Stand Your Ground = License to Kill

“You need to stop right there,” [Raul] Rodriguez says. “Don’t come any closer please. I’m telling you, I’m telling you, stop, I said stop right now or I will shoot you! … I fear for my life. I told you to stop, my life’s in danger, you got weapons on you, stay away from me. I’m talking to you, and I mean, I’m scared to death here,” Rodriguez explains to the dispatcher. It’s about to get out of hand, sir. Please help me, now. I’m standing my ground here.” (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/07/stand-your-ground-texas-man-kills-teacher-over-noise-complaint/)

Florida’s public safety task force charged with tackling the controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law recently held its first public hearing this week in Central Florida. The task force, led by Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, and filled with sympathizers of the legislation will determine whether the legislation should be revised. Carroll was a Florida legislature at the time the law was passed and recently stated why the law was needed in 2005:

“We were going through a period of carjacking’s and home invasions. People didn’t feel they had the right to protect themselves, we wanted to give citizens the right to protect themselves.”

Florida passed its “Stand Your Ground” law seven years ago, and since then similar legislation has passed in numerous states. “Stand Your Ground” law’s states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “Stand Your Ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justifies the accused’s conduct (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law).

A new study by the Tampa Bay Times found that the “Stand Your Ground” defense is more likely to succeed when the victim is black:

 The Tampa Bay Times looked at 200 cases and found that in instances in which the victim was black, the person who invoked the defense went free 73 percent of the time. If the victim was white, the person walked free 59 percent of the time. The report also found that more than two thirds of all the people who invoked the law were acquitted, and that the defense is being invoked in more and more cases.

“People often go free under ‘stand your ground’ in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended,” wrote the Times reporters. “One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.” -Gene Demby

Recently, in Arizona, Daniel Adkins Jr. was shot and killed as he was taking his family dog out for a walk. Cornell Jude has admitted to killing Adkins, but has claimed self-defense under a provision in Arizona law that is similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. According to police reports Jude nearly ran over Adkins near a Taco Bell Drive-thru, Adkins, 29 with the mental capacity of a 13 year old according to his mother, approached the passenger window of the car cursing loudly. Jude and his girlfriend say they saw Adkins swinging what appeared to be a bat at them which is why Jude shot and killed Adkins. Adkins had no bat, he was “armed” with a dog leash.

In Texas, Raul Rodriguez, showed up to his neighbor’s house armed with a pistol when the music got too loud at a party. A conflict soon arose and Rodriguez told a 911 dispatcher that he was “standing his ground” when he shot and killed Kelly Danaher, an elementary school teacher, and wounded two others. Rodriguez is claiming self-defense under Texas’s version of “Stand Your Ground” to justify bringing a pistol to a noise dispute.

According to a Wall Street Journal blog: “Justifiable homicides nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, according to the most recent data available, when 326 were reported. The data, provided by federal and state law enforcement agencies, showed a sharp increase in justifiable homicides occurred after 2005, when Florida and 16 other states passed the laws.” These laws do little to detour crime and has made justifying homicides easier.

Even before Florida’s “Stand Your Ground”, Florida citizens had the right to protect themselves during home invasions. The law extended that right outside the home by eliminating a person’s duty to retreat when faced with imminent threat. The law specifically removes the obligation to retreat, even if an altercation takes place in public (Frances Robles). This law is a prime example of a solution looking for a problem, is not necessary, and should be repealed.

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