Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Furor in Rocksprings

One great thing about being a student of criminal law is that it is kind of like studying theology-- your subject is all around you.

The talk in Del Rio went really well, and I got to spend some time with Fifth Circuit blogger and former student Brad Bogan. Henry Bemporad, the incoming federal defender, is only the most recent co-speaker this week to upstage me, but it is always great to follow him. If you wonder why I do stuff like go to Alpine and Del Rio and give CLE's to the federal bar, there are good reasons (and no, it's not money). First, it gets me out to see Texas, which is important because these areas are where some of my students are coming from, and going to. Second, it allows me to build relationships with practitioners who sometimes do stuff like hire law graduates. Third, it keeps me current on issues closely related to what I teach. Fourth, I run into lots of intriguing stuff.

For example, on the way back from Del Rio, I passed through Rocksprings, a little town of about 1200 people which is both the seat of Edwards County and the Angora Goat Capital of Texas. I stopped to get a soda and a local paper, the "Texas Mohair Weekly." The first thing I noticed about the Mohair Weekly was that it has operated since 1893, and the second was that the high school district-title-winning girls' basketball team is called the "Lady Angoras." (I love it when people stick with a theme consistently). The third was that the lead article was headlined "Free Gilmer is Our Motto!"

Looking around town, I saw several other "Free Gilmer" references-- in store windows, by the side of the road, etc. "Gilmer" is Gilmer Hernandez, the local deputy sheriff. He was convicted (in the courtroom in which I had just given my presentation) of shooting an undocumented alien. From what I can gather, he had stopped an SUV full of people for running a light. When he stepped up to the vehicle it sped off. As it drove off, he fired at it, hitting one of the occupants.

The conviction of Deputy Hernandez was obviously a huge issue in the town, and tapped into a vein of emotion which runs very deeply in this part of the country. I had driven through Rocksprings once before, and it had seemed almost a ghost town. Apparently, I misjudged it.

I think there's more to it than that. I'll have to poke around, but from what I read up here in the northeastern liberal commie symp papers, ol' Gilmer may not have been in line with the 4th Amendment... but I'm speculating.
BTW, I like the use of the word "furor."
After reading around a bit, it looks like Gilmer is probably guilty of bad luck more than anything. Maybe he shouldn't have shot randomly at the SUV full of people (9), but the SUV had just tried to run him over, so I would imagine his blood was up. Jail seems a little harsh, but then again, I wasn't there either. As for the 4th amendment, he's probably guilty of violating that, but there might have been extenuating circumstances given an SUV is a lethal weapon in the hands of some people. Poor Gilmer.
Maybe before speculating we should ask the 12 jurors that heard the whole case....oh, wait a minute, we already have.
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