No jury would convict

June 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

US authorities say a father who caught a man sexually assaulting his four-year-old daughter and beat him to death may not face charges.

The father, from Texas, punched the man repeatedly in the head, killing him, Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon said.

The girl had been left inside the family’s house during a social gathering on Saturday while other members of her family were tending to horses, Sheriff Harmon told CNN.

He said the father returned to the house and caught the man abusing his daughter before unleashing his attack. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

I don’t condone vigilante justice, but this situation is different to many in that this was not a revenge attack at some later stage, but done in the heat of the moment. How many fathers would not assault someone they walked in on sexually assaulting their four year old daughter? Also the fact he did not use a weapon means it is arguable that he did not mean to actually kill him.

Even if the father is charged, I doubt any jury would convict him.

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35 Responses to “No jury would convict”

  1. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    Temporary insanity and thanks for coming. Is a bit beyond self defence (defence of another) but give the jury something to hang a NG on and I suspect that would be the end of it.

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  2. wreck1080 (3,858 comments) says:

    I don’t get why he would not face charges.

    At least in NZ, the police always seem to press charges and allow the justice system to decide.

    I’ve seen so many cases where I thought the police should not place charges but they do anyway. Especially in the case of self defense. ( Such as where the indian dairy owner defended himself and hurt someone in doing so).

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  3. adze (2,093 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t be too quick to give his intention the benefit of the doubt – I’ve heard many fathers declare they’d kill any man who abused their daughter. Some of that might be bravado, but who knows?

    That said, if there is any possible role for “provocation” in criminal law, surely this case must be an example.

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  4. MD (62 comments) says:

    Well I for one would find him not-guilty. I would think it would be difficult to find 12 people anywhere, let alone in Texas, who would convict him. I think that was my concern with abolishing the provocation defense on the basis of one bad (albeit unsuccessful) abuse of it. This may well extend beyond self-defense, but any parent in the Jury would be agreeing with him.

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  5. RRM (9,784 comments) says:

    His actions seem understandable… assuming the guy WAS sexually assaulting the girl, do we actually know?

    A person is dead, maybe it is worth having some kind of COURT HEARING to get some facts straight first…?

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  6. TheContrarian (1,085 comments) says:

    I’d lose my fucking mind.

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  7. Lloyd (125 comments) says:

    The system there is slightly less arbitrary than it seems. The full article makes it clear that the father will be appearing before a Grand Jury, who have the power to recommend prosecution or that charges not be pursued. It is their decision that counts, and they are likely to go with the ‘Justifiable Homicide’ ruling.

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  8. m@tt (625 comments) says:

    The jury should be given a chance to reach that verdict. I’m uncomfortable with the police trying to predetermine the outcome of cases on their own.
    Get a legal opinion and then proceed, or not, on that basis would be my expectation. If the legal opinion is not to bring charges then so be it.

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  9. peterwn (3,239 comments) says:

    There are three aspects to ‘self defence / defence of others’ – circumstances, belief and reasonableness of force in NZ (S 48 Crimes Act and a Tipping J summing up as approved by Court of Appeal – Tipping J was an ordinary HC judge then). There are differences in ‘self defence’ law between nations and US states. In the NZ context the first two aspects in that case were obviously met. If the father had punched the offender once and the offender died, force would have not been unreasonable. In this case the father is defending himself as well as his daughter, so he could believe that his life was potentially in peril in protecting his daughter so he would wish to incapacitate the offender. In such a case shooting the offender would be reasonable force even if the offender dies (as is likely if a police Glock was used).

    The issue in this case was at what stage was the offender incapacitated? If the father believed that the offender was not incapacitated and the offender was trying to fight back, then he would continue to punch the offender. This is in contrast to a case where the offender was obviously incapacitated (eg restrained by others) but the ‘defender’ continued to put the boot in.

    Hence in this case a NZ jury would probably acquit the father while sticking within the four corners of the judge’s summing up.

    Crown Law’s opinion could also indicate that a prosecution is unlikely to succeed, but I suspect Crown Law would recommend a procecution, then try and pull the wool over the jury’s eyes.

    Various USA states like Texas allow more leeway in ‘self defence’ cases than NZ, hence the process for deciding not to prosecute may not be as rigorous than in NZ. If follows that a Texas jury is even more likely to acquit than a NZ jury.

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  10. Colville (2,254 comments) says:

    Justifiable homicide in the defense of another who was unable to defend themselves from a stronger agressor.
    That man deserves a DB :-)

    RRM, I assume that the dead guy was known to the family as he was a horse groomer and that something triggered the fatal event.

    Interesting also I googled some of the text from Stff, it was a straight lift/copy from a USA paper. Repeaters not reporters.

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  11. rouppe (962 comments) says:

    I’d have thought it was a slam dunk manslaughter trial at least.

    Did the filthy scumbag die? Yes
    Was it from injuries sustained by the beating? Yes
    Was the glorious defending father the person who applied said beating? Yes

    That’s enough to go in front of a jury. While a jury may well choose to not convict, it should still go in front of the jury.

    If we were all unhappy that the Police “chose not to charge” in various instances during the last Labour government (we were, weren’t we?), we should be uncomfortable with Police choosing not to charge in this example. If it happened in NZ. At least we wouldn’t hear the whining about how he had such a hard life, and was under the influence of P, and other such nonsense

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  12. Put it away (2,878 comments) says:

    Don’t mess with Texas

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  13. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    Regardless of how the prosecution tried to spin the legalities involved in the kiddy fiddler’s death, if I was part of the jury it would be unlikely that a guilty verdict would ensue.

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  14. s.russell (1,601 comments) says:

    Taking all this purely prima facie….

    He should be charged with manslaughter.
    He should be convicted.
    He should be sentenced to community service.

    This is not what will happen.

    a) He is unlikely to be charged with anything
    b) He is unlikely to be convicted of anything by a jury (despite the facts)
    c) Minimum sentence laws would probably apply – forcing a longer (and unjust) sentence.

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  15. SouthernRight (53 comments) says:

    The Greens are likely to find a good reason to convict him, or Mana, wait for it

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  16. cha (3,935 comments) says:

    Again in Texas the bloke who went next door to confront his neighbour about a noisy party and used the states Castle Doctrine to justify shooting him in his own driveway has been found guilty of murder.

    And a Tampa Bay Times article about the impact of Florida’s stand your ground legislation.

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  17. PaulD (97 comments) says:

    Another version of the event http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/crime/father-kills-man-who-molested-his-4-year-old-daughter#
    “Sheriff Harmon said the father and daughter were at their barn with several other people to groom and care for horses. The 47-year-old man came with some of the other people, but was not known to the father and child.

    The 47-year-old man reportedly took the girl into some pasture behind the barn. Another child saw the sexual assault happening and ran to tell the girl’s father.

    Sheriff Harmon said as the girl’s father was pulling the 47-year-old man away from the child, when he hit the man several times in the head and killed him.”

    No mention of the child being left in the house, a witness other than the father and several rather than repeated blows to the head.

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  18. dime (9,796 comments) says:

    Isnt it the DA rather than the cops who decide to press charges over there?

    DA’s that are elected.

    Its texas. no way this goes to court.

    Should be like that here. Id do the same thing

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  19. Elaycee (4,356 comments) says:

    I’m currently in the US – there is massive support here for the father. And despite the bleating that will come from the know all, panty-waisted bleeding hearts – who could blame him?

    “Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon said the 23-year-old father, whose name has not been released, is unlikely to be arrested for Saturday’s killing and that no evidence so far has led investigators to doubt his story.”

    Note the reference “unlikely to be arrested”….

    One less to worry about…. :D

    http://www.ksn.com/content/news/also/story/Father-kills-molester/rqhTH2K24EyQdB26LrNYvQ.cspx

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  20. cha (3,935 comments) says:

    And in Palmerston North two of the three people who participated in the kidnap and killing of paedophile Glen Stinson were convicted and sentenced for his murder. The third, a woman, was found guilty of manslaughter and has since been released from prison.

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  21. peterwn (3,239 comments) says:

    rouppe – Are you saying that everyone who is forced to defend himself or others and ends up causing the death of the aggressor should face a jury trial? Or is it one of these things that is OK for ‘other people’ to face. If you were facing a jury trial when you considered the force you used was reasonable you would be highly aggrieved especially if you had to re-mortgage your house to pay for a decent defence lawyer – and you do not get a refund if acquitted. And on top of that have an aggressive detective and Crown lawyer trying to hoodwink the jury (yes, that did happen in a case I know about). It was bad enough that Auckland pharmacist had to wait weeks to know whether he was to face a homicide charge. IMO in that instance, there was sufficient evidence immediately available that the police and Crown Law have could sorted that matter within a few days.

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  22. rouppe (962 comments) says:

    Peter,

    I am suggesting that the hand of law should be even. Despite siding fully with the father in this example, (based on media reporting), what remains is that a dead man can’t provide evidence.

    Perhaps you are suggesting that if someone pisses you off, you ought to be able to kill them without facing trial. Yes, it is obvious that this father had a good and valid reason to attack. It is equally obvious that there are occasions when a killing is unjustified.

    The terrible part is that grey area in the middle. Who makes that call? Where is the line? Who decides if it gets to be moved?

    We have all seen the sliding scale of punishment, resulting in many serious offenders appearing to get a wet bus ticket sentence, usually justified with examples of previous convictions. Are you willing to let that decision rest with a local Senior Sergeant in Waikikamookow Police Station?

    I am well aware of lawyers trying to hoodwink juries. I was on one a few months ago. Only it was the defence lawyers doing the hoodwinking. Ooo, you know you’ve got to be sure.. Not probably, not very likely, but sure. Are you really sure? Really really really?

    And I’m pretty sure those I convicted did not pay a cent for their lawyers

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  23. WebWrat (516 comments) says:

    The father will get done because he killed an obama voter.
    Oh hang on, maybe not.
    The dead guy can still vote can’t he?

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  24. peterwn (3,239 comments) says:

    rouppe ‘Perhaps you are suggesting that if someone pisses you off, you ought to be able to kill them without facing trial’

    No I am not! The father may have been brassed off that someone was sexually assaulting his daughter, but that was clearly envisaged by self defence / defence of others law. rouppe – if it was YOUR daughter what would you have done? Flee the house and dial 111? The reasonable father would have got stuck in and then expect that society would support him as a victim without putting him through a jury trial wringer.

    OK if someone merely brasses someone else off, he is in no position to hold the belief that he was in imminent danger of his life or limb, and ‘self defence’ would not get past first base.

    If anyone is caught up in a self defence situation and ends up causing death or serious injuries, IMO he should blurt out, preferably with the video on, ‘I feared for my life’ then shut up.

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  25. Manolo (13,518 comments) says:

    The bloody child molester got what he deserved. No ifs or buts.

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  26. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Who gives a shit. The kiddy fucker is dead. RIH.

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  27. Sean (300 comments) says:

    Its an excellent way to cover up a premeditated murder. Tell the guy to wait for you in your house, keep an eye on the kid. Then take all the adult witnesses out to ‘look after the horses’. Go back separately and beat the guy to death, then when the cops arrive tell him he was assaulting the kid. Nice.

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  28. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Sean….would not surprise me…..

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  29. BlairM (2,314 comments) says:

    There has been a lot of debate here on this one. Nobody has any sympathy for the dead ape-creature. But it is a question of following the law. Texas law justifies homicide if the dead person was either about to, or in the act of, sexually molesting a child. However, if he was not “in the act”, it becomes fuzzy. Apparently there is some question as to whether he was “in the act”. This means the police have an obligation to put the charge before a grand jury to see what they say. But there is no hope in hell any grand jury in Texas would prosecute. The cops would have to lay a clear case for reasonable doubt that the deceased was molesting the child.

    Overall, the grand jury system is a pretty good one – I think it would make a lot of sense for NZ to adopt it for some crimes.

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  30. simonway (381 comments) says:

    Misread that first paragraph as, “a father caught sexually assaulting his four-year-old daughter… may not face charges” for a second there. Was wondering what on earth was going on.

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  31. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    BlairM: We actually had Grand Juries here…early to mid 20th Century…dont know why they were done away with…

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  32. big bruv (13,686 comments) says:

    This man is a bloody hero.

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  33. scrubone (3,091 comments) says:

    David Garrett: because they’re stupid, and nowadays don’t meet the origional purpose which was to talk to the community to see whether the charges met the sniff test.

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  34. MikeMan (169 comments) says:

    So it is better for the police to forward everything to CPS because it is not their job, who then send everything to court because it is the job of a judge and jury to decide, 12-18 months of stress and tens of thousands of dollars later the “Defendant” is found not guilty because the charges should not have passed the laugh test and no one had the balls to do their job and be held accountable for it.

    That’s much better (for the lawyers).

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  35. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,743 comments) says:

    It doesn’t even go to a jury.

    No charge for Texas dad who killed daughter’s rapist

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