Not Right, But Not a Crime

 Posted on June 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

Young Matt Skillern over at the new Greater Houston Criminal Defense Law Blog (another LexBlog product; not everyone can roll his own blawg. I've added it to the blawgroll nevertheless) writes about the no-bill of Joe Horn for the shotgunning of two burglars (illegal immigrants from Colombia) after they left his neighbor's house:

What do I think? Well if you ask, based on the facts as presented in the media, Joe Horn did not have a legal right to shoot those men. The evidence presented through the news was that Joe Horn was in his home and not in danger, but chose to go outside and confront these men. If you look at it morally, it gets a little cloudier.

Cloudy indeed. In fact, one could reasonably take exactly the opposite of Young Matt's position: legally cloudy though morally unjustified. I think Mr. Horn's lawyer, Tom Lambright, got it right in the Chronicle article by Brian Rogers and Ruth Rendon:

"Was it a mistake from a legal standpoint? No. But a mistake in his life? Yes," Lambright said. "Because it's affected him terribly. And if he had it to do over again, he would stay inside."

It was a bad call that he'll have to live with for the rest of his life. But not every bad decision - not even every horrifically bad decision that ends in the death of a two human beings - should be treated as a crime.

Burglarizing a home in Harris County, Texas, is an activity that is so inherently dangerous that nobody engaged in it should be the least bit surprised to wind up dead, but stupid is not generally a capital offense in Texas.

In a Texas murder case, though, the focus is often not on the accused and his "legal right" to shoot the decedent, but instead on the decedent and whether he needed killing. Then the only question is whether the decedent was the right guy to do it.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if in this case the grand jury was convinced that Mr. Torres and Mr. Ortiz had needed killing, and that Mr. Horn was the right guy to do it.

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