And the consequences of having taken the lives of real human beings is one the will always weigh on his soul.

Don't get me wrong. I don't cry a lot of tears for the people that Joe Horn shot. They were bad men -- much worse than what the media or Quannel X would have you believe.

But what if it had been a pair of 15-year-old kids doing a stupid prank? Or worse, kids that just happen to be walking across the yard, but look suspicious?

I doubt that Joe Horn will ever pull the trigger on another human being again, but some of those folks who call him a hero might. Joe Horn is talking about how the shootings affected him.

I hope some of his followers will listen to him.


Michael said...

You've got me baffled on this one, AHCL. Why is it good that the grand jury no-billed a man who killed two human beings in cold blood when the alternative would have been an indictment for capital murder -- a crime that would have met the definition under the statute?

Is it because either the DA or the grand jury is a better arbiter than a Harris County jury to determine whether Horn should be convicted for his crime? Do they have insider knowledge on the souls of the men who were killed? (If so, why and how did they get that knowledge?)

Or is it because we want Harris County citizens to act as vigilantes and shoot to kill whenever they see property crimes occurring and the peace officers don't arrive on the scene fast enough to suit them -- and that they'd be discouraged from doing that if they knew the grand jury would try to hold them accountable?

Or is it (as I suspect) that the Harris County DA's office doesn't think it could convict a man of murdering two burglars because of the "sumbitches needed killing" doctrine? Or worse, just doesn't want to convict him?

Anonymous said...

On the flip side...this is the kind of case that I would be worried about if Clarence Bradford wins the DAs office. With his buddies Quanell X, the Black Panther Party, and the Nation of Islam screaming bloody murder...I have to wonder if he would have pushed the Grand Jury toward an indictment...

TxGoodie said...

I watched three video tapes made by the Pasadena Police Department online at the Chronicle yesterday and came away with a much broader view of what happened. I'm an avid supporter of gun owner rights and yet some of what I'd heard made me uncomfortable, but after watching his interviews I think I came away with a better understanding of how he came to be in the firestorm.

Of particular interest to me was when the detective left him alone in the room, he just drank his water and sat quietly. He didn't even rub his eyes or move around in the chair. His demeanor spoke volumes.

It's worth watching if you get a chance to see it.

Murray Newman said...

I think that it was the legally correct thing. As Horn's attorney noted, it may have been legally right, but morally wrong.
The alternative being capital murder is interesting, because a Sudden Passion finding doesn't count for diddly-squat in a capital murder. It was all one or all the other with no middle ground.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm in the minority on this as a prosecutor, but I really think he should have been charged and indicted...and let a jury acquit him, if that's what they chose to do.

I think the no-bill, behind a veil of secrecy, creates lots of problems. At least with a trial the public would have had access to all of the evidence, the arguments made by both sides, etc. And certainly the grand jury could have indicted him on 2 counts of murder, rather than capital. (And if not, a reasonable jury could have found him guilty of a lesser, if anything.)

I think Horn benefitted greatly from the character of his victims...and their immigration status. Like you said, what if they had been a couple of juvenile US citizens with no criminal history?

I'm not sure the legislature intended the castle doctrine to be applied based on what we learn AFTER someone pulls the trigger...multiple times. And I'm not sure it intended to create a justification for murder based on folks being "sick and tired" of crime.

Horn wasn't protecting his property - or anyone else's - when he pulled that trigger. The burglary was complete. The burglars were leaving the scene. At best, they were cutting through Horn's yard on their way out of Dodge.

And those 911 calls. Don't they tell us everything we really need to know? Horn wasn't scared...he was angry. And a law that allows us to kill in anger, rather than fear, is a scary, scary thing.

Anonymous said...


For once, I think you are dead on. I have felt this way a long time and I am a former avid hunter who lost interest after becoming a Defense Attorney for the same reasons as your dad. I still shoot skeet etc but have the exact same feelings as you about people who feel the need to carry, including our brethren at the courthouse. If you want to be a cop, go be a cop. Unfortunately for all concerned, Joe Horn has discovered that a corpse is a most uncomfortable pillow to sleep on every night.

Jason said...

First off, hate to say it, but some people should die and not worth a damn.

I think he was more upset that these two were committing burglary and felt like the vengeful angel of death until he pulled the trigger and realized what he had done.

Plus, at least one of these guys was part of an organized burglary ring. Sometimes people get tired and decide to fight back and I think that's what Horn felt.

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...
I know I'm in the minority on this as a prosecutor, but I really think he should have been charged and indicted...and let a jury acquit him, if that's what they chose to do."

And that's why we have juries--to protect the public from people like you.

Anonymous said...

ANON 12:56 -
Please don't try to make people think you are a prosecutor when it is so obvious that you are not.

Your own words betray you.

"I think the no-bill, behind a veil of secrecy, creates lots of problems."

Ummmm...isn't this how our Grand Jury system is supposed to work??? Shouldn't a prosecutor know that?

"At best, they were cutting through Horn's yard on their way out of Dodge."

You previously complained about the veil of secrecy and not knowing all the facts...yet NOW you know the crooks were only taking a short cut?

And shouldn't a prosecutor understand that when crooks are in the process of trying to escape while in possession of stolen property...that the crime is not "over," but is still in progress?

And finally...

"And those 911 calls. Don't they tell us everything we really need to know?"

Really? And as a prosecutor, you would rely on a 911 call as "everything you really need to know" about a case? Really?

If you want to post an opposing opinion, that's fine. We're all adults. We can accept opposing opinions. We can agree to disagree.

But please don't try to boost your credibility by claiming to be a prosecutor. There are too many here who can see right through it...

whimsicalrandomness said...

not knowing 'all' the facts of the case, i cannot ultimately say what happened in that grand jury was either right or wrong, but considering those that oversee/navigate it and their creditials to do so, i choose to assume that their choice was the right thing to do. nonetheless, i do share the same concern with 'license carriers' who feel their right to own and shoot within the imaginary lines of the law are as God-given as the right to breath air. those criminals were wrong to do what they were doing, but whether they deserved to die? taken out of context from a modern-day eastwood western, '...deserves got nothing to do with it.' these laws we speak of are merely lines in the sand that we create to live in harmony... some more 'deserving' than others. with a few whips of the pen along with successfully consuming a few rolls of red tape and the laws of today are for the history books. its silly to me to contemplate morality with this one example with the determination to conclude it or justify one way or the other, but it is interesting to note that there is a significant and accepted divide from what is morally and lawfully right.

Anonymous said...

I might be worried about CHL holders going crazy if the incident rate for them was higher, but it's so low, at least from the last statistics I saw, that I don't worry about it. I worry more about the folks who wont' get a CHL because they "don't want the governemnt to know I own a gun". The people I know aho carry under the auspices of a CHL pray they never have to use thir firearm to resolve a situation.

Ymarsakar said...

These folks scare the hell out of me.

Panicing out of fear and over-reacting is actually not a better thing than reacting out of anger at injustice or adrenaline when facing a fight or flight situation.

It speaks much for our justice system and those that populate it, and their ignorance of what people who live in Britain are currently suffering, that you folks are more scared of citizens reacting to criminal assaults than you are of the asocial criminals themselves.

This is natural, since you have the power, but not the right, to control and limit the actions of citizens. The law has no power, even if it has plenty of right, to regulate and limit the actions of criminals.

If the law had that much power, criminals would not committ crimes. And while their actions are not so much influenced by lawyers or the law, they are influenced greatly by the risk vs rewards scenario of robbing an American home that could be armed and ready to shoot and kill them.

The rise of violent assaults and the greater freedom given to burglars and home invasion specialists in Britain, due to the stripping and legal "limitations" placed on the British home owners, are a boon to the criminal and the asocial serial killer industry.