Ezekiel Gilbert: Texas Man Who Killed Prostitute Not Going to Jail

ByKatie Halper

If you want to kill a prostitute or escort, you may want to consider moving to Texas.

Wednesday, A Bexar County jury delivered on verdict on a case involving a man who fatally shot an escort in the neck and back. Here is what the prosecution, the defense and, of course, the defendant all agreed happened. Ezekiel Gilbert, 27 at the time, found an ad for an escort on Craigslist on Christmas Eve, 2009. The escort, Lenora Ivie Frago, 23, came to Gilbert’s apartment that night. The two did not have sex. Gilbert shot Frago in the neck and back. Frago was paralyzed. Frago died months later. The defense claims that Gilbert paid Frago $150 for sex. She refused to have sex with him and walked around his apartment for twenty minutes. Gilbert asked for his money back and Frago refused, saying she had to give it to her driver/ pimp. Gilbert shot Frago in the neck and back. Frago was paralyzed and died months later.

The prosecution claims that Gilbert shot Frago for refusing to have sex with him and points to the fact that Gilbert never mentioned anything about a theft in the police interview. The defense claims that Gilbert shot her because he was trying to recover the $150 he paid her for sex, which she did not deliver.

For argument’s sake, let’s believe the defense and not the prosecution. Both versions seem possible. This is the defense submitted by Gilbert’s lawyers: Gilbert was legally justified in shooting Frago because his intention wasn’t to kill her. (It was just a friendly shot to the neck and back.) His intention was to retrieve stolen property: the $150 he paid Frago. Frago was guilty of theft because she refused to have sex with him or give the money back. Texas law allows people to use “deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property … when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the other’s imminent commission of … theft during the nighttime or to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing… theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property.” Sound crazy? Don’t worry. The person is only justified in shooting a thief if “he reasonably believes that … the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means.” Phew. OK.

This law is absolutely ridiculous. It codifies vigilante justice. It equates theft with murder. It is unforgivably vague and broad, justifying the use of deadly force in the case of “criminal mischief during the night.” Criminal mischief? It may be the law, but is morally objectionable. A verdict based on that law is tainted just as a verdict based on Jim Crow laws was. It’s the law, but it’s wrong.

But let’s take the position that a law is a law and the defense, of course, has every right to use all legal means they have to make their case and do their job, which is to get the defendant acquitted. Let’s take the position that a jury should consider this law while deciding on the verdict. There’s only one problem. As the prosecutors pointed out, the law is intended to apply to “law-abiding” citizens. It is not intended to protect someone committing a crime, which was what Gilbert was doing when he solicited a woman for sex.

After the not guilty verdict was read, Gilbert, now 30, embraced his defense attorneys, with tears in his eyes. Outside the court, Gilbert thanked god. Really? This case makes me think that either god doesn't exist, or, if he does, he was asleep at the wheel on this one.  Gilbert also thanked the jury for being able to “see what wasn't the truth” and for the “second chance.” Had he been convicted, he could have faced up to life in prison.

Gilbert said, “I sincerely regret the loss of the life of Ms. Frago ... I've been in a mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel.” Wow. That is so horrible. I can't believe you would feel bad after killing a woman over $150 and getting away with it.