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Old 29 December 2008, 03:04 AM
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snopes snopes is offline
 
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Mister Ed Stealing horses is a capital offense in Texas

Comment: I was recently told by an acquaintance with some knowledge of
Texas law (I live in Austin), that anti-horse thief laws are still on the
books, such that stealing horses is to this day punishable by death by
hanging in the state of Texas. Not that I plan on stealing any horses,
lol! The interesting "twist" to it, is that this acquaintance said that it
is legal in Texas in the case of horse theft, for people to make
"citizen's arrests" with respect to horse thieves, and even carry out the
penalty themselves. So in other words apparently if somebody catches a
horse thief, a group of citizens can hang this horse thief with perfect
legality, and, if a law enforcement officer happens to witness this, he
would just stand by and not do anything, because, according to the
anti-horse thief laws still on the books, citizens are allowed to put a
horse thief to death by hanging themselves, if they witness the him
stealing a horse. Now, I can believe laws against horse theft are still
punishable by death by hanging, since after all Texas is a big
death-penalty state (even though personally I strongly oppose the death
penalty under any circumstance). However the part about citizens being
allowed to carry out a citizens arrest and carry out the sentence
themselves seems a bit of a stretch, but I work in software and not law so
I really wouldn't know. Again, not that I plan on stealing any horses :-)
but the story rather intrigues me.
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  #2  
Old 29 December 2008, 03:16 AM
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Without commenting on whether stealing horses is a capital offense under Texas law (though it would be unconstitutional to enforce it as such after Kennedy v. Louisiana), the citizen's arrest portion of the rumor seems completely preposterous. Even in states that permit citizen arrests, they are under very narrow circumstances and for very few purposes. Generally, the person arrested must be promptly handed over to proper law enforcement. It's a blatant violation of due process for a mob to "arrest" and then execute someone.
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  #3  
Old 29 December 2008, 03:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keokuk View Post
Without commenting on whether stealing horses is a capital offense under Texas law (though it would be unconstitutional to enforce it as such after Kennedy v. Louisiana), the citizen's arrest portion of the rumor seems completely preposterous. Even in states that permit citizen arrests, they are under very narrow circumstances and for very few purposes. Generally, the person arrested must be promptly handed over to proper law enforcement. It's a blatant violation of due process for a mob to "arrest" and then execute someone.
Yea, even if the law existed and was still on the books somehow (perhaps overlooked due to rarity), but even so, it would be unconstitutional and would be rendered null by current laws that are on the books already. In other words, it would not be a valid defense if somebody tried it today.
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Old 29 December 2008, 03:38 AM
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I can't vouch for this 100% because I'm not entirely familiar with Texas law so I may be missing something, but it's my understanding from some quick research that under Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(4)-(5), it is a state jail felony to steal less than ten horses and a first degree felony to steal ten or more horses. Neither "state jail felonies" nor "first degree felonies" are eligible for capital punishment. ( 12.32 & 12.35.) Only "capital felonies" ( 12.31) can result in the death penalty.
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Old 01 January 2009, 04:42 PM
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1958Fury 1958Fury is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
citizens are allowed to put a horse thief to death by hanging themselves,
How do you put someone to death by hanging yourself? Seems like that would be counter-productive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
since after all Texas is a big death-penalty state (even though personally I strongly oppose the death penalty under any circumstance).
Wow, even though you're against the death penalty, they're a big death penalty state? They didn't even ask you? The nerve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by keokuk View Post
it is a state jail felony to steal less than ten horses
I've stolen less than ten horses (which is to say, zero), does that mean I've committed a felony?

1958 "I just feel like misinterpreting things today" Fury
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  #6  
Old 30 March 2009, 09:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keokuk View Post
I can't vouch for this 100% because I'm not entirely familiar with Texas law so I may be missing something, but it's my understanding from some quick research that under Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(4)-(5), it is a state jail felony to steal less than ten horses and a first degree felony to steal ten or more horses. Neither "state jail felonies" nor "first degree felonies" are eligible for capital punishment. ( 12.32 & 12.35.) Only "capital felonies" ( 12.31) can result in the death penalty.
This appears correct except theft of ten or more is a third degree, not first degree felony.

Quote:
(5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the property stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, or the property is:

(A) 10 or more head of cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl as defined by Section 142.001, Agriculture Code, stolen during a single transaction and having an aggregate value of less than $100,000; or
There is a provision for using deadly force to protect land or property from arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime if it is absolutely the only means to stop the commission of the crime or prevent flight immediately after the crime. If you and your gang have managed to stop and capture the thief without using deadly force, then you can't go and hang him from a tree.

Quote:
Sec. 9.41. PROTECTION OF ONE'S OWN PROPERTY. (a) A person in lawful possession of land or tangible, movable property is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property.

(b) A person unlawfully dispossessed of land or tangible, movable property by another is justified in using force against the other when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to reenter the land or recover the property if the actor uses the force immediately or in fresh pursuit after the dispossession and:

(1) the actor reasonably believes the other had no claim of right when he dispossessed the actor; or

(2) the other accomplished the dispossession by using force, threat, or fraud against the actor.


Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.




Sec. 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:

(A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or

(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.
http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/pe.toc.htm

ETA: I should mention these are justifications as defense provisions. So, if you kill someone for trying to steal your horses, you are most likely going to be arrested and charged with a crime and possibly indicted, leaving it to a jury to decide if you were in fact justified in your use of deadly force.

Last edited by Kev; 30 March 2009 at 09:45 PM.
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  #7  
Old 24 July 2009, 05:47 PM
Azzizi
 
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I heard the same urban legend when I was growing up, but that was only half of the story. The urban legend also claimed that you could also hang someone for cutting your fence. This was presumably because if someone cut your fence, your cattle would get out.
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  #8  
Old 03 November 2009, 03:14 PM
Assilem Brandywine Assilem Brandywine is offline
 
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Occasionally in Texas, some kid will get in trouble because they thought it would be funny to steal a pig some other kid was raising as a 4H project. Or a football team will steal a rival team's mascot. (Football is serius biznuss in Texas.) No one ever gets hanged, but the law is brought up in court to scare the kids straight.
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