Recently, two men were charged with killing would-be criminals in acts of vigilantism. One was cleared. One was convicted. Before I go into details about their stories, check out the pics of the men and their victims. You tell me which one is walking free and which one is sitting in a jail cell:
I suspect that this was as obvious to you as it was to me.
A grand jury in Pasadena, TX recently acquitted Joe Horn on criminal charges after a November, 2007 incident where he purposely shot and killed two men as they robbed the home of an out-of-town neighbor. As Horn witnessed the theft taking place, he made a 911 call. Though the dispatcher repeatedly told Horn that the police were on their way and that he must stay in his home, Horn made he clear that he had no intention of doing so. Instead, Horn (after openly defying the dispatcher’s instructions) took the law into his own hands, confronted the crooks (who incidentally were illegal immigrants), and killed them with a shotgun as they fled.
Juxtapose that story to the case of New Yorker John White; who was convicted of manslaughter after killing a teenager Daniel Cicciaro in front of his home. The teenager and his friends decided to visit White’s home with the intention of attacking White’s son; or so they indicated approximately a half hour before they arrived. Rather than calling the police, White armed himself in anticipation of their arrival. As the boys arrived and confronted White, Cicciaro was shot in his face and killed.
So just to recap: a white Texan goes against instructions and kills two people of color who are committing a crime on somebody else’s property. He walked and — in many circles — has actually been applauded as a hero. Meanwhile, a black New Yorker defends his family from people who have clearly indicated their intentions to do harm and he is convicted and currently serving a prison sentence.
Allow me to make one thing clear: this post was not written to paint Mr. White as a victim; nor was it intended to demonize Mr. Horn (though reading the transcripts of his conversation with the 911 dispatcher are pretty unnerving). I think that both men were dead wrong in their decision-making; pun intended. They both ignored due process allowed by the law and decided to partake in civicly disengaging acts of vigilantism. Both cases ended with lethal outcomes. As such, both deserved to face the consequences of their actions. But as it appears, only one did. I guess that what is more deplorable about these cases is that — based on the culprits and the victims — it was not very difficult to predict the outcome of the cases. As usual, the justice system failed to disappoint.
What do you think about these cases? Were the outcomes fair? Were the verdicts based on more than just the merits of each case? To what extent do you think the race status of the culprits/victims played a role? Chime in if you’d like.