Since the trial of George Zimmerman, there has been a lot of debate over the legitimacy of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Many claim they are a valid measure for home protection, others cite they open the door for racially-motivated murder. Both are true, but in this guy’s opinion, while the law’s purpose of protecting someone who protects themselves is a valid idea, the manner in which “Stand Your Ground” can — and is — abused is just cause for concern. I mean, look at the facts in Zimmerman’s case.
George Zimmerman spotted Trayvon Martin walking through the neighborhood and found him to be “suspicious”. Zimmerman phoned the police, saying how “these assholes always get away”, then against dispatcher recommendation, got out of his car and pursued Martin, despite police being en route. Zimmerman and Martin got into an altercation, which resulted in a bloody nose and a couple of scratches to the back of Zimmerman’s head, and a bullet in Trayvon Martin’s chest. Martin was dead, and Zimmerman was let go — until pressure mounted and he was brought in, booked, and eventually tried and acquitted.
Despite Zimmerman’s defense not enacting “Stand Your Ground”, the judge instructed the jury to consider wording from the “Stand Your Ground” statute. That’s what makes the Zimmerman verdict relevant to this post.
There are 31 states that have a “Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine” law:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Many of these states have had their laws questioned by press, prosecutors, and even their own supreme courts, such as in California’s supreme courts criticism of their Castle Doctrine statue. Yet, it’s Florida that has sparked the current unrest when it comes to Castle Doctrine laws.
While I understand that the Zimmerman trial was sensationalized and the media did a great job at drawing party lines when it came to the events they were “covering”, there are two other shootings — more recently than the Martin shooting — that come to mind when questioning the validity of “Stand Your Ground” laws.
On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, 46, was coming home from a wedding and slightly intoxicated. He pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store in Jacksonville and his girlfriend exited the vehicle, heading inside. Dunn rolled down the window to ask the occupants of a black Dodge Durango — four youths, including 17-year-old Jordan Davis — to turn their music down. One of the occupants turned the radio down slightly, but Davis allegedly turned it back up. A verbal exchange commenced, where, according to Dunn, the youths began to speak to him in a threatening manner. Dunn claims to have seen a shotgun in the backseat of the vehicle, then grabbed his gun from the glove compartment, firing ten rounds into the vehicle and killing Jordan Davis. The Durango took off, only stopping when they realized Davis was dead. Dunn fled the scene, but his licence plate number was taken down and he was apprehended the next day. Dunn committed the shooting with many witnesses nearby, including a police officer performing a DUI arrest.
Michael Dunn is going to trial at the end of September, where is defense is going to argue “Stand Your Ground”.
On July 27, 2013, Roy Middleton, 60, went out to his car to grab a cigarette. A neighbor, who I have yet been unable to find an identity, called the police to report that a car was being burglarized. Two Escambia County, FL deputies arrived on the scene and shouted “Get your hands where I can see them!” Middleton turned around with his hands in the air, then became the recipient of a fifteen-round barrage that severely wounded him. One of the deputies — identified as Meeks — fired twelve of the rounds, while the other — identified as White — fired three. Roy Middleton had to have a rod put in his left leg from the injuries he sustained.
There is still no word on if the officers will go to trial.
Stand Your Ground is a law that broadens the definition of self-defense to a point where it excuses someone from being held responsible for someone else’s death. For example, if I were standing outside in my yard and someone walked through my grass, I could confront them on the matter. If they were in a bad mood, and say, gave me the finger to told me to “go fuck myself” or something, I could look at that as a threatening gesture, and since I would “feel threatened for my life”, I could pull out a gun and kill them. As per “Stand Your Ground” statutes, the killing of the fictional yard walker is justified since I felt my life was in danger, even though, if these events were to transpire, I rationalized a standard “fuck you” with a bullet, which is murder. Hands down.
See how these laws can be manipulated?