By Jakob Stein
This past Wednesday a district court denied Jason Roche’s motion to lower bail for the racist murder of Devonte Ortiz.
The 41 year-old Roche murdered Ortiz, a black teenager, in the early hours of July 4th, 2018, after Roche instigated a dispute about the teenagers popping firecrackers in the apartment complex parking lot. During the initial argument, Roche shouted racial epithets at the teenagers and then left the scene momentarily, only to return in military-style tactical gear, holding a gun to the teens’ heads, and eventually shooting Ortiz in cold-blood.
Roche was detained for a few hours and released after claiming self-defense, only to be re-arrested after the autopsy confirmed that Ortiz had been backing away at the time of the murder. Jason Roche did not actually live at Pleasant Hill Apartments, but his father Dennis did; Dennis Roche was a known racist to his neighbors and had even shouted a racial slur and threatened Ortiz with his car a day prior to the murder, giving many the impression that the murder was premeditated.
Since his arrest, community members have voiced outrage over the racist murder and the way that the case has been handled since the cowardly act. Not only was Roche initially released from custody after the murder, but also had his bail set at $250,000 (meaning he could be released from jail after posting $25,000) once it was clear that Roche was not acting in self-defense.
Many working people in Austin might see the $250,000 bail as an insurmountable barrier to Roche leaving jail but compared to most other murder cases it is relatively low, especially considering the recent trend of right-wing influencers using crowdfunding platforms to support reactionary actors and causes. It is not at all inconceivable that Roche could be free to walk the streets and threaten the community before he stands trial.
Friends and family of Ortiz, community members, and activists protested outside the courthouse, giving heartbreaking speeches about Devonte’s promising life cut short by the cowardly act of one racist, a man twice his age harboring hateful politics who was known for threatening and terrorizing residents, especially children. People also spoke on the thoroughly reactionary and racist criminal “justice” system that allowed Roche to escape police custody initially and that set a relatively low bail for his release, a system that has all too often found racists killers like Roche not guilty and released them back into the community to create more pain and suffering.
Yard signs and graffiti commemorating the life of Ortiz were seen throughout the Riverside area in the months after his murder, a clear sign that the community has not forgotten and will not forgive Roche for his heinous crime.
While most media outlets have openly and explicitly rejected Roche’s claim to self-defense the reactionary local FOX affiliate in Austin decided to publish an interview with Roche in which they claim he is “telling his side of the story.” He claims that he only acted in self-defense and that the crime was not racially motivated, before employing an all too common racist dog whistle used against young black men, that the teens were involved in organized crime, without a shred of evidence.
It’s clear that Jason Roche is just one man in a long line of white supremacist murderers, using any small conflict with oppressed-nation people as a pretext for fatal “self-defense.” Regardless of whether these racist fiends shield themselves with a police badge, a military uniform, or their families, the courts are generally inclined to be sympathetic and accept the “imperfect self-defense” arguments their lawyers make, a classic example being the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman.
The so-called “justice” system in the United States won’t solve this problem, nor can it be expected to hold these killers accountable for their crimes against the people. Roche has already been attacked once while in jail and has expressed fear of more violence should he be released into the general public. The masses have taken it upon themselves to make sure that Roche remains a marked man for the rest of his life and that if he walks free he will never be allowed to forget his transgression against the people.