The problem with ‘Stand Your Ground’

February 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Disinformation, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | 7 Comments
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2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief's Special — Model CS45.

2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief’s Special — Model CS45.

‘Stand your ground’ laws have figured in two recent cases in which young unarmed black men were shot and killed.
George Zimmerman killed Travon Martin, and Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis.

In both cases, the killer’s excuse was that he thought that the young black man had a gun.

The problem with ‘stand your ground’ laws is that it is too easy to claim that you feared that the person you shot had a weapon, and was about to use it on you.

You can claim this even if it wasn’t true.  You can make up your fear after the fact.

No one can ever disprove your claim, because it rests only on what you say you believed at the time.  Your claim need not depend upon on any externally confirmable matter of fact.

This is one of the most easily-abused legal ideas of all time.

One of the leading pushers of ‘stand your ground’ laws is ALEC.  Besides promoting ‘stand your ground’ laws, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) acts as a mouthpiece for those who see short-term financial gains in delaying recognition of human-caused global warming.  According to the Sierra Club, Mark Zuckerberg recently had Facebook join ALEC, because he wants its support for some of his own agendas.  (The Sierra Club is urging everyone to sign a petition asking Mark Zuckerberg to withdraw Facebook from that unscrupulous organization.)

Although it is obvious, it bears repeating: neither of the unjustified killings that were cited above would have occurred if the killer hadn’t happened to have a gun handy.

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  1. […] ….means we don’t have to wait around; history can be instantly re-written. […]

  2. Dear blog Author:

    I certainly respect your write to pontificate you are entitled to your own opinion.
    You are not entitled to your own facts. I assume you want all statements you make to be true and factual – here are the facts.

    Please note I offer this information without any comment of the outcome of the particular case.

    There is a complete record of testimony in the Zimmerman /Martin case, as well as full record of the 911 call , autopsy report and police report – a read of the available information would clear up several erors in your essay.

    “Stand your ground” (SYG) was never invoked in the Zimmerman/Martin case. There is no legal question of “stand your ground” when you cannot flee, and according to testimony from both sides , and accepted as “true”, Zimmerman was on his back on the ground, straddled by Martin – hence there is no issue whatsoever about SYG in this instance.

    Zimmerman did not think that Martin was carrying a gun. There was no mention of such a belief anywhere in the record, the investigation or the trial testimony. According to Zimmerman’s testimony, he thought Martin had attacked him with a deadly weapon, ie the surface of the sidewalk which his head was being slammed against. Zimmerman thought Martin was beating him to death and consequently feared for his life .

    Whether this was a “reasonable fear” is a question for a jury to decide.

    I look forward to and welcome any comments you might have on this matter, like most people of good will I am happy to discuss the topic of lawfal, moral and ethical self-defense

    Gregory K. Taggart
    Plano, Texas
    gkttxag@aol.com

  3. ‘Stand your ground’ laws have figured in two recent cases in which young unarmed black men were shot and killed…. George Zimmerman killed Travon Martin, and Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis.”

    Not really true. Yes, the media trumped “stand your ground” (SYG) as an important issue in both cases, but that simply was not true.

    Zimmerman’s defense was self defense pure and simple. Trayvon was straddling him and attempting to bludgeon Zimmerman’s head into the concrete (which makes the concrete a “deadly weapon,” by the way). There was no opportunity for Zimmerman to retreat at that point therefore SYG was totally irrelevant.

    In the Davis case it was a clear case of 2nd degree murder (and the prosecutor would have probably have gotten that verdict if she wasn’t such a political animal seeking the maximum publicity and charging 1st degree which was totally unjustified). In most states 1st degree requires a degree of premeditation. This was clearly a case of an emotional confrontation going out of control and one person committing a non-premeditated murder in the passion of the moment. Again, SYG had no real bearing on the case. It might have had a bearing if Davis had been shown to have had a weapon and had threatened Dunn with it, but no one appears to have believed that and there was no evidence.

    SYG makes a lot of sense. In the past people who acted in legitimate self defense were often prosecuted because they didn’t see a clear avenue to retreat. With adrenaline distorting your thinking and vision seeing those avenues can be very difficult. Also if you read “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman you will see that fleeing actually can add psychological empowerment to an aggressor to kill.

    If someone is threatening you with deadly force then the right to stand your ground and return deadly force in self defense is an absolute human right.

    regards,

    lwk

  4. Really?

    Do you even remember the Zimmerman case and/or trial?

    At no point did Zimmerman claim he thought Martin had a gun and “stand your ground” was completely irrelevant to the case.

    You can form your own opinion, but you can’t form your own facts. That you had to revise history to make your point pretty much demonstrates that it’s invalid.

    But I do appreciate one thing. You do make it abundantly clear that you would prefer for law abiding citizens to be disarmed so that they don’t “happen to have a gun handy”. Thanks for verifying what we who support the right of citizens to have the best tools for self defense freely available have known all along.

    • “At no point did Zimmerman claim he thought Martin had a gun…”

      That is true. Zimmerman never claimed that Martin had a gun. I never said that. I did say that Martin battering Zimmerman’s head into the concrete sidewalk constituted Martin using a deadly weapon – the concrete sidewalk. I didn’t invent that idea. Masad Ayoob, an expert witness at the trial made that point.’

      I have a number of links where he dissects the Zimmerman trial and well worth reading.

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

      “You can form your own opinion, but you can’t form your own facts.”

      And neither can you. Some plain facts are these.

      1. The police and prosecutor initially refused to press charges given that it was a clear cut case of self defense.

      2. After all of the polarizing and highly political and sensationalist media coverage a jury _still_ found Zimmerman not guilty after they saw all the evidence.

      If you want to understand 2. above then I highly recommend you read the eyewitness account by Ayoob.

      In stand your ground would have really only have been relevant legally if the jury had believed that Zimmerman had any opportunity to retreat once Martin was on top of him and trying to beat him unconscious (or kill him, we can never know at this point exactly how far Martin would have went if Zimmerman had not killed him).

      So I would suggest you get some real facts which 99.9% of the media failed to report.

      “I do appreciate one thing. You do make it abundantly clear that you would prefer for law abiding citizens to be disarmed so that they don’t “happen to have a gun handy”.”

      I have no idea where you came up with that, or what gives you the presumption to say that is something I would prefer.

      The fact of the matter is I have a concealed carry license in Texas and I strongly support the right of law abiding citizens to get such licenses and carry loaded handguns, as I do, every day in public. The fact is that people who get such licenses are some of the safest and most law abiding citizens in this country.

      regards,

      lwk

  5. “The problem with ‘stand your ground’ laws is that it is too easy to claim that you feared that the person you shot had a weapon, and was about to use it on you.”

    “You can claim this even if it wasn’t true. You can make up your fear after the fact.”

    “No one can ever disprove your claim, because it rests only on what you say you believed at the time. Your claim need not depend upon on any externally confirmable matter of fact.”

    Massad Ayoob also discusses that aspect and as an expert witness he says in the vast majority of cases the physical evidence will tell the real story. It is a lot harder than you imagine, according to an expert, to carefully manipulate a situation where you can murder someone and claim legitimate self defense afterwards.

    That is also why we have the concept of a “reasonable man” standard to at least try to judge whether a mythical “reasonable man” would have thought the same thing.

    lwk

  6. Although the comments by Gregory K. Taggart and by LWK show that my two examples do not pertain to “Stand Your Ground’ laws, the reasoning in my post does show that ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws are intrinsically flawed.


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