Skip to main content

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.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT