It was Christmas Eve. So a 27-year-old San Antonio man called over a Craigslist escort.Twenty uneventful minutes and $150 later, he shot at her with an AK-47.She later died.Yet, he walks free.In another of those embarrassing Texas news stories, a Bexar County jury last week acquitted Zeke Gilbert because Texas law allows using deadly force to stop a “thief” after dark.It’s a classic example of blaming the victim. Gilbert’s attorneys portrayed escort Lenora Frago, 23, as a fraud who took Gilbert’s money for a 30-minute visit on Christmas Eve 2009, then left early without fulfilling his illegal solicitation for sex.When the dissatisfied buyer fired toward her pimp’s car in the parking lot, Frago was struck by bullet fragments. She lay paralyzed for seven months before dying.One of Gilbert’s defense lawyers, Bobby Barrera of San Antonio, told KSAT that Gilbert was entitled to shoot Frago because she was “stealing.”After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury agreed.After all, this is Texas.In a throwback to the frontier era, our law allows using force at night for a variety of reasons that don’t involve self-defense, including to prevent an arson, burglary, robbery, vandalism or theft.The law specifically includes fraud.In headlines worldwide, Gilbert is the “Craigslist killer.” Vanity Fair lamented our “lunacy.” Gawker.com headlined: “ Texas jury gives OK to kill escorts.”Even veteran defense attorney Jerry Loftin of Fort Worth was surprised.“I can’t believe a jury would buy that,” he said by phone Friday.“This makes us look like idiots. Absolute idiots.”Frago didn’t break into his home or use force, Loftin said. The “fraud” involved Gilbert’s illegal solicitation.When police interviewed Gilbert, he said she wouldn’t have sex and he wanted his money back.Loftin wondered aloud whether race influenced the jury. The victim was Hispanic; Gilbert is Anglo.According to published records, Frago had no criminal history.At the Texas Wesleyan School of Law, associate dean Huyen Pham said that Texas law grants “expansive” rights to shoot.“I think it’s crazy that you can use deadly force to prevent any kind of theft,” she said.“He was already engaging in an illegal act — prostitution. But for some reason, the jury was less empathetic to the escort.”According to news reports, Gilbert thanked jurors for giving him a “second chance.”Frago had no such chance.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy