July 01, 2008

Reporting What They Want You to Hear

I've criticized ABC News on numerous occasions for their coverage of gun-related stories, but their coverage of the Joe Horn shooting incident in Pasadena, Texas is one of the more irresponsible stories they've posted since ... well, since the last one I saw in late April.

Perhaps equally unsurprising is that the Associated Press made the same crucial omission in a story that has gained national attention.

Joe Horn faced the possibility of being charged by a Texas grand jury after he shot and killed two men who had broken into the home next door. Horn had called 911, told the dispatcher he though they were going to get away, and despite repeated pleas by the dispatcher to stay inside his own home, decided to step outside with a shotgun after declaring his intention to kill them.

He did.

The shhoting seven months ago has inflamed ethnic tensions in the area, and raised questions regarding the ethical use of deadly force to defend property. There are all sorts of opinions on the story, but a key detail that may have significantly influenced the grand jury's decision not to press charges was completely ignored by ABC News and the Associated Press.

As noted in passing by some news outlets including the L.A. Times, plainclothes police officer responding to Horn's 911 call witnessed the shooting:

Ballistics tests suggested that at least one of the men had been shot in the back, raising questions about Horn's story.

But a plainclothes detective who witnessed some of what took place later told investigators that the men did not stop when a visibly nervous Horn pointed a shotgun in their direction, and that at least one man appeared to be moving toward Horn when Horn fired.

The Houston Chronicle likewise noted the presence of the detective:

Pasadena police have said a detective in plainclothes had parked in front of Horn's house in response to the 911 call, and saw the two men before they crossed into Horn's front yard.

Police believe that neither Horn nor the burglars knew an officer was present.

When Horn confronted the men in his yard, he raised his shotgun to his shoulder, police have said. However, the men ignored his order to freeze.

Authorities have said one man ran toward Horn but had angled away toward the street when he was shot in the back just before reaching the curb.

The tape of Horn's 911 call, testimony from Horn, and forensics were no doubt key pieces of evidence weighed by the grand jury, but it is reasonable to suspect that the testimony of the detective that witnessed the shooting—a very rare occurrence in cases involving the use of deadly force—was among the most influential evidence heard by the grand jury.

Why, then, was the mention of the detective's eye-witnessing these events and no doubt providing key testimony that influenced the grand jury's decision not to bring charges whitewashed by the these news organizations?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 1, 2008 03:06 PM

Some people believe deadly force is never justified and that the criminal is always right.

In Maryland a criminal killed a policeman with his car. Taken into custody he was found dead. How he died is not yet certain. However this case is now being tried in the press.

While I would certainly wish an inquiry into the reasons and cause of death the press should not speculate nor allow it to be used as an instrument to cause tension.

In fact, I think we would be a better society if we followed the Uk's practise of not allowing coverage of a criminal trial until the verdict is rendered. The rights of the accused should always take priority over the press.

I doubt the media will cover ewither Horn's case or this one with any even handedness or fairness. Its time we stopped allowing the media to play advocate for criminals.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at July 1, 2008 03:41 PM

Horn should be given the medal of freedom. Taking two illegal, worthless criminals, from this earth was a great service to the citizens.

Posted by: Scrapiron at July 1, 2008 11:23 PM

I hope Mr. Horn policed his brass for reloading and properly cleaned his weapon after using it. I pray to have a neighbor living by me that is his brother's keeper.

Posted by: twolaneflash at July 2, 2008 08:20 AM

"Why, then, was the mention of the detective's eye-witnessing these events and no doubt providing key testimony that influenced the grand jury's decision not to bring charges whitewashed by the these news organizations?"

I've asked myself for years: Is the media malicious or just incompetent? The only possible answer is that they are both.

Posted by: Jabba the Tutt at July 2, 2008 08:33 AM

Well, I have nothing against shooting criminals or illegal aliens in the back, but the apparant statements of the plainclothes officer don't really do much for the issue. While it is important that at least one of the criminals first moved towards, but then turned away, still they apparently got shot in the back. Now, in the old days, and Justice OConnor actually endorsed this belief, the police or anyone could use deadly force to stop any criminal; burglar, murderer, rapist, thief, etc. I think that is the point we should get back to. Widespread use of deadly force was one of the reasons crime was so low before the 60s. Really bad criminals just did not have very long lifes. Or they just did not commit crimes where there was much of a chance of confrontation with the public or cops. Getting shot in the back by a cop discouraged much crime.

Posted by: Johnnie at July 2, 2008 10:29 AM

I've always been fond of a "Bill of No Rights" which happens to include the following:

If a cop (or armed citizen) shouts something like "stop or I'll shoot", you do NOT have the right to NOT get shot if you don't stop.

Back - front - side - doesn't matter to me. They refused the order and got what they deserved.

Posted by: Mark at July 2, 2008 01:07 PM

WRT the the prisoner found dead in custody. You will be happy to know the ACLU is not interested in pursuing the issue. Why? Because everyone involved is Black.

Posted by: davod at July 2, 2008 01:40 PM

Texas Penal Code
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:

(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.

Tex. Penal Code 9.43 (2007)

9.43. Protection of Third Person's Property

A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property of a third person if, under the circumstances as he reasonably believes them to be, the actor would be justified under Section 9.41 or 9.42 in using force or deadly force to protect his own land or property and:

(1) the actor reasonably believes the unlawful interference constitutes attempted or consummated theft of or criminal mischief to the tangible, movable property; or

(2) the actor reasonably believes that:

(A) the third person has requested his protection of the land or property;

(B) he has a legal duty to protect the third person's land or property; or

(C) the third person whose land or property he uses force or deadly force to protect is the actor's spouse, parent, or child, resides with the actor, or is under the actor's care.


"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity." ("General Introduction to Psychoanalysis," S. Freud)

Posted by: George Bruce at July 2, 2008 02:41 PM

I'm glad they dropped the charges, and not particularly surprised considering the location, but killing burglars who were arguably running away is a questionable act.

As for why important information was left out of the usual suspect's reports, I assume that was a rhetorical question as we KNOW why.

Posted by: DoorHold at July 6, 2008 11:54 AM