Skip to main content

Texas law still comes out of a gun

By James C. Moore, Special to CNN
June 10, 2013 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
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
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT