The Prejudice of One Law

Reprinted from SRQ Magazine

Two man argue on a street. Shouting can be heard. A shot is fired. Police officer arrives. One man is dead on the ground. The other man is standing over the body holding a gun. No witnesses.

Two men argue on a street. Shouting can be heard. A shot is fired. Police officer arrives. One man is shot, but alive. The other man is standing there holding the gun. No witnesses.

In the first scenario, the shooter claims self-defense and is not prosecuted because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. In the second scenario, the shooter is arrested for attempted murder. The difference between the two scenarios? Five minutes. In the second scenario, the police officer arrived five minutes earlier and the victim was still able to speak.

With the help of lobbying efforts of The National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Stand Your Ground Law was passed in Florida in 2005. Before this law, self-defense law in Florida already included the Castle Doctrine, which states that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. SYG takes it a step further and states that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he/she has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. And that place no longer has to be their home, but only where they stand. And ultimately, it comes down to whether someone had a “reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury. “

The question is, who determines whether or not that fear is reasonable? And is that fear without prejudice or provocation? Before, a perpetrator had to go through the court system to determine whether a homicide was justified. The SYG law allows that determination to be made by police or prosecutors asking three simple questions: 1. Did the defendant have the right to be there? 2. Was he/she engaged in a lawful activity? 3. Could he/she reasonably have been in fear of death or great bodily harm?

Since 2005, studies have shown that the rate of justifiable homicides in Florida tripled. The Tampa Bay Times in 2012 reported: “of the nearly 200 cases, 73 percent of defendants invoking the law faced no penalty when a black victim was involved. The figure dropped to 59 percent when it was a white victim.” The interpretation of the law seems to be ambiguous when it comes to the determination of this third question and allows room for prejudice when asking what is reasonable when it comes to fear of death or great bodily harm.

For those that want this law repealed, it is not an anti-gun agenda. What the Dream Defenders, for example, are asking for is to: 1. Eliminate automatic immunity from prosecution without judicial review. 2. Require proof of self-defense claims and establish a burden of proof that does not adversely impact survivors of domestic abuse.

What kind of law does not require due process in the court of law, requires the victim to shoulder the burden of proof and allows for extreme prejudice?

Because of public outcry, the Florida State Legislature will be considering the repeal of Stand Your Ground in these upcoming months. Let us see if they will answer any of these questions.

SRQ Daily Columnist Susan Nilon is the president of Florida Talk Radio and owner of WSRQ Radio. She hosts “The Nilon Report” on WSRQ Sarasota 1220AM/106.9FM weekdays 4pm-6pm

5 Comments

  1. “The question is, who determines whether or not that fear is reasonable?”

    If there is any real doubt, based on the evidence, then it will go to court and the jury will decide if a mythical “reasonable person” would have seen it the same way.

    The previous “duty to retreat” standard often place an unreasonable burden on people attempting self defense. If you are being attacked your body will be flooded with a huge rush of adrenaline create a tunnel vision towards the attacker and a route of retreat may not be obvious. Retreating often is more dangerous than standing your ground in self defense.

    The fact is that in the vast majority of cases the physical evidence will tell the story, like it did in the Zimmerman case. The physical evidence monumentally proved he was acting in legal self defense.

    lwk
    free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com

  2. “The Tampa Bay Times in 2012 reported: “of the nearly 200 cases, 73 percent of defendants invoking the law faced no penalty when a black victim was involved.”

    According to FBI statistics for 2011 for homicide where the race of the offender was known it was black 52.4% of the time despite blacks being less than 14% of the population. And blacks were most often the victim.

    Blacks are something like 8 times more likely to commit murder so it shouldn’t be surprising they are overrepresented. Blacks are overrepresented in a lot of criminal activities in the U.S., and often those are violent criminal activities.

    lwk

  3. ” 1. Eliminate automatic immunity from prosecution without judicial review. 2. Require proof of self-defense claims and establish a burden of proof that does not adversely impact survivors of domestic abuse.”

    There is no automatic immunity. Prosecutors will take it to court if the evidence doesn’t back the claim. So, let’s require proof unless it is a woman shooting a man? Is that what point #2 is about?

    lwk

    • “Evidence on whether a person feels threatened? It’s more of my word against your word.”

      I have a license to carry a concealed handgun from Texas. Texas also has a stand your ground law. Your idea that a person can say they feel threatened – whether you say it, or quote it from another site – is purely fictional. The legal standard if it goes to trial is the mythical reasonable person – you have to convince a jury that your fear was reasonable, not just that you were afraid. If the situation doesn’t look legit – the evidence doesn’t support the claim – then you can bet it will go to trial.

      This is one of the distortions that people have made against this law. I have a link on my site to some posts by Massad Ayoob, a certified expert on self defense who was an expert witness brought in by the Zimmerman defense team in that trial. It is all worth reading, but he deals with the stand your ground aspects, and how evidence almost always will back up self defense claims if the claims are legitimate.

      Inside the Zimmerman Trial
      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/inside-the-zimmerman-trial/

      The real reason Zimmerman wasn’t initially charged was that the evidence was hugely on his side. Despite all of the mistruths and politically motivated rhetoric, when the jury actually saw the evidence he was found not guilty.

      regards,

      lwk

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