In Texas, you can shoot a prostitute for $150

Ezekiel Gilbert was acquitted of murder charges in Texas for shooting and killing a prostitue he met on CraigsList who took his $150 in exchange for sex, then refused to have sex with him, and left with his money.

He attempted to stop her by shooting at the car that contained her and her pimp, and she subsequently died from her injuries several months later.

There is a Texas law that permits you to use deadly force to recover property that’s taken during a nighttime theft.

Legally, the case poses some interesting questions.  First of which, generally under the law you can’t enforce an illegal contract.  And a contract for prostitution is illegal.  But it’s not clear, under the gun law in question, whether in fact this money was “stolen.”

He gave her the money willingly, that’s not robbery.  And it wasn’t for a legal purpose, so the law can’t enforce anything dealing with why he gave her the money.  But by saying he had a contract with her, and that she refused to fulfill the contract, and therefore she “stole” his money, the court and the law are assuming that there was a legal, and breached, contract in the first place.  And there wasn’t.

So what was there?  He gave her money willingly.  She didn’t give it back.  Under the law it’s not clear what that is.  But it’s not really theft, since the underlying bargain isn’t legitimate under the law.

Judging by the fact pattern, that the man was shooting at a prostitute and her pimp, I suspect the jury wasn’t terribly sympathetic to the victim.


Gun via Shutterstock

It’s an interesting larger question about when you should be able to use deadly force.  Forget about guns for a moment.  More generally, when do you think it’s okay, if ever, for a private citizen to use deadly force?  If someone breaks into your home at night?  If they’re pointing a gun at you?  If they’re pointing a gun at your spouse?  How about if they grab your small safe containing $50,000 and are about to run out the door, can you use deadly force to stop them then?

I’m just curious generally, taking the gun issue out of the question for a moment, since that issue tends to polarize, what folks who read this blog feel, generally, about the use of deadly force by private citizens to stop criminals.  When is it okay, if ever?

And even in this case.  Let’s say he shouldn’t have shot her, since I assume that’s where the majority of you will side.  What could/should he have done?  She was stealing his money, whether it’s enforceable in court or not, and that could have been her plan from the beginning – steal money from guys who would be afraid to call the cops since they’d have to report they were going to a prostitute.  She was a thief.  So what was he permitted to do to stop her?  Anything?  Would you feel differently if she were a man stealing the $150?

One note, under the law, typically, you have a lot of leeway to use deadly force against someone who breaks into your home.  (Of course, this woman in this story didn’t break into the man’s home.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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