Sorry about the flippant headline, but it's difficult to choose between black humor, disgust, and pure cynicism when I read about this.
A Texas jury acquitted a man for the murder of a woman he hired as an escort, after his lawyers claimed he was authorized to use deadly force because she refused sex.There's a lot I want to say about the politics involved in this, but before I go into that, can we stop for just a moment and mourn for this woman? I've read about two dozen articles trying to get more than just the basic facts, but of course most of them are just re-posts of the initial story, often posted with a cynical observation about how killing hookers is now legal in Texas.
Ezekiel Gilbert shot Lenora Ivie Frago in the neck on Christmas Eve, after she denied his requests for sex and wouldn’t return the $150 he had paid her, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Under Texas law, an individual is authorized to use deadly force to “retrieve stolen property at night,” and Gilbert’s lawyers cited that provision as justification for Gilbert’s action, reasoning that Frago had stolen $150 from him by taking his money without delivering sex. In a police interview played for jurors, Gilbert “never mentioned anything about theft,” a detective told the San Antonio Express-News. Frago, who was 21, was critically injured and died several months later.
I don't care that she was a sex worker, per se. I mean, I do care about the fact that there are lots of women (and yes, men) who are forced into sexual slavery around the world and here in the good ole USA, and I care about human trafficking, and all that. And yes, I care that she was a hooker because if she hadn't been, maybe she wouldn't have been murdered for it.
According to a number of reports, she was shot in the neck when she was being driven away from the shooter. Several of those reports state that the driver was believed to be her "pimp." I haven't been able to verify that. Here's a little more info:
The shooting occurred around 4:15 a.m. at the Camino Real Apartments in the 12200 block of Blanco Road on the North Side, according to the report.San Antonio Express-News
A witness told police Gilbert paid for a specific amount of time with Frago but became angry when she left before they had sex, the report said. He asked for his money back, and when she got into the car without returning his payment, Gilbert fired shots at the passenger side, hitting Frago, the report said.
My guess is, the "witness" is the driver/alleged pimp.
What kind of life do you expect this 23 year old latina had, that she was out performing sex work at 4:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve? I mean, I have no facts, none. But doesn't that set of facts alone tell you that if she wasn't exactly desperate, she certainly had very few choices available to her, if any, and like as not, many of them were worse than selling her body to a total stranger at 4:00 a.m.? On Christmas Eve, no less?
What would it take, to get you to go to some complete stranger's house, at 4:00 a.m.? Just as a basic proposition -- how much would you charge? You've got to get dolled up (because he's not going to want you showing up in your sweats or your pj's), get somebody to go with you to provide at least some sense of safety, and likely you're going to have to pay that person go with you, even if he's not your pimp and expecting to get the lion's share of whatever you collect. And if this is your business, and you have the choice not to go (as opposed to being told that you will go or you will regret it), maybe there's a "lost opportunity" cost, as well. Not to mention, of course, that it might be a cop, and a set up for an arrest, which will cost you time and money, since you are engaged in an illegal trade. Wouldn't you have a base charge, just to cover those expenses and risks-of-the-trade?
$150.00. That's what he was supposed to pay just to have her show up. If he wanted it cheaper, why didn't he just go down to a street corner where the less expensive ladies-of-negotiable-virtue were hanging out? Nope, he wanted delivery, not carry-out. He wanted to be in control, to choose the time and place where he felt comfortable, where it was convenient for him, where he felt secure, and where she had to take the risk.
And what a risk she took. 7 months of paralysis before she finally passed away.
And he gets away with it, ostensibly because she was stealing from him.
Sec. 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41; and
(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to prevent the other's imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or
(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and
(3) he reasonably believes that:
(A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or
(B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.
I'm not going to parse this too heavily, but I do want to emphasize this: A) and B) are written in the disjunctive "or," but both use the same "theft during the nighttime" phrase. In the instant case, it seems clear that she had exited the apartment, and entered into the vehicle, with the money he had already given her. Thus, A) would seem inapplicable, because she was already "fleeing immediately after" the "theft during the nighttime."
B), however, is a conditional defense:
(3) he reasonably believes that:
(A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means;
She's in the car. Couldn't he have simply gotten the license plate number, and reported the "theft" to the police?
Actually, probably not. Because the explicit contract as advertised in these kinds of situations is pretty basic; you pay her to show up, and spend a certain amount of time with you. Any further exchange of "favors" or "gifts" takes place during the allotted time paid for. That's how Craigslist and other sites get around solicitation charges, because they are not listing ads for sex, they're listing ads for escort services, i.e., paid companionship, which is legal. Hell, on MTV they used to even have a show called "Entourage."
But if not, if he couldn't have recovered his measly $150.00 by reporting the theft, then it would be because she wasn't committing theft. Either way, seems to me that this is a case of the jury deciding, basically, "Bitch got what she deserved for not putting out."
Put that in context. All the early signs are that our most recent former Secretary of State is the frontrunner for becoming the first female President of this country. As Secretary of State, former Senator Clinton spoke out frequently and forcefully on the issue of women's rights, sex trafficking, rape, forced prostitution, women's access to both health care and equal status and justice in all societies, everywhere in the world.
Lenora Ivie Frago, a 23 year old American woman, was (in my view) murdered because she refused to act as Ezekiel Gilbert 's semen receptacle without adequate compensation. Because he was too cheap to pay her a few extra bucks for suffering the indignity of allowing him to use her body as a masturbatory aid. For her to stand up for herself, to protest that she deserved even that much dignity, was a crime punishable by seven months of paralysis and death.
And a jury in the Great State of Texas allowed him to get away with it, because his right to "stand his ground," to protect his "tangible movable property" by exercising his 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, was more important than Lenora Frago's right to exist. Because that's the law.
Reminds me of the scene in 1981's Absence of Malice, in which Paul Newman confronts Sally Fields over the death of his friend, who committed suicide because Fields published an article describing the fact that his friend, who was Catholic, had an abortion. Fields' goes along with her editors, blithely ignoring the the human consequences of her editor's decision to publish the article, because they are following the letter of the law, and hence are "absent malice."
Here's the part that I really wanted to share:
Couldn't you see what it was to her?
Couldn't you stop scribbling
for a second, -
- just put down
your goddamn ballpoint pen?
Didn't you see her?
Didn't you like her?
Maybe I shouldn't be going on at such length about this, but I just can't get over the basic, utter inhumanity of it. She was either killed because she didn't put out, or because her life was less than the inconvenience of reporting a theft of $150.00. No matter which way you look at it, that's the value the Great Republican State of Texas placed on this latina's life. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that at least the guy was prosecuted . . . but seriously, Texas, what would Jesus say?
And that, finally, brings me to the politics of this. White man kills Latina prostitute, is acquitted under "stand your ground" law of breathtaking proportion, in the most populous "Red" state in America. Just another day in Republican paradise.
But for how long? Just yesterday, kos posted this describing the GOP's efforts at outreach towards Texas hispanics and other minorities/nontraditional GOP "constituents." Does that include women, btw? Just wondering.
And of course, there was that woman beaten by Jasper, Texas police.
I don't want to read to much into this. It's not like the right-wing noise machine has come vigorously to the defense of Ezekiel Gilbert in the same way that they have George Zimmerman. But at the same time, I can't help but notice the discrepancy, the difference the gender of the minority victim has in influencing the amount of news coverage the story has received. The status of young black males has received a lot of attention, and significant pushback, particularly since the Trayvon Martin case. Minority women, not so much. More so from progressives, liberals, and Democrats, but still, not as much. Race/gender hierarchy is still very much alive and well, as our own chaunceydevega likes to point out.
R.I.P. Lenora. As a father of two sons, I promise you, I will raise them to see you, and all women, as fully human, worthy of respect and dignity, and not as disposable objects to be manipulated, abused, and contemptuously discarded. You deserved better.