July 1, 2008

Contrasts in Justice: Joe Horn & John White

Stop. Don't read the post yet. Just check the visuals. Sorta telegraphs the outcome and damn if I'm not just plain weary of that.

A Pasadena, TX grand jury has declined to indict Joe Horn on any criminal charges stemming from a Nov. 14, 2007 incident when he shot and killed two black hispanic men who were robbing his neighbors home. Horn observed the robbery taking place from inside his home and called the police. Despite repeated instructions from the police dispatcher to remain in his home, Horn insisted on going outside and confronting the thieves. When he attempted to stop them, they tried to run and Horn shot each one in the back with his shotgun, killing them both.

This stands in stark contrast to the fate of 53-year-old John White, convicted of manslaughter and now serving time for the August 9, 2006 killing of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro during a confrontation in the front yard of White's home. Cicciaro and his friends had come to intimidate and potentially assault Aaron White, John's son. They called his home and told him they were coming for that purpose. John and his son armed themselves and waited, rather than calling the police. When the guys arrived, they confronted them and in the ensuing confrontation, John White shot Cicciaro in the face, killing him.

The white man in Texas who confronted burglars robbing his neighbor's house completely unnecessarily killing two men with shotgun blasts to the back will not face a single charge or consequence, and in fact is lauded as a hero on many fronts, though in fairness the City of Pasedena appears to at least have some awareness that this result is not quite right.

The black man who confronted a group of teens in his own front yard, teens who called his home at least 30 minutes in advance to say they were coming to physically harm his son and who rather than call the police, armed himself and waited for them to arrive to confront them, and shot a foolish, perhaps malovelent teenager? He's in jail, serving a maximum term of 5 to 15 years in prison.

In both of these cases, the shootings were not justified in my opinion. Both men had ample opportunity to avoid harm and allow the authorities to address the situation. In both cases, each man chose confrontation and reckless, unnecessary self help tactics to address the situation with tragic results. Both should have faced a consequence. The results of the justice system handling of these two cases has been depressingly predictable in its disparity of result.

Do you agree with me? Aren't both of these guys wrong? Or were they both justified? Or have the courts sorted it out correctly?