Nel's New Day

July 13, 2013

We Need to Stop “Stand Your Ground” Laws

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:19 PM
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The six women on the jury in the George Zimmerman delivered their verdict earlier this evening: he was found not guilty of the charges. Florida law permits anyone to stalk a person and then shoot that person in case of an altercation. Zimmerman was carrying a gun as he drove his pickup to follow the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. After the police told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, Zimmerman continued his mission. If he had obeyed the police, there would have been no trial because there would have been no death. The law allowed Zimmerman to kill Martin.

Thirty-one states have some form of  these “stand your ground” laws, backed by the National Rifle Association. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), controlled by huge corporations, has provided the template to this law across the country and hope to add more states to its total.

Florida’s skewed view of “stand your ground” is demonstrated by two cases. A few months ago, a 70-year-old man in Brandon (FL) shot and killed a man having sex with his wife in the living room. He claimed that his wife was “fornicating” with the man, but in court he used the excuse that he thought she was being raped. A jury deliberated two hours before finding the man not guilty.

Three years ago, a 31-year-old woman with no criminal record tried to get some personal belongings from her former home and found her estranged husband there. They argued, and she feared for her life. Her husband agreed that she was in danger: “I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and … I told her … if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” he said in a deposition. She first hid in the bathroom, and when her husband tried to break down the door, she fled to the garage. It was locked, so she came back with a gun legally registered to her.

Her husband said, “I told her … I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her … I was cursing and all that … and she shot in the air.” He admitted that she was acting in self-defense, trying to frighten and stop him but not harm him. “The gun was never actually pointed at me … The fact is, you know … she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it,” he said. No one was hurt.

Last year, a jury took 12 minutes to find her guilty of aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In both these Florida cases, the people used the defense of “stand your ground” that holds that a person has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.” The man who shot his wife’s lover to death was successful and walks free. The woman who shot at a wall to scare an abusive husband failed and sits in prison.

The man is white, and the woman is black. The Tampa Bay Times found a great disparity between judgments based on the defendant’s ethnicity. Seventy-three percent of those killing a black person faced no penalty with the “stand your ground” defense. Only 59 percent of those who killed a white person got off. The Urban Institute determined that in “stand your ground” states, 34 percent of homicides of white shooters killing black victims are deemed justifiable. When black shooters kill white victims, only 3 percent of the deaths are ruled justifiable.

Economists at Georgia State, using monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics, found a significant increase in homicide and injury among whites, especially white males in states with “stand your ground” laws. Data from the Health Care Utilization Project reveals significantly increased rates of emergency room visits and hospital discharges related to gun injuries in states which enacted these laws. In Florida, self-defense claims have tripled since the law was passed.

The author of a Daily Kos blog summarized the problem with “stand your ground” laws:

“The people who’ve embraced the Stand Your Ground laws and all the rest of that agenda are people whose lives are driven by fear. They can claim all the noble purpose and higher principles they like; it’s still fear in the driver’s seat. But not just fear alone. It’s also about inspiring fear in others. It’s about making your enemies (whomever you wish to target) too afraid to challenge you. It’s about always getting your way – because others are afraid to get on your bad side, and because you don’t trust them enough to deal with them any other way. It goes hand in hand with going through life as the biggest, baddest bully. When your life is built around fear, it’s the logic that safety and power comes from making others fear you more than you fear them.”

As the writer pointed out, fear motivates people in the United States to attack any country perceived to be a threat, accept civilian causalities in drone strikes, and put people into prison without legal charge while subjecting them to torture. Fear makes people tolerant of spying on the country’s citizens without provocation and drives them to violate most of the U.S. Constitution.

Because of this fear, people collect unknown quantities of guns, carry them everywhere, and pass laws  allowing people to claim self-defense for killings.

1 Comment »

  1. “Florida law permits anyone to stalk a person and then shoot that person in case of an altercation.”


    They jury had “reasonable doubt” as to the facts, and the physical evidence was all on the side of Trayvon physically attacking Zimmerman before he was shot and killed.

    “Last year, a jury took 12 minutes to find her guilty of aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

    From what I heard that was a travesty of justice, but in reality it has nothing to do with the validity of “stand your ground” laws or the Zimmerman trial.

    We need even more comprehensive laws that protect individuals who use deadly force against criminals and aggressors. We need laws that protect against politically motivated and groundless prosecution as happened in the Zimmerman case.



    Comment by lwk2431 — July 14, 2013 @ 6:35 AM | Reply

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