APRIL 11, 2012 12:18PM

Open Call: Stand Your Ground Watch

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Trayvon Martin's tragic murder has brought much-needed scrutiny to "stand your ground" laws, aggressive self-defense laws that are on the books in some 25 states. As we've seen over the past weeks, these broadly defined laws not only pose a threat to public safety,  in practice they also represent a continuation of America's ugly racist history. On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against Georgia's "stand your ground" law, arguing that its vagueness "could result in a disproportionate number of minorities being shot." Meanwhile, as Zimmerman walks free for killing an unarmed black 17-year-old on the street (UPDATEZimmerman has now been taken into custody), John McNeil, a black man from Georgia, is serving a life sentence for shooting an armed white man trespassing on his property.

We want to continue highlighting this important racial justice issue. So we're asking you to stay on the look out for these sorts of cases in your own region. If you read or hear about a local "Stand Your Ground" case that isn't getting much national press, blog about it on Open Salon. Report the details of the case, including the circumstances surrounding the crime, the race of the perpetrator and the victim, how the police reacted, whether charges were made, and the ultimate outcome.

Be sure to tag your posts "Stand Your Ground Watch." We'll highlight the most relevant posts both on Open Salon and big Salon. Please note that by using the tag "Stand Your Ground Watch," you're giving us permission to cross-post your piece -- in part or in its entirety -- on Salon. 

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Hmmm ... how should one comment about a blog criticizin' "aggressive self-defense laws" when his account was vaporized by aggressive, self-defense OS staffers for no reason at all?
A solid idea for an Open Call, Emily.
That's a really good idea. We don't have the "law" here yet. But if we did--I'd find a way to contribute to this.
I find the phrase "aggressive self-defense laws" sort of an oxymoron. By definition self-defense is the protection against aggression. The stand your ground laws are not written for aggressors, but to allow those who are being attacked to not face prosecution for defending themselves and not having to prove they could flee or avoid the attack.

The case of McNeil shows the need for such laws, because the police investigating concluded that it was self defense. If anything this is a story of an aggressive prosecutor who should have been stopped by a law designed to protect citizens from just this sort of thing. The prosecutor case hinged on the fact McNeil came home to confront the attacker at the request of his family therefore he became the aggressor.

Not to make an apples to apples comparison here, if anything the two events of McNeil and Zimmerman show that laws like the Castle Keep and Stand Your ground need more clarification if they are to protect innocent victims from over zealous prosecutors or if misused by the aggressors claiming self defense.

If anything it shows the ambiguity of the law and the need for better clarification as to the rules of engagement since it resulted in McNeil being arrested for shooting an man with a box cutter who he claimed was a threat to his family. Instead of McNeil being protected by the law, it was ignored by an aggressive prosecutor to send him to jail.

Laws like this are based on a simple idea that the fault falls mainly on the aggressor not the defender to prove the need for self-defense and use of deadly force. Laws are for the protection of society from those who would do harm to the innocent including over zealous prosecutors who seem to lack the most basic common sense.
If two people "stand their ground", wouldn't that be just like an old fashioned duel?
Glen, The stand your ground idea only works when one is the aggressor and the other is standing their ground. I duel is a very premeditated agreement between two people to fight to the death. In that case both would be the aggressors.
I am the ONLY person in ALL of recorded history to be framed with ALTERED evidence then have the judge LIE and conspire with the DA and court-appointed counsel to suppress the NOT GUILTY verdict and it has happen in a self-defense case in a State with the most liberal and precise "Stand Your Ground" law in the country.

"IC 35-41-3-2; “No person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting the person or a third person by reasonable means necessary.”.

Judges instructions; “There has been evidence introduced in thi...s case that the accused was exercising his right of self-defense."

“We (the jury) were unanimous on not guilty..."

and this is exactly what I said happen and in complete contrast to the States scenario

Pg 407 States forensic EXPERT.

Q.) Well, I mean for instance his feet. He could have been originally facing and then bent over looking in the window. That could create the proper angle.

A.) It's possible, yes.
after, adamantly being told to leave, after trying to bust my door in, after having a warning shot put over his head as he was coming in the door, shattering and covering him in glass, instead of being turned and running (EAST as Gary Smith D.A. say's) he was "still"

"...facing (WEST) and then bent over looking in the window.That could create the proper angle. (digging for his gun)

A.) It's possible, yes."
The States own forensic expert agreed with my account of events and refuted and debunked the DA's entire scenario.

I was at home being attacked by an armed man...and I won...and have been wrongfully persecuted every since...was I suppose to lose ...AND lose my life to be afforded my legal and constitution rights

why am I not the victim...because I won and saved my life


"Meanwhile, as Zimmerman walks free for killing an unarmed black 17-year-old on the street, John McNeil, a black man from Georgia, is serving a life sentence for shooting an armed white man trespassing on his property."

You're comparing a fellow who hadn't been charged with a crime, with a fellow who was charged and convicted of a crime years ago. In addition, you mention nothing about whether McNeil might actually be guilty:

"As sufficient evidence existed to support the conclusion that McNeil committed the offense of aggravated assault, and felony murder predicated on that aggravated assault, there is no basis for overturning the jury's verdict here." -- Georgia Supreme Court, McNeil v. State.

It makes absolutely no sense to imply that some great injustice has been done merely by looking at the races of the people involved, and without looking at the relevant facts.
The "Stand your Ground" case seems to be very one sided. What is NOT being said is the fact that something like well over a million cases a year of people defending their lives and loved ones with guns which are usually NOT EVEN FIRED. (Thanks to taxpayer funded research it has been discovered that criminals do NOT like to shot.) One outstanding case among the millions is one 93 year old lady in a wheelchair in a Chicago Project ; a young thug carrying a brick pushed into her appartment. Too lazy to ransack the place himself, he had her do it; she wheeled over to her desk, pulled out her pistol, and shot him.. Now ,she was totally guilty; the law in Chicago was quite clear: there is no way she could ever have owned a gun, much less used it. This is the kind of thing that happens exponentially more often than the Martin tragedy,(if it was).
"Aggressive self-defense" may be a bit over the top. Here in Texas, prior to the revision, you were required to flee, even in your own house and if you did have to shoot someone in self defense, a warning shot was required. Police were actually telling people to go ahead and shoot the home invader, drag the body outside, then fire a shot in the air. In no way does this or any other similar law, to my knowledge, allow for an individual to chase down and kill another one, unless it is to protect another individual. These laws were put into place to keep victims of crime from going to jail for defending themselves and their families in the event they were attacked. I'd be interested in seeing whether the number of home invasions ending in the death of the homeowners were affected by the passage of these laws.
 Why is it that, to press their own agendas, people are so quick to strip Trayvon Martin of his very best defense? What bitter irony! The thing wrong with most of this 'debate' is that most people totally miss the forest for the tree. The problem is not thisa law but law enforfcement together with ignorance of the law.  The failure (indeed the danger) is in falling to examine the plain language of this law and apply it to the facts as we know them.  Simply stated, almost everything most people think they know about this Florida stand and your ground law is just plain wrong. They get it bass backwards. 

I really wish people would at least read the law and apply it to the these facts – in which case their opinions might change radically. Under this law and these facts this statute actually convicts Zimmerman and exonerates Trayvon Martin. That is, Zimmerman’s misconceived shield  is really Trayvon martin’s sword.Those two links take you to articles written before SYG was offered as an Open Call and keep in mind that the Martin's own co-counsel agrees. Natalie A. Jackson, Esq., founder of  The Women's Trial Group, in Orlando Florida is co-counsel for the parents of Travon Martin and recently appeared on Democracy Now. After reviewing these links she wrote (and I quote with her express permission)

“Thank you. Your blog is very well written and thought out...I agree with your analysis.”

So before people trash this law they should understand that the Martin’s own legal council agrees that it is Trayvon Martin and only Trayvon Martin who can assert stand your ground as his defense and against Zimmerman.  So  if people are really interested in Trayvon and his parents they should not propose stripping them of the law that really works in their favor. Now before reacting please read first and remember that the Martin's own legal counsel expressely agrees with this analysis.    
I think we need to be more specific when framing this conversation. Is eliminating these laws really the answer or should they be refined. For example, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law contains a section about "Home Protection" in the even that someone unlawfully/forcibly enters your home.

I realize it's really popular these days to get worked up into a frenzy of emotions by the news media but we really need to stop and think about this. Getting rid of a Law with various sub-sections is not a good idea - especially when those sub-sections include circumstances surrounding unlawful or forcible entry in your home. We really need to stop operating with our feelings so much and start thinking about these things. I realize many Americans don't want to be challenged to think outside of what they hear/read/see but that's the only way we're going to stop being pawns for the media and government.

"I think we need to be more specific when framing this conversation. Is eliminating these laws really the answer or should they be refined[?] . ... Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law contains a section about "Home Protection" in the even that someone unlawfully/forcibly enters your home...."

Wonderful! Someone who actually tried to READ the statute. Commendable!

Now please read "Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?"   You are getting close! Good issue spotting. Law and fact.  The section you are referring to(very astute!) states the circumstances under which the law "presumes" one like Zimmerman would "reasonably believe" they are in  "imminent danger" of "great bodily harm or death" and ergo be justified to use of deadly force in self-defense.  But, read closely,  even that presumption can be defeated. 

As I outlined, none of those threshold presumptions exist in this case - not even one. Absent such facts giving rise to such presumptions the defense will have the burden of showing facts to support the "reasonable belief".  Merely saying so (as Steve suggests) will simply not suffice. The laws does not take his subjective word for it. Fact. Facts. Facts.  Facts supported by credible evidence.  Zimmerman’s mere self-serving assertion of such fear will not suffice.

Absent such facts there can be no ‘reasonable doubt’ but that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved mind regardless of human life” ergo his defense implodes. On the other hand, when GZ took after Trayvon and gave chase in violation of the statute and contra to police directives HE was engaged in an"imminent forceful act" (as spelled out in the statute)  and ergo it was Trayvon and ONLY Trayvon who had any legal right to use force agaisnt force. Trayvon need have run no further and only HE had a right to stand his ground and kill Zimmwerman  becasue this very law PRESUMES Trayvon, under these known facts,  "reaonably beleived" Zimmerman posed an "immnent threat."  Ergo when GZ forfeited the defense by violating the statute, etc., he handed that defense to Travyon.  Again what GZ percieves as his shield is really Trayvon's swprd - by the very letter of this law!    
Yes, but, what if you had a home invasion where someone was threatening your life. If you had a gun, you could save yourself. Then you could be prosecuted for murder. Or if you did not have a gun you would be dead. It does happen.
The 2nd Amendment is a stand your ground law. The rights to life, liberty and property are nothing if not defensible. My wife and 8 year old son are competent with a gun. Because of that, they not only have nothing to fear from the tool, itself, but they have a means by which to defend themselves if the worst should ever happen.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and cherish peace.
There is no numerical evidence SYG has done anything positive or negative.

Why? No data has been collected.

To maintain otherwise is dishonest.
The only grounds I have are coffee...is that OK?
Hi! Stand your ground is a very wild wild west law.If you feel like you are in danger ,you can kill somebody.Many people will abuse this law.

Thanks Brigitte Grisanti
Excellent question, Ms. Aureole.

I'm not at all certain the "stand your ground law" even applies in the Martin/Zimmerman case. Since Zimmerman was pursuing Martin in the first place, one cannot say he was "standing" any ground at all.

I fully support SYGL and would have no hesitation to blow a hole in somebody who invaded my home/car/or personal space. And I guarantee my defense of self would be appropriately aggressive. Let the punishment fit the crime, I say.
Latest thing today is release of Mr. Z's medical report, showing that he had been beaten up rigorously , presumably before doing any shooting.
Shawn,I ask you:
Why did Zimmerman go after Trayvon although he was told not to take any actions but wait for the police to arrive?
As the saying goes:"The biter will be bitten"

Zimmerman was pursuing Trayvon.As you said:
"Since Zimmerman was pursuing Martin in the first place, one cannot say he was "standing" any ground at all."

Emily,thank you for bringing this to public attention.
The death of the boy should not have been in vain.
I don't understand this.
Any number of writers here, Chauncey de Vega probably moreso than others, have written/are writing plenty on this subject.
I don't understand what it is you actually 'do,' here .
This OC suggestion is over a month old.
Since then you've rubber-stamped most of your friends for EPs or the cover, & managed to misspell a dozen titles.
Are you paid ?
Why ?
Kim,do you have children?
If you do,then you know why this topic has to be kept "ALIVE" for Trayvon's sake.
Heidi, yes I have children. If I lived in America I'd be every bit as concerned.
My comment was not to the issue ( which as I acknowledged, Chauncey & others are doing a great job keeping alive ) but to the Editor, whose job here completely escapes me.
Thanks for posting this. SYG laws are in my opinion a license to kill. Legitimate use of self defense has been part of common law for centuries, to extend the concept of "self defense" to situations like the Martin murder is a giant step toward Wild West anarchy. Anyone can kill anyone else with impunity, simply get into a situation where there are no other witnesses and blast away. The legal argument quickly becomes "he said, he dead" and you walk free.
Heidi, Kim, et al

There exists in this country an almost romantic obsession with violence and guns, maybe a result of the efforts of the NRA, or maybe as simple as the fact that the U.S. is simply 7, 8 maximum generations beyond the events that created the country through the necessary violence.

The reasons are really irrelevant, for carrying loaded weapons in public does nothing to deter crime, despite the hype to the contrary. What it does change, however are the lives of people who, by sheer coincidence encounter one another and ignite life-altering choices based solely upon that loaded weapon. Had Zimmerman not been packing, the chain of events would have been drastically different; I imagine Trayvon would still be alive and Zimmerman would not be facing second degree murder charges.

Without even knowing Zimmerman, I can almost guarantee that had he not been emboldened by the deadly power he was wearing on his belt, he would not have taken the course of action he chose; the romance of power at his hands literally changed the very persona of the individual and the results are now history.

Can one stand their ground without a loaded weapon? Yes! In fact, there are numerous ways to do so, yet the romance associated with the power of a gun strapped on our belts is running away with our logic stuffed in its pocket. It’s the short-sighted laws and their originators that are creating the horror for people around this country by passing ill-conceived, poorly researched laws with little to no thought behind them.

Loaded guns have no place in public arenas.
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