Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stand Your Ground

It's hard to say, but it sounds as if the black kid who was shot in Florida got killed for Walking While Black. The DoJ and FBI have stepped in, and frankly, I think they should. We need to know what happened, and the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida doesn't sound as if it ought to apply in this case.

Jury's out on this, and we'll see. But I'll speak to the law a bit, for those who don't know what it means.

Basically, if a mugger hops out the bushes waving a knife in your face, most places, even if you have a knife or a gun on you, you are supposed to run away if you can. That's the law.

This makes a lot of sense, and given the choice, that's what I'd do. If it was just me? Run away!

In your house, most places will let you stand your ground, but there are states where this isn't true, either. Guy breaks into your house to rob or attack you and your family, you legally have to flee if you can. If you are back-to-the-wall, you can fight, but otherwise, you gotta run. 

Doesn't sound like home of the brave, does it?

The stand-your-ground law says if you are beset with what you feel is deadly menace, you don't have to run, you are allowed to defend yourself with sufficient force to stop it, and if that means killing the attacker, it's justifiable.

Here's the relevant passage:

"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be 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 or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

Is being a neighborhood vigilante legal in this case? Would this be considered stalking, following the kid because he was "suspicious-looking?"

How many white kids did Zimmerman follow down the street?

There are times when SYG makes sense. Here's a scenario: You are out walking with granny and the toddlers and the mugger jumps out with the knife. If you run off and leave granny and the kids to deal with the knifer, it is going to make for a really ugly Christmas dinner from now on–assuming your family doesn't tar and feather you and run you out of town on a rail, which they sure as hell should do.

In Florida, the population is one of the grayest in the U.S. Lot of old folks go south when they retire, basking like turtles and turning leathery under the semi-tropical sunshine.

If the mugger jumps out waving the blade, a lot of these folks simply cannot run fast enough to escape. Parables aside, the mugger rabbit with the knife catches the old turtle and upends him every time. So I can see why the law might have come to be there, as well as other states. Somebody comes at you with murder in his eye? Fuck 'im and the rat he rode in on!

It sounds as the self-appointed neighborhood watch guy followed the kid, even after he was told by the 911 operator that they didn't need him doing that. He caught up with the kid, and my guess is he rousted him, maybe got some lip. They tussled, he pulled a gun and shot the kid. If, as some of the recordings seem to suggest, the kid was crying for help and was executed? The shooter is in deep merde

Stay tuned.


Jay Gischer said...

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that being with Granny who can't move very fast satisfies the duty to retreat.

Some of the other cases in Florida are truly horrifying. A guy shoots a homeless man who was simply in his face and walks.

The Daring Novelist said...

Given that the kid had good reason to believe he was under life-threatening attack - he would have been justified killing the vigilante under this law.

(But I wonder if the cops would have let him go so easily...)

As for the running away and leaving granny scenario... are you sure that hasn't been found as "can't run away" in court?

It really seems to me that these "stand your ground" laws are not based on actual needed caselaw, but on speculative fear scenarios. And certainly if there have been cases where fair interpretation of self-defense have not been made, these laws extend far beyond what is necessary.

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

IANAL... but most self-defense laws talk about "immediate danger of death or bodily harm to self AND OTHERS." That covers granny and the kids.

TDN is right on about the speculative fear scenarios. There's a lot of well-explored legal ground between "duty to retreat" and the Florida law: Oregon's stance on self-defense falls in there somewhere.

Steve Perry said...

At this remove, what we don't know are the players. Was the kid just a guy in a hooded shirt who went to the store for junk food? Or was he a gangbanger looking for trouble? Was the neighborhood guy really concerned for his safety, or looking for trouble?

Easy to find a picture of the kid at twelve that makes him look like a choir boy, and one of the shooter that makes him look like a thug. Or vice-versa

The audio doesn't tell a complete tale, but to me, I hear a guy who is a cop-wanna-be cruising as a vigilante hoping he'll get a chance to pull his hardware. Him being told by the 911 operator to stand down and not doing it because he doesn't want to see the @#&%^# get away?

Get away with what? Being black and wearing a hoodie?

The media loves to say stuff like "Gun trumps candy." and maybe that's not what happened, but I would like to see a real investigation and not just a shrug because the local DA doesn't want to risk losing against the SYG law.

Brian Phillips said...

Here are my thoughts on Trayvon Martin. It became too long for a blog comment: