Texas jury says that sometimes, killing an escort is okay (Updated)

Ezekiel Gilbert contracted for services with Lenora Ivie Frago, an escort he found on Craigslist. At the end of their Christmas Eve engagement, he paid her her $150 fee, and she walked out — which angered him, because he’d assumed that sex was included as part of the package. Gilbert shot Frago in the neck, paralyzing her; she died of her injuries seven months later.

His defense before the courts? That his actions were justifiable because, as he’d assumed sex was part of the deal, Frago was stealing that $150 from him by taking the money and not providing the service — and Texas law allows him to “use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.” (Frago, of course, wasn’t available to provide her side of the story.) The jury agreed, and Gilbert was acquitted of murder.

Another argument, of course, could be that Gilbert engaged Frago’s services with the intent of committing a crime (solicitation) and that when she became aware of this and refused to participate, he shot her, and she died (manslaughter). But because he killed her in pursuit of his $150, it was A-OK by Texas law, and so Gilbert walked.

It’s a great precedent to set all around. It means that:

a) if a sex worker does contract for sexual services and then walks out with the money, it’s a killing offense (as long as it’s at night);
b) Frago’s life was ultimately worth $150;
c) “but I thought she was going to have sex with me” is now, in some cases, a viable defense for manslaughter; and
d) if a guy takes you out to dinner and expects sex afterwards, you’d better hope he’s not about to accuse you of stealing that steak.

Remind me to avoid Texas.

Update: RH Reality Check provides details that weren’t available (that I could find, anyway) at the time of this posting: A major influence on Gilbert’s acquittal was that, rather than using (for instance) a handgun to target Frago, he instead sprayed her retreating car with AK-47 fire, and she was struck by a bullet fragment. Because the prosecution could not establish intent (Gilbert says he was trying to kill the tires, not the occupants of the car), the jury couldn’t find him guilty of murder; the judge failed to instruct them that they could convicted him of manslaughter as a “lesser included offense” without the requirement of intent. So: Under those circumstances, Gilbert likely would have been acquitted with or without the law; if the judge had done her job, Gilbert may have gone to prison for Frago’s death, but that didn’t happen; that Texas law is still seriously messed up; and law or no law, Gilbert shot up a car with an AK-47 because the woman inside it wouldn’t have sex with him, and he won’t be punished for it.

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130 Responses

  1. NotFairReally
    NotFairReally June 7, 2013 at 12:05 am |

    I think you’re simplifying what actually happened. The defense convinced the jury (rightly or wrongly) that this was a scheme for theft concocted by the escort and her “pimp.” Basically they set up a date for sex, take the money, and leave. It’s no different than when drug dealers steal from potential buyers.

    1. jemima101
      jemima101 June 7, 2013 at 5:15 am |

      this is why i stopped reading this fecking blog. Seriously? She met him, no one has a right after meeting to demand sex, you always get the money first, its not a scam its the primacy of consent.

      1. matlun
        matlun June 7, 2013 at 7:20 am |

        But the judgement at least was not that he did have the right to demand sex. It was that he had the right to get his money back. Which is arguably fair (depending on what was actually agreed).

        What is really messed up is the judgement that because she did not give back the $150, he had the right to shoot and kill her.

        WTF, Texas.

    2. Li
      Li June 7, 2013 at 5:54 am |

      Basically they set up a date for sex, take the money, and leave. It’s no different than when drug dealers steal from potential buyers.

      You cannot tell the difference between an act requiring mutual consent like sex and an object like drugs? Yeah, that’s pretty creepy.

      1. joe hern
        joe hern June 8, 2013 at 1:04 am |

        Drugs are objects, but two parties need to mutually consent to exchange drugs for money. If you consider prostitution a service, I refer you to the idiom which typically goes “you can exchange money for goods and services.” I can see the legal theory they used, but that doesn’t mean I agree with what this man did. It’s sickening that he willfully meant to kill or maim someone else when his own life wasn’t in peril. If anything, TX should use this woman’s needless death and the subsequent miscarriage of justice to correct the blind spots in its state constitution.

    3. chava
      chava June 7, 2013 at 6:00 am |

      except EVEN IF a drug dealer stole $150 from a buyer as part of a scheme, and EVEN IF these two things were analogous?

      That still shouldn’t give the buyer the right to murder the drug dealer.

      1. Sheelzebub
        Sheelzebub June 7, 2013 at 9:57 am |

        I’m pretty sure if I shot a drug dealer for taking my money and not handing over the goods, I’d have a better chance of doing time in Texas than this guy. People get convicted all the time for killing someone else in a “drug deal gone bad.” Apparently the rules change if the person who was shot was a woman and/or a sex worker.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 11:21 am |

          I’m pretty sure if I shot a drug dealer for taking my money and not handing over the goods, I’d have a better chance of doing time in Texas than this guy. People get convicted all the time for killing someone else in a “drug deal gone bad.” Apparently the rules change if the person who was shot was a woman and/or a sex worker.

          Yes, but you don’t describe a sex worker and a drug dealer, you describe two con artists. Someone who offers to sell someone drugs but takes the money and doesn’t is not a drug dealer, someone who offers to sell sex but doesn’t and takes the money is not a sex worker.

          The point is- con artists do not deserve to be executed.

        2. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub June 7, 2013 at 11:51 am |

          You’re right–con artists don’t deserve to be executed, and when a drug deal goes bad, or a person purporting to be a dealer rips off a buyer and gets shot, the legal system enforces that principal. Unless they’re female and/or sex workers. In which case, it appears to be totally fine in Texas.

        3. Alphabet
          Alphabet June 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

          I think you’re quite right. When people think about drug deals, there is a drug dealer and a drug user, and those are two throw away people in our society.

          In sex work, there is the prostitute (not a sex worker, according to society) and the poor guy who is just trying to get some personal satisfaction and is forced to turn to paid sex because fickle women won’t have sex with a nice guy like him because blah blah blah. In this scenario, there is only one throw away person, and that is the sex worker. The john is just poor schmuck who has been conned.

          So if a drug user murders a drug dealer, you put the user in prison and you have gotten rid of two throw away people If a john murders a sex worker, the throw away person is already disposed of, so you can acquit the john and tell him “job well done.”

          None of this is what I personally believe, mind you. Just how society works.

    4. Kristen from MA
      Kristen from MA June 7, 2013 at 11:55 am |

      It’s no different than when drug dealers steal from potential buyers.

      Oh, well then, that makes it OK.

      1. Henry
        Henry June 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

        This. At worst she’s a thief (larceny)…we don’t shoot thieves.

        If I don’t get my fires at McDonald’s can I shoot the cashier?

        1. Kristen from MA
          Kristen from MA June 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm |

          In Texas, probably.

          I do not want to go to there.

    5. Lindsay Beyerstein
      Lindsay Beyerstein June 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

      If the Craigslist ad didn’t explicitly promise sex, then it’s not “theft” to leave without providing sex. Nor is it a scam in any relevant sense. The standard dodge for escort services goes like this: You pay for the time and whatever happens behind closed doors between consenting adults, happens.

      Obviously, if a customer is disappointed with what happens, he can refuse to patronize that escort again, but he has no legal right to demand a service he was never promised in the first place, indeed a service that he couldn’t legally pay for.

      1. Alphabet
        Alphabet June 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

        This is a point that every other article I have seen seems to ignore. They refer to Ms. Frago as a prostitute, with the implication she promised sex than ran out on him, making her a thief and a con woman. But she referred to herself as an escort, and escorts usually don’t include sex in the deal. So in order to make his case, he had to turn a dead woman into a con artist.

    6. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah June 8, 2013 at 1:31 am |

      It’s no different than when drug dealers steal from potential buyers.

      Asshole.

  2. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 12:31 am |

    Christ.

  3. foxy
    foxy June 7, 2013 at 12:46 am |

    Shocking.

  4. Alexandra
    Alexandra June 7, 2013 at 1:05 am |

    What the fuck. There’s so many things wrong with this. A woman’s life being worth less than $150 dollars – and even if you accept the proposition that this was a deliberate theft, it would be a class B misdemeanor in Texas, with a maximum penalty of three months in jail or a $2000 fine.

    The idea that you can kill someone for committing a misdemeanor, when you are in the act of committing a misdemeanor also.

    The idea that you can just shoot ANYONE for ANY reason other than defense of life and limb, or the life of another person.

    The fact that, once again, a white man kills a person of color and it’s the WoC who’s presumed criminal in the news stories and discussions, not the FUCKING MURDERER.

    The idea that sex workers are disposable. I hear people get angry about stuff like this because they’re ‘good liberals’, and then I hear dead hooker jokes from them. What the fuck.

    This bizarre ‘state of nature’ bent to a lot of gun rights’ advocates who seem to be perpetuating the idea that it’s a jungle out there and we all need to be armed to the teeth so we can defend ourselves against the criminal element in society, aka black and brown people and/or drug users and people with visible mental illnesses.

    The fact that some people practically fetishize the notion of blowing away another human being with their gun.

    I’m almost incoherent about this. It is almost personal. I keep thinking that if my life had turned out a little differently maybe my parents would hear that a jury of their peers had decided I was worth less than $150 bucks to the world.

  5. Kitty
    Kitty June 7, 2013 at 1:08 am |

    This is just one of the many, many, many, many disgusting aspects of the case but for some reason my brain is fixating on it, so if someone with a better legal grounding than mine can explain this to me, I’d be really grateful:

    I’m assuming it’s illegal to pay for sex in Texas (I’m not American, so I don’t know). In that case, since there couldn’t even be an enforceable contract established that says “this money is payment for sex” how was the escort taking the money even considered stealing?

    I mean, let’s say I pay someone money to kill someone and they don’t go through with it and I want to go to court and sue them for the money. Since the original contract was illegal, I wouldn’t have the right to pursue my money with a lawsuit, right? So how come this guy has the right to pursue his money with violence??

    1. Willard
      Willard June 7, 2013 at 1:13 am |

      From the article

      The Texas law that allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft was put in place for “law-abiding” citizens, prosecutors Matt Lovell and Jessica Schulze countered. It’s not intended for someone trying to force another person into an illegal act such as prostitution, they argued.

      Guess the jury just wasn’t buying it.

    2. Wendy Lyon
      Wendy Lyon June 7, 2013 at 1:26 am |

      I don’t know anything about Texas law, but you’re right, the common law rule is that a contract to carry out an illegal act is unenforceable as a matter of public policy. So if Lenora Frago had had sex with Ezekiel Gilbert and he had then refused to pay her, she would have been unable to bring him to court to enforce their agreement.

      1. Kitty
        Kitty June 7, 2013 at 1:39 am |

        So my question is, wasn’t Gilbert essentially enforcing his contract by pursuing his money with force? And wouldn’t he have no right to do this because the contract is illegal?

        Bah, I don’t know, I’m no lawyer and the whole thing is disgusting.

        1. Wendy Lyon
          Wendy Lyon June 7, 2013 at 1:43 am |

          You’d think so, all right. In some jurisdictions the judge could refuse to allow that defence to be put forward. I don’t know how that works in Texas though.

        2. Elly
          Elly June 7, 2013 at 8:13 am |

          Disgusting, indeed.

          Had Frago actually had sex with Gilbert, and if Gilbert had refused to pay her, and if Frago had shot and killed Gilbert (theft of services is theft, yes?), I’m just guessing that the jury would NOT have decided that Frago would’ve been justified in doing so.

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |

          I would also like to know what the judge’s duties and responsibilities were in this trial.

      2. Alphabet
        Alphabet June 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

        When you lay out the reverse scenario of her trying to take him to court, it makes it all so much more horrifying. The jury ignores the law to clear a murderer, but would never do that for her.

    3. Emily
      Emily June 7, 2013 at 6:34 am |

      Hi Kitty,

      I’m a Texas attorney. I am as confused as fixated on the “contract” aspect of it as you are.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 7:30 am |

        I’m gobsmacked and horrified by the entire thing. How such a defense could be argued in the first place, and not easily refuted by the state. Another possibility is that this comes down to jury nullification, which is a pretty scary explanation, but insert offensive stereotype of Texan jurors.

        I can’t even be coherent in my outrage, it’s just too horrible.

  6. Willard
    Willard June 7, 2013 at 1:10 am |

    That is seriously fucked up.

  7. Aaliyah
    Aaliyah June 7, 2013 at 1:19 am |

    “use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.”

    Here’s the problem: people aren’t property.

    That judge needs to be out of his position. What a horrible human being.

    1. Willard
      Willard June 7, 2013 at 3:06 am |

      It was a jury trial, and the property in question was the $150 dollars.

      NAL, so I don’t know how much control the judge had over the bass-ackwards defense the guy’s lawyers put forward, but it was the jury that acquitted him.

  8. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 1:19 am |

    Putting aside the prostitution and race angles, is there anyone here who thinks it is justifiable to kill someone (for the sake of this argument, someone of your own race who is employed legally,) solely for non-violently stealing $150 from you?

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 2:46 am |

      Oops forgot to blockquote…my comments were not addressing what Caperton wrote, but this comment in the San Antonio Express article

      The Texas law that allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft was put in place for “law-abiding” citizens, prosecutors Matt Lovell and Jessica Schulze countered. It’s not intended for someone trying to force another person into an illegal act such as prostitution, they argued.

      1. Odin
        Odin June 7, 2013 at 8:11 am |

        Wow, Texas is screwy. I study martial arts, and my black belt instructor has repeatedly emphasized that non-black-belt adults who study martial arts can legally only use what we know if we’re in fear of great bodily harm and there’s no way to get away. And that’s not even _deadly_ force necessarily, unlike a gun.

        I also thought that in most states, if you were attempting to commit a crime and someone died because of it (even not directly through your actions), you would be charged with homicide and “I wasn’t trying to kill them, I was just trying to commit a crime” wasn’t a valid defense.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong June 7, 2013 at 9:45 am |

          my black belt instructor has repeatedly emphasized that non-black-belt adults who study martial arts can legally only use what we know if we’re in fear of great bodily harm and there’s no way to get away.

          Just FYI, that has no legal basis- there’s no difference between being a black belt or a no black belt. Martial arts do not have legal status (nobody has to register their hands as lethal weapons, nobody has to carry a card on them saying they are a black belt, etc.).

        2. Brennan
          Brennan June 7, 2013 at 9:53 am |

          Wow, Texas is screwy. I study martial arts, and my black belt instructor has repeatedly emphasized that non-black-belt adults who study martial arts can legally only use what we know if we’re in fear of great bodily harm and there’s no way to get away. And that’s not even _deadly_ force necessarily, unlike a gun.

          Umm, yes, except that the rules are the same for black belt adults as for lower-belt students (unless you’re talking about class instruction/competition/controlled circumstance of your choice). The law doesn’t care what your belt rank is–if someone grabs your arm and you break their wrist, you’re the one going to jail.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong June 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

          On a personal note; TMA (traditional martial arts- TKD, Karate, Kung Fu, etc.) instructors who say things like that are pretty common, and always a huge red flag. TMA in general is pretty sketchy as a method of self defense- it can be a great sport, but that’s all.

          Unless your gym practices full-contact sparring with relatively few rules (obviously some stuff will always be off-limits for safety, like eye-gouging or biting), you’re not being trained to defend yourself in a real fight. Kata, forms, practicing specific moves one at a time against a minimally resistant ‘attacker,’ prearranged sparring, sparring with no/light contact, sparring where you’re not allowed to use common techniques (like punching or tackling someone) or only allowed to attack the torso, sparring where you must remain on your feet and cannot use a takedown, and so on are worse than useless- they give you a false sense of confidence that will get you badly hurt in the real world.

          If you’re really pursuing martial arts to defend yourself, find a good MMA place preferably, or if that fails a boxing gym.

        4. Odin
          Odin June 8, 2013 at 9:25 am |

          I specified non-black-belt because I was really just trying to emphasize that even non-expert martial artists still have the “duty to retreat” (castle doctrine aside), and that we can’t legally use the _non-lethal_ force of our hands and feet unless we’re at risk of great bodily harm — a far cry from using a lethal weapon on a person walking away from you just to retrieve property.

          I appreciate the elaboration about the myth-ness of the urban legend about black belts needing to register as deadly weapons and how yeah, forms and board-breaking are pretty but not useful for self-defense, since you had no way of knowing if I knew better or not. And I’m happy to continue the discussion as to the reasons people study martial arts beyond self-defense, which portions of specific martial arts curricula would be useful in a real-world situation, and the specific context of what my instructor said (teaching us that if we can, we _should_ run, for our own physical safety as well as legal considerations), but that needs to go to the spillover thread, I think.

        5. Mike
          Mike June 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

          Even for an experienced martial artist, getting in a real fight (as in outside of a spar/competition) always runs the risk of 1) getting yourself injured 2) injuring someone else and facing serious legal repercussions 3) Having to live with having seriously injured (or even killed) someone else.

          So I would be surprised if any responsible martial arts teacher did not emphasize that physical self-defense carries significant risk and should only be used as a last resort. I’m sure they also give that disclaimer to avoid liability to themselves/the dojo if a student uses what they learned and it ends badly.

        6. lilith danne
          lilith danne June 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

          The weirdest part is that its not a legal defense to kill someone in a mutual crime a white teen boy went to prison three weeks ago for giving another teen boy a lethal dose of meth so I don’t understand how they were able to use the castle law this way the castle law state you can retrieve your personal property from (forcibly) your home in event of a home invasion and you can then protect yourself if they come after you for the property in question. it should have been nule and voided by the fact she was invited over how the hell they used the fact the victim was an escort as a defense that she was considered to be a home invasion robber is absurd and a travesty

    2. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm |

      I have a nit pick with everyone who just dismisses 150 bucks as nothing. For me, losing 150 bucks means my electricity bill won’t get paid, which means I’ll be cut off and behind a month and will NEVER, barring some windfall, be able to catch up.

      150 bucks is a lot of money.

      It could be the difference between having a home and not having a home.

      Not that I’d shoot someone stealing it, but I’d probably chase them down and tackle them, desperate to get that money back because I’d be fucking screwed if they took it.

      1. chava
        chava June 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm |

        except if he had been in those kinds of financial straits, then he probably didn’t have money to pay a prostitute, eh?

      2. Mel
        Mel June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

        I strongly doubt that a man who is willing to pay $150 for (he thinks) sex is that strapped for cash. He was willing to give her the money for a fungible, non-necessary “service” and only sought to take it back (allegedly–it’s not clear to me the money was the real motivation and not just the only way lawyers could think of to defend murder) when he did not receive that completely non-essential “service”.

        To men who can afford escort services, $150 IS trivial.

        I fail to see how that’s comparable to someone stealing the last $150 someone needs for utilities.

      3. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

        But this isn’t about Gilbert losing the money, it’s about him killing someone who he was going to pay the $150 if she had sex with him. Clearly, he had the money, and he was more than ready to part with that money, as long as the victim had fucked him.

        Yeah, you bet I’m not going to have any sympathy for this bastard freaking out over “losing” his cash the way he did.

      4. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

        I have a nit pick with everyone who just dismisses 150 bucks as nothing.

        It’s not worth killing someone over. Seriously, if I randomly lost $150 to a mugger I’d be down a bill too, but I still wouldn’t shoot the guy in the neck to get it back. Also, if dudebro had $150 to blow on an escort, he probably wasn’t needing it to get his bills paid, you know?

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

          Also, if dudebro had $150 to blow on an escort, he probably wasn’t needing it to get his bills paid, you know?

          QFFT

          You always have a way with words, Mac!

        2. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

          Which I why I said I wouldn’t kill someone over it.

          But, people keep saying ” it was only 150 dollars” when 150 dollars , FOR ME (since people are hell bent on misunderstanding this) would (not might) leave me exposed to heat stroke this summer because I have no electricity. IF I decided to pay the electric bill, it would leave me short on rent. In other words, I could face a situation that left me homeless.

          Now, obviously this isn’t the case for someone who can afford to blow money on sex, but that’s not the point I was making.

          Her life to the jury was worth 150 bucks, but mine isn’t even worth that to those dismissing it as chump change.

          I wouldn’t shoot someone unless it was in self defense, or defense of someone else in immediate danger of death, but I damn sure would chase someone down over 150 dollars because that IS a large amount of money. Dismissing it as something no one should even care that much about is the issue I have with some of these posts.

          Unless you people honestly think I’m saying “sure, shoot a woman for money when she won’t have sex!!” Because clearly, that’s so very in character for me. Right?

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

          Which I why I said I wouldn’t kill someone over it.

          well…yeah. I thought I was agreeing with you, so I don’t understand why you’re bothered…? I mean, you did make that explicit.

          Her life to the jury was worth 150 bucks, but mine isn’t even worth that to those dismissing it as chump change.

          I…think it’s more that the rest of us are measuring 150 bucks to a life, and you’re measuring 150 bucks to 0 bucks. Like…yes, $150 means the difference between rent and not-rent, but it still doesn’t mean diddly when it’s $150 or not-life. Sure, you’d chase someone down for $150, but would you get shot in the neck by them for $150?

          I wouldn’t shoot someone unless it was in self defense, or defense of someone else in immediate danger of death, but I damn sure would chase someone down over 150 dollars because that IS a large amount of money.

          Yeah, and I was chiming in to agree, and making another point that dude could clearly afford $150, since, you know, escort payments aren’t essential. A person shouldn’t care enough about $150 to shoot someone in the neck over it – not if the person in question was already treating it as superfluous money by spending it on a (perceived) sex worker, because frankly, sex is not a basic need, and nobody chooses a blowjob over bread and butter unless they’ve already got their share of bread and butter.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

          I mean…if someone told me “give me $150 or I’ll shoot you dead”, my immediate thought would be “well, fuck, at least it was only $150, I could be dead“. And I’m not that much better off than you.

          I don’t think anyone here is sneering at the sum of $150 (particularly when many of the people saying that have said they’re in a bad way financially on other threads). They just think a life’s worth more than that. Frankly, so do I. I’d be down a bill if I lost that much money, too, but I’d still shell it out to save the life of a complete stranger.

        5. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |

          Also- it’s not as if he’d suddenly be justified if it was 5,000 or 150,000 or even a million. It wasn’t theft in the first place. But can we at least stop acting like 150 dollars isn’t a big deal, because it IS a lot of money. The question I was responding to was

          is there anyone here who thinks it is justifiable to kill someone (for the sake of this argument, someone of your own race who is employed legally,) solely for non-violently stealing $150 from you?

          And my answer was NO, not justified to kill someone but justified in being desperate to get that money back. I wouldn’t shoot someone, but for that amount of money, the thief would probably get a bat to the knees over it. Or tackled to the ground with me freaking out on him. Because it would make my situation very, very bad if I lost it.150 bucks isn’t some insignificant amount.

          I’m not an idiot. I am actually aware that someone who has money to blow on an escort isn’t hurting for cash. Amazing, but true. I’m not stupid. I’m also not shitty enough to think shooting someone is a fine and moral thing to do over a non violent crime. Nor am I too dim witted to grasp that there was no theft in the first place so that defense was a complete lie and used a law to support the lie.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

          Pheeno, I never said you were stupid or dim-witted or shitty or anything. I’m just pointing out that you’re taking something personally for no reason, and berating people for saying $150 isn’t worth a damn life, when you yourself wouldn’t kill someone for $150. …I’m really not sure what’s pissing you off so hard. If Steve had said $100,000, or whatever, would you have still gotten pissed off? And did it occur to you that $150 is being bandied about because, you know, that’s the sum in question in this particular case? I don’t think there’s anyone here who’d find killing somebody for $300 or $1500 any more reasonable.

        7. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 8, 2013 at 7:47 am |

          Not to try to answer for pheenobarbidoll, but for myself: I know that this point, that $150 is not a trivial amount of money, struck me pretty hard too. Worth killing someone over? Of course not, unless in a situation very far removed from this one. But that’s a couple weeks worth of food, at least, so it’s not a “mere’ $150 or “only” $150. By my reading, pheenobarbidoll didn’t get pissed off until several people dismissed this point. It’s not a matter of this particular asshole and his $150, it’s a matter of the $150 being dismissed as this mind-boggling trivial amount of money.
          I admit to being rather sensitive to this point right now, due to having worn a pair of broken glasses for weeks now due to state-run insurance plan having lost our income-qualification paperwork twice. Oh, and they can’t guarantee it’ll take less than two weeks to deal with if they ever admit to having received it.
          Apologies for the digression, but I do think it emphasizes the point.

      5. Jane
        Jane June 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

        lets be real, the person who probably was hurt most by being out $150 is the one who was on the job trying to earn it in a precarious, dangerous profession so stigmatized that a client could literally get away with murder for a dispute on a bill.

        1. Jane
          Jane June 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

          like, dude had already budgeted that money to the escort. she’s the one who had her income threatened when he claimed she hadn’t fulfilled their contract despite his already taking up her time & energy being escorted.

      6. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

        well…yeah. I thought I was agreeing with you, so I don’t understand why you’re bothered…? I mean, you did make that explicit.

        It’s in mod, but I answered that question.

      7. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

        I have a nit pick with everyone who just dismisses 150 bucks as nothing. For me, losing 150 bucks means my electricity bill won’t get paid, which means I’ll be cut off and behind a month and will NEVER, barring some windfall, be able to catch up.

        150 bucks is a lot of money.

        It could be the difference between having a home and not having a home.

        Not that I’d shoot someone stealing it, but I’d probably chase them down and tackle them, desperate to get that money back because I’d be fucking screwed if they took it.

        Would that one horny white man could occasionally part with his $150 disposable boner money and give it instead to a hard working family for whom it would be far from disposable, one that actually needs it to stay afloat…

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

          I know that Steve. That’s not what you asked though and that’s not what I answered.

          I know if he could blow money like that he wasn’t cash poor, I’m not a fucking idiot.

      8. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

        I’m sill not seeing where you’re going with this, Pheeno. Nobody is saying that amount of cash is nbd. In comparison to the value of human life, however, $150 loses hands down. What I find particularly puzzling is that Gilbert himself didn’t seem to think the amount of money was too much or something with which he could not afford to part.

        That is until he had his boner moment ruined, then it was way more than he could afford to pay for a lap dance and the victim’s personal company. Who gives a g-damn the denomination in question? Asshat murderers shouldn’t get to murder and be presented with such an outrageous get out of jail free card. The end. What’s to argue with, I seriously don’t get it.

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm |

          I haven’t said in comparison to life, 150 is more important either. I’ve simply said losing it can cause more harm than just oh well, lost some money. But “at least I’m alive..to be homeless or get heatstroke in my house” isn’t something I’d pick either.

          So. Again- I was answering a question that was more of an in general question. The question was (boiled down) would I kill someone over it? The answer was No, but I’d be desperate enough to hurt someone to get it back. Because it’s a lot of money, and I depend on it. Depending on the time it was taken, I’d even risk getting shot to keep it because dead now or dead later isn’t much of a choice.

        2. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

          What’s to argue with, I seriously don’t get it.

          You don’t need to get it because I’m not arguing with that.

          I am not arguing that. So what I don’t get is why people keep bringing it up when I’ve made it clear 3 times that I am not arguing with that. The defense did. Not me.

        3. EG
          EG June 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm |

          But that general question doesn’t seem to have been raised anywhere on this thread, so the point you are making doesn’t seem at all relevant to this situation or the discussion of it. Nobody has said $150, no big, but if it were $2 mil, that would be reasonable. Steve’s question didn’t say that. I haven’t seen anybody else here saying it either.

        4. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |

          is there anyone here who thinks it is justifiable to kill someone (for the sake of this argument, someone of your own race who is employed legally,) solely for non-violently stealing $150 from you?

          That’s the question I answered EG and it read to me as more of an in general question, and “solely for non violently stealing 150 from you” does, to me, come across as rather dismissive of the amount. So that’s how I read it, and how I answered it .

          Frankly, as far as anyone knows, he DID get sex and shot her anyway. It’s obvious he felt he could afford the money and it’s equally obvious no theft occurred and he’s lying his butt off while using a crap law to support his BS.

        5. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

          I think all she was pointing out was that “only $150″ misses the fact that for some people, $150 is a lot.

          Yes.

          that particular point isn’t entirely relevant to the discussion at hand.

          And yes, but it was asked and I answered. It could probably be moved to an offshoot thread, but there’s not a whole lot more to say either way about it so…

        6. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

          That’s the question I answered EG and it read to me as more of an in general question, and “solely for non violently stealing 150 from you” does, to me, come across as rather dismissive of the amount. So that’s how I read it, and how I answered it .

          Hands up, I guess I don’t consider it a huge amount of money (prices in NY being what they are,) and based on the fact that Gilbert had that money to hand it didn’t sound like a huge amount of money to him. So, yeah, I can see how that might come across in the way I worded the question. Instead of saying $150, I should have just said ‘stealing money,’ as it wasn’t about the amount, it was about the comparison of an amount of money to a life. $150,000 would not be a huge amount compared to a human life, $1.5 million, either- though I can assure you I do consider both of those figures a huge amount of money.

        7. chava
          chava June 8, 2013 at 6:05 am |

          I do think that pheeno is hitting on an interesting point here–a lot of these Texas laws were made when someone “in the act of committing arson” or stealing your $150 could mean the difference between life and death for YOU. That they haven’t woken up and realized the range ain’t what it used to be, that’s on them–but I imagine that the laws were originally there because theft=death in the 1850s.

        8. chava
          chava June 8, 2013 at 6:06 am |

          (not arguing with the original point, that $150 can be a lot of money to a person. just saying that if we’re measuring dollars to lives–well, the laws are probably from when the two were a lot more equivalent)

    3. lilith danne
      lilith danne June 12, 2013 at 12:37 am |

      No but if someone breaks into your house and starts stealing your personal property with threat (or implied threat)of body harm I don’t think you should be forced to comply with that. Home invasion robbery (which is what this law was originally formed for until they ruined it with this kinda bs)isn’t nonviolent trust me I speak from experience. The castle law heavy implies home invasion robbery I am having a wtf moment by the fact it was used this way he invited her over that should have had it null and voided ugh.

  9. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 1:46 am |

    Well, without constant vigilance, Texas might accidentally grant personhood to a person who is a) a female b) of colour c) who does sex work.

    We can’t be having that.

    CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

    1. BabyRaptor
      BabyRaptor June 7, 2013 at 2:05 am |

      Slight technicality: A *born* woman or person of colour.

      Female fetuses are automatically people because fetus, and fetuses of colour are people because fetus, though possibly with more argument.

      (Please don’t take this as a racist statement; it’s entirely sarcastic comment on pro-forced birth views.)

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 2:11 am |

        Lol, fair enough.

        (Although when I saw *born* woman my immediate thought was “but they’d hate trans women more, and *born* women is usually transphobe code for cis women…” because apparently I can’t parse today, haha. I headtilted for the longest time before I realised that maybe the next line would give me a hint!)

        1. BabyRaptor
          BabyRaptor June 7, 2013 at 8:19 am |

          Really sorry. lol

          I tried so hard to be careful with that wording, but I missed that particular hole. There’s always something around to trip you up, I guess.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

          Oh hey don’t apologise, I was laughing at my own fail! Too much reading forced-birther stuff and frothing over it, clearly…

        3. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon June 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

          I read it the same way. It took me a couple tries to get past what how I am used to hearing ‘born woman’ or w/e

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

          …I meant transphobe. O_O Wow, clearly I cannot haz the brainings today.

        5. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 8, 2013 at 2:56 am |

          I did the momentary “whut” with “born” as well, but then “fetus” cleared it up in a sec and I lol’d. It’s a great observation, Baby Raptor.

  10. Wordwizard
    Wordwizard June 7, 2013 at 4:07 am |

    “Gilbert [the accused] thanked God, the Barrera family [his lawyers] and the jury for being able to “see what wasn’t the truth”.” Ain’t THAT the truth.

    Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Jury-acquits-escort-shooter-4581027.php#ixzz2VW0xlsIM

    1. Alphabet
      Alphabet June 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm |

      I thought that was a fascinating turn of phrase. He is basically thanking them for accepting a lie.

  11. Wordwizard
    Wordwizard June 7, 2013 at 4:19 am |

    This is scary, and it’s not just Texas, and it’s not just the way the law is written, or enforced. I once went on a date with a man who thought because he had taken me to an expensive restaurant and concert, and my mother was out of town, that I owed him sex afterwards. He had the kind of car where the driver just flicks a switch and the doors lock, and every time I tried to unlock the door and get out, he’d just flick the switch again to keep me trapped until I’d agree to invite him in for sex. I was trapped for I don’t know how long–it seemed forever–until FINALLY a friend of my mother’s who lived across the street who I’d asked to keep an eye out to see I made it home OK came over. (I had been worried about how he took the casual news that my mom was out of town….) Why are we EXPECTED to have sex with men, whatever the part that comes first? What is WRONG with a man who can’t take NO for an answer?

    1. Wordwizard
      Wordwizard June 8, 2013 at 6:38 am |

      Ultraviolet has started a petition to get the TX state’s attorney to clarify that a woman can always say no to sex. Here’s the link:

      http://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/texas_woman_shot?akid=477.73044.sxgAS6&rd=1&t=4

      Please sign it!

  12. igglanova
    igglanova June 7, 2013 at 8:20 am |

    Stories like this make me ashamed to be human.

  13. a lawyer
    a lawyer June 7, 2013 at 10:02 am |

    This makes no moral sense. At all.

    For the not-a-lawyer folks: If a jury refuses to convict in a criminal case there’s nothing the judge can do, even if the laws don’t actually support a finding of “not guilty.” In a civil case, the judge can override the jury in either direction. In a criminal case, it’s all biased towards the defendant–the judge can turn a “guilty” finding into a finding of innocence, but not vice versa.

    I am really having trouble wrapping my head around this. I can understand the law, but I don’t like it at all.

    Note: I am going to explain for the benefit of the the “WTF, how could this happen?” people. PLEASE do not take the explanation as a defense of the Texas law, or of the asshole who murdered her!!!!! Explanation follows:

    First, from an analytical sense It’s important to realize that the Texas law is really fucked up. Forget about the escort thing for a moment: nobody seems to dispute that if she was a guest and insisted on walking out with a $150 necklace, he would be OK to use LETHAL FORCE to prevent the theft.

    Yes, that’s right. You can kill someone who is stealing your stuff, as long as it’s nighttime. Texas has a bizarre and scary law and you can kill a petty thief.

    So the LEGAL question isn’t whether she “had to provide sex or get killed.” (We don’t know if he would have killed her just for refusing to have sex. He might have. But I won’t address that.) If she left without the money and got shot, he would have no defense. He had a defense because she left with the $150.


    So the crucial question in Texas–remind me never to go there–is whether she was entitled to take the $150. That’s it.
    If she WAS entitled to take the $150, then she wasn’t stealing, and she couldn’t be shot. If she WAS NOT entitled to take the $150 then (under texas law) she was stealing, and she could be shot, just like anyone else who was stealing $150 could be shot.

    Basically, what seems to have happened here is that the jury concluded that she wasn’t entitled to take the $150: either because the contract was illegal, or because the contract was for sex and she didn’t provide sex, or because they thought that she was working with her pimp to steal money from johns. So therefore they concluded that she was stealing. So therefore they concluded it was “OK” to kill her under the screwed-up Texas statute which allows you to kill a petty thief.

    a) if a sex worker does contract for sexual services and then walks out with the money, it’s a killing offense (as long as it’s at night);

    No. This case doesn’t address whether sex workers can contract for sex in texas. It also doesn’t address whether sex workers can walk out after they were paid. It functionally does address whether a sex worker can contract for sex, fail to perform the contract, and walk out with the money–but that doesn’t seem to be an exclusive thing relating to sex workers. (If she was a personal chef who showed up and didn’t cook, and took the $150 on her way out, then under Texas law it looks like he’d be able to kill her, too. Texas is horrible.)

    The worst part of the ruling is that there was a contract. Usually, once you have a contract with someone then even if they take all your money you take the matter out of the criminal “theft” realm, and put it into the civil “breach f contract” realm. Think about it: if someone cleans your floor and you think they did a bad job, can you kill them if they refuse to give you back the money? I doubt it, even in Texas. So there must have been some weird thing going on w/r/t the illegality of the contract.

    b) Frago’s life was ultimately worth $150;

    Yes. Texas permits you to kill a petty thief. This probably isn’t the first time.

    c) “but I thought she was going to have sex with me” is now, in some cases, a viable defense for manslaughter; and

    No. But “she stole $150″ is a defense for manslaughter. Which, if you think about it, is plenty scary on its own.

    1. Drahill
      Drahill June 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |

      From what I understand, the critical dispute in the case was what exactly the killer and the victim contracted FOR. Like any intelligent sex worker, the victim’s Craigslist ad did not mention sex in the least (which is the standard). When she arrived to where Gilbert was, he paid her for something – but nobody knows what that was. Gilbert maintains that she expressly agreed to intercourse and then refused to follow through. Frago’s manager (however you wish to describe him) maintained that Frago did not normally engage in sex with clients, and that she provided other services. So from my reading of the case, it basically came down to Gilbert’s word vs. the word of a man who the defense characterized as a pimp. It personally sounds to me like the jurt basically weighed the credibility of a john vs a (alleged) pimp and chose to believe the john. Personally, that is not surprising.

      1. Jane
        Jane June 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

        It also depends on it being a-ok for sex workers also having the right to refuse consent, a right that is constantly threatened and denied in their society that claims sex workers cannot be raped.

  14. a lawyer
    a lawyer June 7, 2013 at 10:35 am |

    drat. Can a mod fix the italics?

    [Done. - Mod]

  15. matlun
    matlun June 7, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    For reference, the actual Texas law seems to be here. See 9.41 – 9.42

    IANAL, but it seems ridiculously broad far beyond “stand your ground” laws. It is not clear to me that even this absurd judgment is in violation of the letter of the law.

  16. Chataya
    Chataya June 7, 2013 at 11:16 am |

    Took a wild guess as to the ethnicity of the two people involved. I’m sad that I was right.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 8, 2013 at 3:01 am |

      I guessed that (haven’t read much more about the case) from a comment on Pandagon – if Gilbert had been a MoC and Frago white, his feet wouldn’t have touched the ground en route to prison. (Knowing zilch about Texas law, would it likely be the death sentence in this case? Somehow I feel in those circumstances it would have been.)

  17. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated June 7, 2013 at 11:25 am |

    This isn’t self defense, it’s a hate crime. Can USDOJ be invited in on this? And…if Facebook actually did have a hate page called “Kill Your Hooker”, no wonder they suddenly did an about-face in re violence against women. If this jerk has his own page or visited that one, Facebook could be construed be allegorically shouting fire in that old crowded theater, not just hawking the free peach.

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 June 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

      Just a little off-the-cuff legal research, which is surely incomplete: I think so, yes. 18 U.S.C. § 249 provides criminal penalties for violence undertaken “because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person” or “because of the actual or perceived . . . gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.” So there is probably a basis to at least indict Gilbert under this section, although proving that he committed the murder “because of” Frago’s actual or perceived race, national origin, or gender might prove difficult.

    2. amblingalong\
      amblingalong\ June 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

      If this jerk has his own page or visited that one, Facebook could be construed be allegorically shouting fire in that old crowded theater, not just hawking the free peach.

      Please don’t make assertions about legal fact when you don’t know what you’re talking about; it just confuses the conversation. This is not how the law works.

  18. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers June 7, 2013 at 11:59 am |

    I can’t help but think the jury would have taken any excuse to justify the murder of a prostitute.

  19. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

    This Vanity Fair article has some interesting insights into case. Perhaps the most interesting take from the article is the discussion of the statue in question that permitted Gilbert’s acquittal:

    This—of course—is about Texas laws on guns. We’re getting to the point in this state where maiming or killing anyone can be justified as legal so long as a gun is involved. Under this unbelievably expansive statute, someone can use deadly force “to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime.”

    Read those words carefully. Under Texas law, if I see some kid getting ready to spray-paint his name on an underpass after dark, I can kill him. Criminal mischief at night can be a Class C misdemeanor involving less than $50 in damages, but in Texas, it effectively carries the death penalty. (Unless—and I can say this for damn sure—the youngster is a wealthy white boy. Then the murder charges will come raining down.) The enraged shooter can also kill anyone fleeing with a piece of property that isn’t his.

    Criminal law is far from my area of expertise, but it seems as though there has to be some legal shortcomings with the was Texas has written this law. In effect, it permits any average citizen with a firearm in their possession (legally) to act as law enforcement and shoot people they deem to be violating the law after dark. Anyone else think this is a denial of due process rights to anyone caught in these legal crosshairs?

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

      Rats, sorry for the HTML fail! Can a mod fix that for me, please!

      [Done. Y'all realize that normally I get paid to do this kind of stuff, right? - Mod]

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

        *red face*

        Thanks!

        [Totally toolin' on you. It's okay. - Mod]

    2. shfree
      shfree June 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm |

      So, you couldn’t stab someone and later they bleed out, that would be murder. But if you use a gun, then that’s different? That is ALL kinds of fucked up.

      1. Anon21
        Anon21 June 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

        No, I doubt it. That’s just the article’s characterization. “Deadly force” isn’t limited to firearms by any state law I’m aware of.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

          Anon21, the Texas statute in question is limited in scope to the use of a firearm. It doesn’t address punching someone, or hitting them with a baseball bat, or stabbing them with a knife, etc, it only carves out a reasonableness exception for a private citizen shooting someone they believe to be in the commission of certain crimes.

          So Shfree’s hypothetical is not unreasonable at all, nor is it off base to point out the inconsitencies at play.

        2. matlun
          matlun June 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm |

          Anon21, the Texas statute in question is limited in scope to the use of a firearm

          What do you base this statement on?

          I linked above to the statute, and it seems to refer to “deadly force” in general.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

          Anon21, I apologize, I just went back and re-read the statue and apparently I am mistaken about the firearm aspect. I would like to research further to see if TX has a non-standard definition of deadly force, because I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

          Feel free to disregard my earlier response above.

        4. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 8, 2013 at 7:52 am |

          Well, that reduces the horrific nature of that law by, oh, approximately one pig fart, doesn’t it?

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

      someone can use deadly force “to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime.”

      Jesus fucking what in fucking Jesus hell I can’t even

      Texas lawmakers, resign from humanity

      Please

      Thanks

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra June 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

        It’s fucking terrifying. And in practice, we’re going to see these laws being used to excuse the murders of ‘the criminal element’, while people who murder nice white kids from good families who were just fooling around a little will still be going to jail. jesus christ in a handbag.

  20. John Horstman
    John Horstman June 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

    I feel like the sex work aspect of this is distorting the analysis a bit. The problems here are that 1) death is not an appropriate punishment for scamming someone or stealing from them and 2) explicitly allowing vigilante justice is a pretty terrible idea. If I hire someone off of Craigslist to come over and do interior decorating, and that person arrives, takes my $150, and then insists that the money only covered hir transportation and I have to pay more if I want hir to do any actual work, that person is scamming me. Ze deserves to be made to return my money, and possibly a punitive sentence for scamming me. Ze doesn’t deserve to be executed. However, under the (seriously stupid) Texas statute, I’d be within my rights to demand my money back at gunpoint and apparently shoot the fake interior decorator if ze attempted to leave without returning my money. (I don’t think this is a good thing.)

    This is basically the same situation; I don’t really think that the fact that the proposed transaction was illegal matters much, especially when I think sex work should be legal (and were it legal, someone who was scammed would have alternatives to vigilantism – as it stands, the only recourse is to try to recover one’s money oneself or simply accept the theft – the same is true of the drug dealer examples that are inevitably brought up in every discussion of this case). Misogyny may well have informed the jury’s verdict, but I think it’s the legally-correct call under the (very, very bad) Texas law. Theft isn’t somehow suddenly more or less acceptable if the thief is a woman or sex worker.

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 June 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm |

      Legally, it arguably made no difference that the transaction was (supposedly) for sex. Sociologically, it probably made a great deal of difference to how the jury perceived the case and ultimately may have determined the verdict.

      1. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein June 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

        But what about the issue of the enforceability of a contract for illegal services? If you contract for something you’re not legally entitled to receive in the first place, doesn’t that change the analysis of whether the money you paid has been stolen from you? (For that matter, if someone renegs on a contract, legal or illegal, how is that theft rather than fraud? As far as I know, you’re not allowed to shoot a fleeing fraudster in Texas. If it were, there’d be too many state legislatures with holes in them.)

        But back to the legal vs. illegal contract question… If I try to buy drugs, and the drug dealer takes my money and gives me a bag of baking soda, has she legally stolen my money? Suppose I’m so mad that I’m willing to implicate myself in order to turn the drug dealer in. Could the state charge the drug dealer with theft for selling me baking soda instead of cocaine? I’ve never heard of a drug dealer being charged for ripping off her customers. The whole point of drug prohibition is to make sure that customers don’t get drugs. It would be pretty ridiculous if the law also created incentives for drug dealers to provide more and better drugs. Though, it wouldn’t be the first absurdity in the war on drugs.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

          But what about the issue of the enforceability of a contract for illegal services?

          That implies that an enforceable contract is grounds for killing someone,

      2. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein June 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

        That implies that an enforceable contract is grounds for killing someone

        Well, that’s what I’m wondering. Under this ridiculous Texas law, does the definition of “stealing” include taking someone’s money without giving them an agreed-upon service that isn’t legal to begin with?

        Which raises a further interesting question, namely, whether any disputed contract where one person takes off with another person’s money over the first person’s objections counts as stealing for the purposes of the Texas law.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 8, 2013 at 4:21 am |

          Which raises a further interesting question, namely, whether any disputed contract where one person takes off with another person’s money over the first person’s objections counts as stealing for the purposes of the Texas law.

          If it didn’t before, this case certainly seems to establish this precedent. Which is why I keep stressing the irrelevance of whether or not it was a legitimate contract or Ms. Frago was indeed guilty of fraud.

          Ms. Frago may have not implied/said that sex was part of her fee and prostitution may not be legal in terms of enforcing contracts, but even if she did and even if it was, that still doesn’t justify her murder,

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl June 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

      but I think it’s the legally-correct call under the (very, very bad) Texas law. Theft isn’t somehow suddenly more or less acceptable if the thief is a woman or sex worker.

      No.

      It isn’t a legal fait accompli, not by a long shot. In no small part because it isn’t clear that the victim did in fact steal anything, money or otherwise, from Gilbert. The jury took him at his word that she was supposed to be selling him sex, something that is illegal to do in TX and elsewhere, and that she reneged and ran off with the cash in hand. The escort ad made no mention of sex, and there is no indication that Gilbert was verbally promised sex at any point prior to or during their encounter. What if he said he walked into a bakery, ordered a loaf of bread, and shot and killed the baker for giving him an unsliced loaf instead of a sliced one after paying. All Because he had assumed a loaf of bread would come sliced instead of unsliced.

      Failure to clarify the terms of a transaction does not entitle one to go off and shoot the other person in the name of assumed theft. See also, the arguments being made that a contract for services is usually considered to be void if the terms include illegal activity. And it isn’t as though the victim ran off with the money immediately after meeting him, she stayed for the agreed upon 30 minutes, gave him her company and entertainment, and then left. In other words, there are plenty of questions of fact present here to argue against the conclusion made by the jury.

    3. Gretchen
      Gretchen June 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm |

      “If I hire someone off of Craigslist to come over and do interior decorating, and that person arrives, takes my $150, and then insists that the money only covered hir transportation and I have to pay more if I want hir to do any actual work, that person is scamming me…This is basically the same situation”

      No. This case would be more like someone advertised themselves as an interior decorator on Craigslist, you hired them, and they came and decorated your house. You pay them. They leave/try to leave. You however thought that between the lines of that Craigslist ad this person was also agreeing to fumigate/walk the dog/clean the house/have sex with you. They argue that their end of the contractual bargain has been fulfilled, they decorated as advertised and never agreed to do anything else. You disagree. You shoot them.

      Aaaand apparently if you’re in Texas and the sun has set, this is A-OK.

  21. A disgusted Texan
    A disgusted Texan June 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

    This probably shouldn’t even shock me (given that Texas has a legal precedent for “he needed killing” as a valid defense. Also at least anecdotally if you walk in on your female significant other in flagrante delicto you’ll probably only get charged for premeditated murder if you either kill her or whoever she was with. If you kill both you can get crime of passion.)

    This jury’s decision still disgusts me though, for so many reasons I can’t begin to articulate them. And the fact that based on the statute their decision may actually be legally accurate makes me embarrassed to be a Texan.

  22. Tony
    Tony June 7, 2013 at 11:05 pm |

    The issue here is the worship of guns. I don’t usually advocate vigilante justice, but if this happened to someone I care about, the perpetrator would not be alive. I’d be willing to go to jail for life– or even face death, to get justice for a loved one who was killed and whose murder was held up in the eyes of the law.

    1. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet June 8, 2013 at 6:13 am |

      The issue here is the worship of guns

      No, it really isn’t. It would be nice if there was oh, any factor, that would have made the Texas jury see that what he did was wrong.

      The likely truth of the matter is that it wouldn’t have mattered to them if he shot her, bludgeoned her, stabbed her, or ran her over.

      What it comes down to is they had more sympathy for a man who murdered a woman over not having sex with him than for a woman a who lost her life because some dirtbag couldn’t stand not always getting his own way.

      And that’s what it comes down to–even if $150 is the trick they used to keep him out of jail, you know it’s pretty unlikely he shot her over that, and all the more likely it was like Wordwizard said–he felt entitled to sex and the jury supported that entitlement.

      1. Tony
        Tony June 10, 2013 at 2:48 am |

        Dude, she was in a car driving away. There was no way he could have bludgeoned her, stabbed her, or run her over. His only option was to shoot her, and he did. Without the gun, she would have still been alive.

        Lots of people in this world have a feeling of entitlement, and that’ll never change. Put a deadly weapon in the hands of such a person, and they can end your life in an instant.

        None of this goes to the real issue in the case, though. The issue isn’t the jury’s verdict. Drahill above has eloquently explained why the jury was correct. The issue is that murder is legal in Texas. The justice system has openly abdicated it’s duty, and is asking us to live like animals.

        1. Li
          Li June 10, 2013 at 3:08 am |

          Dude, she was in a car driving away.

          Where are you getting this information? It doesn’t seem consistent with my reading of the coverage.

        2. Jill
          Jill June 10, 2013 at 3:25 am | *

          It was part of the defense team’s argument — that the defendant didn’t intend to kill the victim, and was instead trying to blow out the tire on her car as she drove away.

  23. Mike
    Mike June 8, 2013 at 7:30 am |

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a law expert, but I thought that defense and prosecutors had to “clear” their arguments with a judge in pretrial proceedings, and that the judge can throw out a defense if it doesn’t meet a minimal standard of plausibility. What was this judge thinking??

    I see a few reasons why the defense seems ridiculous, namely that not complying with an illegal, nonwritten “contract” =/= theft, even under Texas’ broad “shoot people to prevent petty theft at night” law that was linked above.

    1. Mike
      Mike June 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

      Also, does anybody know if other cases have been brought under this particular law, and whether there is any chance that it may be repealed. The law as it reads seems like an open invitation to George Zimmerman style vigilantes…

  24. Eneya
    Eneya June 9, 2013 at 4:46 am |

    I think what we need is more information abou this. Presented as this, it is scary and unbelievably horrifying.
    Also, it is unclear what was the offer. Escorting AND sex or just escorting. If the latter… this is turning for the monstrous. What i don’t understand is how anyone can agree that killing someone when a theft is made can be applied to a human being’s body? She is not “stealing” something that is his, because he is not buying her body and trading sex for money is not selling our body literally. So… we are missing some information for sure, because it is obvious that he wasn’t going to be robbed. At best, he was going to experience a situation in which he got an escort but no sex. He still received company for his money.

  25. Wordwizard
    Wordwizard June 9, 2013 at 9:51 pm |

    Giraffe, thank you for this clarification! If the jury indeed found him not guilty because he was shooting at the tires of the car, and they believed he did not INTEND [a fingernail-sized fragment] to kill anyone; and the prosecution neglected to also accuse him of manslaughter for doing something so unsafe, that is indeed a totally different spin from anything we have been discussing.

  26. wanttobeanon
    wanttobeanon June 10, 2013 at 11:00 am |

    I had heard of this law before this case. When I was in college, a Psych prof told my class about a criminal case in which a man in Texas who wasn’t making the payments on his truck had a repo person come to take it back in the wee hours. The guy shot and killed the repo man, but because someone was “messing with his truck” in the nighttime, and appeared to be stealing it, nothing happened to the killer (can’t recall whether she said he was not charged with any crime because of this law or that he was acquitted under it). It was an astonishing story, I remember my reaction was kind of “… really?”. I wondered if she was exaggerating. I guess she probably wasn’t. In any case I never forgot the tale. A few minutes of googling got me this link –

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/08/us/in-killing-of-repo-man-law-shields-the-killer.html?src=pm

    – which to sum up: repo people do face violence on occasion, but in Texas their attackers can potentially get off without legal consequence. Due, supposedly, to this old law which was originally enacted to deter horse thieves.

    And this case … it’s just rage-inducing. I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said here. Just arghhh. Some human lives are judged to be worth so little.

  27. DowntownMizBrown
    DowntownMizBrown June 11, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

    Dear Texas:
    People are not property anymore. What the actual f*ck.

  28. Halp
    Halp June 14, 2013 at 3:23 am |

    Everyone please read the RH Reality link. The misinformation being spread here (and elsewhere) is so harmful.

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