The Joe Horn "He Needed Killin'" Shooting Case: Your Opinions on His Acquittal

Apologies if there’s already a thread- I couldn’t find one through various searches.

For those who haven’t been following the story through various print and cable news magazines, Wiki has a good synopsis of the case. Here are the basics:

Joe Horn is a 61 year old retiree who lives with his daughter and her family in Pasadena, Texas (part of metro Houston as I understand it). He seems to have led a clean life (leastwise he has apparently never been in trouble with the law).

Last November he witnessed two men (both Hispanic) breaking into the house of his neighbor. He called 911 who dispatched police. While he was on the phone the two men emerged from the window with their bags. The two men were not a direct threat to Horn, though they did cross onto his property in leaving the house they burgled. In spite of the fact that the men were not threatening him and the 911 operator’s direct orders to ‘DO NOT INTERFERE!’, Horn went outside and shot both men dead- from behind by some counts. The Pasadena police were already at the property when this happened.

The two men were revealed to be career felons, both from Colombia and both in the country illegally. The bags they carried contained about $2000 in property they had stolen from the neighbor’s home. They were suspects in a professional burglary ring, though I do not know if that burglary ring has committed any violent (non-property) crimes.

There was a huge uproar over the issue with two very distinct sides. A Black Panther leader, Quanell X, held a rally protesting Horn and calling him a racist murderer, while Horn’s supporters held a “separate but equal” rally calling him at worst a vigilante and at best a hero. It was a very heated case with death threats all around (against Horn, against the defense, against the prosecution). This week “a Harris County grand jury cleared Mr. Horn by issuing a no-bill after two weeks of testimony”- IANAL so I’m not clear what a “no-bill” is but the point is the grand jury chose not to indict or prosecute Horn.

So what’s your opinion? I seriously doubt anybody here will consider him a hero, but do you think he should have been indicted?

OT1H, the men he killed were not threatening him (according to one of the policemen one man did charge him, but only after Horn pointed a gun at him) and both men were shot from behind (though one, according to a witness, was facing him at the time and turned just as the bullet entered [or something similar to that]). I am not sure whether either man was armed, but they were not pointing guns at Horn.

OTOH, these men were criminals, were on his property, were in the country illegally from a nation we are not on good terms with, and were in the process of committing a crime when Horn spotted them and were fleeing the scene when shot.

What’s your opinion of the matter?

I’m not sure I would have voted to convict if he went to trial, but I definitely think he should have been indicted and made to stand trial.

I can’t say that I approve of what he did (I wouldn’t shoot anybody over property), but he didn’t break the law as I understand it. I find myself shaking my head at the whole thing, mostly at the morons that decided that stealing from people was a good idea.

I guess a grand jury doesn’t have to give the reasoning behind their opinion, but in my view this was a complete travesty. Seems rather cut and dried to me: none of the items above, to the best of my knowledge, is a capital offense, Horn was not personally under what a reasonable person would consider a direct threat, and most importantly, police were either actually on the scene or moments away from arriving and Horn had clearly been informed of that fact. Horn does not appear to have had any reasonable justification for shooting the pair.

I sympathize with anyone who has been burgled, and there is of course a strong desire for revenge whenver one is the victim of a crime, but that’s why we have law enforcement authorities to begin with. Horn should have been prosecuted, in my view.

I don’t like it when people needlessly play judge and jury, and in doing so impose a sentence far beyond that which our justice system would dream of imposing.

I would have hoped for Joe Horn to spend the rest of his life in prison for taking the law into his own hands. Bernie Goetz at least had a plausible claim of being in danger. Horn didn’t.
P.S. Before I opened the thread, I was assuming this was about Joe Horn, the football player.

Apparently, it is legal in Texas to shoot someone who is robbing your neighbor’s house, and no defensive justification is required in the statute. So he didn’t do anything illegal, but ethically, I think it’s more than a little gray to shoot someone who is running away from you, especially if you’re only protecting property (and someone else’s property at that.

On the other hand, if I’m honest, if a couple of lowlifes broke into my house and tried to bulglarize it, I probably wouldn’t be all that upset if my neighbor put some airholes in them.

I’d probably have a brief moment of rage where I felt that way, but it would pass after a moment or two. People - even lowlifes - are more valuable than stuff.

A “no-bill” is a grand jury’s decision not to indict, as opposed to a “true bill,” a decsion to indict.

Do I think he should have been taken to grand jury for indictment? He shot two people with a shotgun, so yeah, sure. He’s entited to raise a defense, but taking a multiple homicide to a grand jury is certainly understandable. Should he have been indicted, tried and convicted? Much harder to say. Thing is, rightly or wrongly Texas law does allow deadly force in the defense of property in certain limited circumstances, and the facts as reported do appear to make a case for that as a legal defense to prosecution. It’s hard to say what the outcome should have been in light of two weeks of testimony behind closed doors, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that the prosecution presented it’s case without any rebuttal from defense whatsoever and the grand jury nevertheless declined to indict.

I wonder how the ham sandwich feels.

Well, as Dio said, if it’s not against the law, it’s not against the law. We can’t put people on trial for ethical breaches (although God knows sometimes we try).

Jeez, Quanell X is a keeper, no? What you gotta do for the Nation of Islam to say, “Whoa…too radical.”

I hate to admit it, but having been burgled this is one of the things that crossed my mind.

I started to say worship UFOs (the Nuwaubians were a cult in Georgia expelled from NoI and with really loopy UFO/Egyptian beliefs thrown in), but then I remembered Farrakhan himself teaches UFOlogy doesn’t he? The Quanell rally is to me a case of “choose your battles”. Was it racist? Very possibly (he may not have shot as fast if it’d been two white teenagers), but you’re just not going to whip up that major an auto da fa for two illegal alien career criminals. It reminds me of Victoria Jackson’s editorial on an SNL/Weekend Update soon after the Milwaukee Gourmet was murdered: “How many Jeffrey Dahmers are going to have to die before we do something to fight the problem of prison violence?”

Yeah, interesting dude. When I was in Houston he was in the news a lot. A lot lot.

I have mixed feelings about laws that allow deadly force to prevent theft of ones own property, but I really don’t think a letting people open fire to defend their neighbors property is a good idea. Ethical considerations aside, it just seems way to easy to misunderstand whats going on with a neighbors stuff and end up blowing away your neighbors Colombian brother-in-law who locked his keys in the house and decided to go in through the window, or his teen sons friends who are sneaking around in ski masks to play a practical joke.

I think Horn was right to shoot those men, and I think the jury was right not to indite him.

I don’t know why major financial harm is considered any better then bodily harm. People depend on the “stuff” they posses to provide a living for themselves and their loved ones, not everyone is rich enough to get robbed and still be able to afford to eat the next day. I consider the possibility of such harm to me or my neighbors sufficient to make the use deadly force against thieves acceptable. I wish my state would pass a law like the one in Texas.

I disagree with the dopers who feel that law enforcement should have been left to deal with the thieves. Cops would never catch those guys and everyone who’s ever been burglarized knows it. If a man’s house, or a mans neighbor’s house is invaded he should be able to protect the property with deadly force.

If anything, I am worried about an old man mistaking some girl scouts for thieves and accidentally killing them a lot more then I am about people being able to defend their neighborhoods from thieves without the gummints supervision.

One of the bones of contention in this case was whether his neighbor asked him to watch over his place while he was away. Apparently by Texas law if you’ve been asked and agreed to watch over another person’s place, you essentially have all of the same rights as if you were the owner. The neighbor in this case is a Vietnamese immigrant who Horn never had more than a nodding acquaintance with, but who has said “Yeah, I asked him to”, with several people who know both men stating that he said that after the fact (in part no doubt at gratitude of having $2000 worth of goods returned- for those not aware, 92% of items stolen in burglaries are never recovered, and there have been many times I’d have rather taken a beating than a $2,000 loss).

The problem is that perceptions can be misleading. What if you sent your brother-in-law back to the house to get something and forgot that you locked the door?

I know. I still think it should be illegal, I’m just being honest about what my human response would be as a burglary victim.

He didn’t do anything illegal, but his claims he feared for his life and just went out to get information are bullshit.

If I lived anywhere near him, I would consider him a danger to the community.

Yeah, my heart bleeds. I have had my home robbed, and I dislike criminals and illegal immigrants, but Horn’s actions were in no way an appropriate response to what happened.

This is one of my biggest objections to such low standards for the use of deadly force. Too much room for error. If you don’t have any reason to think your life is in danger, why take chances?

I mean, society at large isn’t going to miss the two crooks, and I can understand the frustration, rage, and sense of violation that comes with being victimized by such people, but I cannot possibly think that it was right to shoot them in the back, especially since that indicates that they were fleeing when they died.

Going out to try to stop them would be one thing. In all likelihood, the burglars would drop their loot and flee, and in fact it sounds like they probably tried to. But Joe Horn went out there pretty much intending to kill them, which was wrong no matter how you slice it.

ABC deletes the part of the call where the dispatcher warns Horn not to go out there because he may shoot a plainclothes officer. That obviously didn’t mean anything to Horn. Anybody willing to take a chance like that is even more of a fuckoff than I thought.

While I don’t think what he did was necessarily right, I think that the Grand Jury was right not to indict him. Frankly, listening to the call and reading the information, he gave them the opportunity to stop, saying “don’t move or you’re dead”.

Even if they didn’t sprechen sie englais, the sound of a shotgun round being chambered followed by shouting is the universal signal for “don’t move a froggin muscle until the guy with the shotgun says to”.

He shouldn’t have been and I’m glad he wasn’t indicted, but I wish he would have stayed in the house.

As pravnik notes, this isn’t an acquittal – it’s a decision by the grand jury not to indict him. He could still be indicted by another grand jury if different evidence were to come to light, or possibly even by another means, like a prosecutor’s information. (Not sure of Texas rules, here, so anyone who is can step in and clarify). In any event, there’s no doulbe jeopardy protection for him.

So far as I can tell, his actions were legal.

I don’t agree with them – no one’s life is worth $2,000 worth of stuff. But we send signals through our adoption of laws, and while I would not have taken the fight out to the street, as Horn did, I certainly would not now twist the law in an effort to punish him criminally for an act which his state laws permit.