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Texas law still comes out of a gun

By James C. Moore, Special to CNN
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Mon June 10, 2013
Texas Gov. Rick Perry fires a six-shooter.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry fires a six-shooter.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Texas man shot escort for not providing sex; he was acquitted of murder
  • James Moore: Texans who love Texas feel like they've fallen for someone who's gone crazy
  • Moore: Judge said blacks, Hispanics more likely to commit crimes
  • Moore says he can no longer be sure headlines like these don't reflect everyday beliefs

Editor's note: James C. Moore is a business consultant and principal at Big Bend Strategies. He is also a best-selling author and on-air TV political analyst.

(CNN) -- They used to say there wasn't any law in Texas west of the Pecos. But there was; it just came out of the end of someone's gun. And apparently that still works as a legal construct in our courts.

A San Antonio man was just acquitted of murder even though he admitted to shooting a woman during a dispute over paid sex. Ezekiel Gilbert said he shot Ivie Frago in the neck when she refused to return the $150 he gave her for sex. She was paralyzed and died seven months later at 23.

Frago had made the dreaded mistake of not understanding Texas has laws on the books that are much more frightful than Florida's "Stand Your Ground" statutes. The use of deadly force is apparently justified "in the night" when someone attempts to leave with your valuable or tangible property.

James C. Moore
James C. Moore

Frago instantly became a thief under Texas law when she refused to have sex or return the money, even though prostitution is also a crime. Gilbert, sadly, was transformed by circumstance into a legalized executioner of a young woman who would've probably been out on bail an hour after being arrested for stealing the money. Gilbert says he is suffering, too, though, and now has to "change the channel" when he sees TV shows "about people using guns."

Gilbert broke down in tears when he heard the verdict and that might be because he knows he lives in a state where the rest of the nation thinks we have an express lane to get killers to death row. Texas is, usually, unduly hard on criminals.

A few days before Gilbert was set free, a Waco man got 50 years in prison for stealing a rack of ribs. Willie Smith, 43, had previous convictions for theft, cocaine possession and assault. The grocery store employee said Smith told him he was carrying a knife in his pocket when he stole the ribs. Because of that, he was classified under the law as a robber, which escalated the crime to a more severe category.

Gilbert, sadly, was transformed into a legalized executioner of a young woman who would've probably been out on bail an hour after being arrested.
James C. Moore

Don't get hungry with a knife in your pocket if you live in Texas, even though that $35 rack of ribs will cost Texas taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed and incarcerate Smith until he is eligible for parole in about 15 years.

Those of us who live here often can't make sense of our state, either. Maybe our love of Texas is a kind of curse.

We often feel like we have fallen for someone perfect who has since gone crazy. In one of the world's largest economies, driving development in technology, agriculture and energy and developing a culture that has given to history eternal art and literature, we also are the most abundant source of America's clowns and political hypocrites.

And they even proliferate during a drought while other crops are dying.

I'd like to believe there's a form of Texas Tourette syndrome that causes our governmental institutions and some individuals to emit the unspeakable, or take actions that are disconnected from accepted norms of, well, at least the late 20th century. As discomforting as that lay diagnosis might be, none of us wants to believe headlines like the one about the travesty of Gilbert's acquittal reflect the beliefs of Texas and its people.

But we can no longer be certain.

Some of our crazies we are proud of because they have national entertainment value. Our Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert sees a bright clear line running from gay marriage and bestiality to any attempts at gun control. If you don't understand that limiting to 10 the number of bullets in a gun's magazine is a consequence of allowing people of the same sex to be married, you might not live in Gohmert's district.

We are also the state that sent Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate even as he touted a deep belief in a conspiracy between President Barack Obama and the United Nations to rid America of golf courses and paved roads.

We also are the most abundant source of America's clowns and political hypocrites.
James C. Moore

Ignorance is often no obstacle to success in Texas. In fact, it might be an advantage.

Edith Jones, who sits as a justice on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, a jurisdiction that includes her home state of Texas, is a Ronald Reagan appointee who allegedly argued in a February lecture at the University of Pennsylvania that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to commit violent crimes.

According to a judicial misconduct complaint filed by civil rights groups and others, she insisted blacks and Hispanics outnumber Anglos on death row because "these racial groups are involved in more violent crime."

Though it would not have affected her insights, Judge and Jury Jones was speaking before the release of a new study of federal crime data by the ACLU that shows blacks, in particular, are arrested at a national rate almost four times that of whites, even for minor crimes such as marijuana use.

"Her honor" also allegedly insisted that it was a disservice to outlaw the death penalty for the mentally retarded, and that "most Mexican nationals would rather be on death row in the U.S. than in a Mexican prison."

Although her cultural sensitivity courses were probably not completed, Jones is a graduate of the University of Texas Law School, which more than 25 years ago launched a national civil rights symposium to honor Heman Sweatt, an African-American who won a landmark case in 1950 to integrate the law school at the University of Texas. A part of the campus now bears his name. Many civil rights groups, meanwhile, have filed affidavits seeking Jones' removal from the federal bench.

A lot of Texans would like to start a similar process to dump our governor. But the odds of success aren't great. We have elected Rick Perry three times, regardless of his political behavior. He appoints creationists to the state school board to put his religion in textbooks, calls evolution a theory and he even tried to make same-sex marriage a felony.

But Perry may have sinned against his own party when he vetoed a "Buy American" bill that was approved overwhelmingly by a Republican-dominated legislature. There are many multinational corporations that are, in fact, "buying American" when they make their large donations to Perry's quivering national political aspirations, which might explain the veto pen.

I was going to tell you about our attorney general who said that registering Democrats to vote in Texas was "more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons."

I also wanted to mention the tea party activist who was recorded claiming, "Republicans in Texas don't want blacks to vote." But I'm trying to retain a little bit of pride here, and, anyway, there just isn't enough space to get it all told.

In Texas, even our crazy is big.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James C. Moore.

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