Does the 'Backlash' Against 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Make Sense?

Today Florida Gov. Rick Scott is appointing a task force to examine his state's self-defense law in light of the Trayvon Martin case. Meanwhile, the American Legislative Exchange Council, partly in response to the controversy sparked by George Zimmerman's shooting of Martin, says it will no longer promote "stand your ground" laws like Florida's or get involved in other noneconomic debates. The Wall Street Journal reports that "attempts to pass such laws in Alaska and Iowa were halted after Mr. Martin was killed," adding that "Stand Your Ground opponents are counting on a backlash against the self-defense laws to strengthen their hand in legislative talks." What is the nature of this "backlash," and does it make any sense? Critics tend to conflate several different features of Florida's law, the most prominent of which—the right to "stand your ground"—has nothing to do with Zimmerman's defense as it has been explained so far.

When they amended Florida's self-defense law in 2005, state legislators eliminated the "duty to retreat" for a person attacked in a public place who "reasonably believes" deadly force "is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony." Contrary to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that does not mean people "make their own decisions as to whether someone is threatening or not" and therefore have "a license to murder," since the judgment has to be reasonable, meaning someone who uses deadly force has to show it was justified by the circumstances. In any case, as I've said before, this change does not seem relevant to Zimmerman's defense, since he would have had no opportunity to safely retreat in the circumstances he describes. It might still be true that the right to "stand your ground" and "meet force with force" sometimes encourages an unnecessary escalation of violence or enables guilty people to escape punishment, as critics of the law claim. But to make that case, they must do more than cite increases in the number of justifiable homicides, which you would expect to see even if the law were working exactly as intended. The crucial question is whether these homicides should be deemed justified. 

Right after the law was changed, Brooklyn Law School professor Anthony Sebok argued that establishing a right to stand your ground in public places would have little impact:

Florida is now joining the large number of states who do not value "life" above the right to stand unmolested wherever one wants. It's unlikely, however, that this change will change outcomes in particular cases.

Previously, all Lisa [the defendant] had to do to win her case was argue that she honestly and reasonably believed that she could not retreat safely. Now, she has to argue, instead—somewhat similarly—that she reasonably believed that if she didn't use deadly force, Bob [her attacker] imminently would.

Under either standard, Lisa still has the burden of proof to justify her killing. Also, under either standard, the jury may disbelieve her if there are witnesses around to contradict her story.

Sebok was more troubled by another change: the presumption that anyone who "unlawfully and forcefully" enters someone else's home or vehicle is intent on violence, thereby automatically justifying the use of deadly force. Under the old law, by contrast, "a person who killed someone in their home had the burden of proof to show that they were in fear for their safety." Sebok argued that the new standard attached too little value to human life and could lead to "serious miscarriages of justice." But again, this change played no role in the fight that ended with Trayvon Martin's death.

Two other changes are more relevant to the case against George Zimmerman. Florida's law requires that police have probable cause to believe not only that a homicide was committed but that it was not justified by self-defense. That requirement (which is the same as the standard applied to all other crimes) may have delayed Zimmerman's arrest, although the blame more likely lies with an inadequate investigation. The law, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, also gives Zimmerman a right to a pretrial evidentiary hearing where he can try to convince Judge Kenneth Lester that he acted in self-defense. The standard at the hearing is a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning it is more likely than not that Zimmerman's use of force was justified. If he can meet that burden, he won't go to trial, but if he could meet that burden he would be acquitted in any case*, since the prosecution has to prove the homicide was unlawful beyond a reasonable doubt.

There is room for reasonable people to disagree about the fairness and practical impact of all these provisions. But the Trayvon Martin case has no bearing on the first two, and it hardly counts as a conclusive argument against the second two. Assuming he goes to trial, Zimmerman may be convicted (probably of manslaughter, rather than the second-degree murder charge brought by special prosecutor Angela Corey) and sentenced to prison. Or he may be acquitted if the prosecution does not do a good enough job of refuting his self-defense claim. At the trial stage, Northern Kentucky University law professor Michael J.Z. Mannheimer notes, the same rules apply "in virtually every state." Thus it is hard to see how the outcome of this case, no matter what it is, will tell us whether other states should imitate Florida's self-defense law.

Addendum: Here is a Wisconsin case that may illustrate the "miscarriages of justice" that Sebok worried could result from a reinforced Castle Doctrine: An angry neighbor breaks up a loud party, and the underage drinkers attending it scatter. One teenager, Bo Morrison, makes the fatal mistake of hiding in the neighbor's enclosed porch. The neighbor, Adam Kind, shoots and kills Morrison, then successfully argues that he was defending his home and his family from an intruder. Kind may have genuinely feared for his family's safety, but the fact that he provoked Morrison's flight by violently breaking up a party on someone else's property, kicking in a garage door after police were unsuccessful in gaining entrance, makes him somewhat less sympathetic. Discuss.

[*changed the wording a bit for clarification]

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  • creech||

    Could it be argued that it was Martin who was "standing his ground?" He didn't succeed, but suppose he had emerged alive and Zimmerman dead?
    "I told him I was living nearby and he got in my face and then I got in his and then he threw a punch so I fought back and his gun went off and the bullet hit him."

  • Formerly Almanian||

    ...and this is why we have trials.

    The "facts" keep changing, so I'm interested to see how it all comes out in trial.

    Wouldn't be at all surprised whichever way it goes. Doesn't appear to be a "cleancut" case at all, either way.

  • Azathoth!!||

    The facts have remained constant, as is the case with facts--the opinions, innuendo, and lies have all been endlessly revised.

  • Evil Otto||

    That's a much more contrived scenario, one that forensic evidence would speak to. Especially the part where the trigger somehow gets pulled while the gun is pointed at Zimmerman.

    Zimmerman isn't claiming the shooting was accidental.

  • anon||

    No.

    Next question.

  • TELLMOFF||

    The backlash against "stand your ground" laws makes sense to cowards who would never think about defending themselves.

  • o3||

    how 'bout if the NBPP starts offing unarmed crackers & claiming SYG?

  • TELLMOFF||

    Is you be speaking ebonics?

  • Anacreon||

    Q. Who was the first transsexual to speak Ebonics?

    A. Susan B. Anthony

  • Formerly Almanian||

    Yep, it always helps to make the law more and more complicated, until no one knows what's legal and what's not. ESPECIALLY when it's a knee-jerk reaction to current, emotional events which may or may not have any bearing on or relationship to what's being changed.

    What's that saying: "High-profile cases - especially those that allow us to attach some child's name to a law - generally result in the most-helpful, best-thought-out law." I think that's it.

    Cheers, Florida! Yay for "Trayvon's Law"!

    Anyone besides me remember that little black girl killed by the LEO's in Detroit when they were filming some fucking reality show a while back? No? Didnt't hink so - she was just little, and LEO's did it. And I don't think the shooter was a "white hispanic", whatever that is.

  • Formerly Almanian||

    I think of that little girl every time the race hustlers start in. Bonus - the shooter was a LEO in that case. But they're also absent when it's neighborhood gang crime (read: "same race vic and perp").

    And more like her all the time. Detroit's a sad, dangerous place for kids...but it's the suburbs' fault...

  • fresno dan||

    I'm with you. All the laws in the world won't negate stupid cops, stupid prosecutors, and stupid jurors.
    I will have to turn in my libertarian decoder ring, but I think for the most part restricting gun carrying is a good thing. I look at my fellow citizens, and I just don't think they're intelligent or careful enough to handle carrying a loaded gun around.
    As far as self defense, and duty to retreat, if retreating was such a great thing to do, why do we have any crime at all? Because your either too slow to retreat, or you put yourself in great danger by turning your back on someone who means you harm. And by definition in self defense, you kill PRIOR to them killing you...

  • R C Dean||

    Sure, our fellows are idiots, to a large degree. But the ones who are carrying guns that you don't want carrying guns won't be stopped by a law.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    While I share your overall negative assessment of our fellow citizens, I strongly disagree with the idea that our rights should be determined by the lowest common denominator. I think there are better solutions than legal restrictions.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I just don't think they're intelligent or careful enough to handle carrying a loaded gun around.

    You do understand that laws against doing so aren't going to prevent the people you'd probably least like being armed from being armed, right?

  • Zeb||

    I don't know why people have so much trouble with "white Hispanic". It means just what it says. Hispanic is a linguistic and cultural designation, not a racial one. So Hispanics can be of any race. Those of mostly European descent are white Hispanics.

  • Liquid Ass||

    His mother was Colombian or some such thing. He looks Hispanic.

  • kinnath||

    According to an article yesterday, his mother was from Peru.

  • Evil Otto||

    Most South Americans outside of Brazil are relatively light-skinned as the Spanish pretty much wiped out the natives there (unlike in Mexico where they mixed with them).

  • Azathoth!!||

    Because, if he had his mother's surname he would simply have been described as 'hispanic'. He would never have been called white--because he's not and doesn't look it. In the video of his charging, he's nearly the same color as the black officer standing near him.

    'White hispanic' was invented when the media got a picture to go along with the name George Zimmerman--said picture arriving AFTER the stories about the evil white guy stalking and killing the defenseless black toddler had already been plastered all over.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Bullshit. Hispanic is someone of south american descent (which is usually a mix of eurpoean and south american indians). If he was actually of european portuguese or spanish descent, he's be white, just white. White hispanic was created to make sure that all of us know that it was a white person that perpetrated this, not a hispanic descent person.

  • Evil Otto||

    Nope, people from Spain and Portugal are considered Hispanic.

  • Malvolio||

    The reason some of have trouble with this is that the phrase seems to have been coined just for Zimmerman. The MSM called him just "white" for as long as they could get away with it, and when that became untenable, invented this new description.

  • Anacreon||

    It's an issue because no one in the media EVER referred to anyone as a "white Hispanic" prior to this. They needed Zimmerman to be as white as possible so it fit the racism narrative.

  • Drake||

    I thought these laws were a defense against civil suits (i.e. wounding a burglar who then sues you).

  • R C Dean||

    Outside of the concern troll BosWash media, and perhaps their race-hustling confreres, is there a backlash?

  • o3||

    go axe ALEC...who aint 10 sponsers tall

  • R C Dean||

    ALEC handed off their lobbying on this to a different organization because they got race-hustled.

    So, no, they are not an example of a backlash outside of the race-hustlers and concern troll media.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The only reason Team Blue hates ALEC is their pro-capitalism stance.

    The SYG thing is just an excuse for hatin' on ALEC.

  • ||

    The standard at the hearing is a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning it is more likely than not that Zimmerman's use of force was justified. If he can meet that burden, he won't go to trial, but even if he did he would be acquiited, since the prosecution has to prove the homicide was unlawful beyond a reasonable doubt.

    re this part: "but even if he did he would be acquiited"

    well, no. it is possible for a judge to dismiss based on "preponderance of the evidence" in a case that, if it went to trial, could result in a guilty verdict based on "beyond a reasonable doubt". The jury of people decidedly not your peers left after judges have excused potential jurors allegedly "for cause" and both the prosecuting and defense attorneys have utilized pre-emptory strikes to dismiss can be quite unrepresentative of the populace.

  • Jacob Sullum||

    Sorry. My wording was ambiguous. What I meant was that if Zimmerman could show it was more likely than not that he acted in self-defense, he would be acquitted even if he had to go through a trial.

  • Jacob Sullum||

    I get your point. Make that "should be acquitted."

  • ||

    Legislating by anecdote is what politicians do. Next question.

  • anon||

    I know most of the people here have a certain disdain for LEOs, so here's a cool story:

    http://www.fox16.com/news/stor.....TKyhw.cspx

    Long story short: Off duty cop gets killed while terrorizing citizen at a gas station; prosecutor finds killing justified

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Hunter said that Holcomb [the cop] also did not commit any crimes with his actions that day, saying "his error was simply that he failed to communicate the fact that he was a law enforcement officer. He was in plain clothes, and his badge was in his back pocket."

    He'd have been fine terrorizing the citizen if he had let the citizen know that doing so was his job, apparently.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    has nothing to do with Zimmerman's defense as it has been explained so far.

    Didn't the police originally say they released him without charge based on their understanding of the self-defense statute?

  • Mo||

    Hard to trust that they did anything close to a thorough investigation. They didn't identify the body, despite Martin having a cell phone with him.

  • AZ||

    Seriously the citation of "stand your ground" was probably just cover for their complete failure in investigation.

    How depressingly fitting it will be when police incompetence leads to yet further dimunition of individuals' right to self-defense.

  • ||

    IIANM, the cops wanted to arrest Zimmerman. It was the state Attorney who declined to charge him.

    The fact that Zimmerman was brought to the police station in handcuffs leads me to speculate that the cops did not buy his self defense claim. Absent clear evidence to the contrary shooters claiming self defense will be transported away from the scene (to protect the evidence among other things. Also because shooters are offten distraught after the act and the cops are unwilling to be responsible for what they might do if left alone) but not in handcuffs.

  • Not an Economist||

    Has it been verified that the cops wanted to arrest Zimmerman? There is so much wrong information out there it is hard to tell.
    As far as the handcuffs, well the guy just shot one, so the police may have thought that putting him in handcuffs was the safe thing to do, just in case.

  • ||

    There have been reports to the effect that the lead investigator from the Sanford PD wanted to arrest Zimmerman but the State Attorney vetoed it.

    Sanford PD's policy may be different but from people I have talked to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office policy is to not handcuff anyone unless they are actually being arrested.

  • Not an Economist||

    But they did the next morning when Martin's dad called to report him missing. Not the three days initially reported. And I don't know whether there was anything easily identifiable on the cell phone so they may have needed a warrant to ask the cell phone company who the phone was registered to.

  • Azathoth!!||

    No.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    prosecutors charge suspects, police don't

  • ||

    But the police can arrest and/or hold someone while the prosecutor is making up his mind.

    But yes, it's true the cops can only hold a suspect for so long. And if the prosecutor says no, they pretty much have to let him go.

  • Liquid Ass||

    "Your comment contains a word that is too long."

    No. No it doesn't.

  • ||

    You'd better flush out your head, new guy. This isn't about freedom; this is a slaughter. If I'm gonna get my balls filtered off for a word, my word is "poontang".

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    filtered eh? What size strainer would that require?

  • ||

    Word on the street is, Warty's got the balls to cum in a dump truck.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Here is a Wisconsin case"

    A tragic case, but if the summary is accurate, it sounds like the teenager could have avoided getting shot by taking a few precautions - or any one out of the list of precuations:

    -Staying sober
    -avoiding bad companions
    -not trespassing

    As for the homeowner, should he have gone to prison for failing to guess that the guy who broke into his house had an innocent motive and wasn't meaning any harm?

  • Mo||

    Kind trespassed first.

  • nicole||

    Yeah, sounds like the best precaution the teenager could have taken would have been to have shot Kind himself first. I mean that's gotta take balls--you break into someone's house, and then when someone breaks back into yours right after, you shoot him.

  • Evil Otto||

    Those are two different "someones" since it wasn't Morrison's garage that Kind kicked the door of.

    And kicking in a door of a garage in full view of the occupants and walking away is much less threatening than lurking about on someone's porch.

  • R C Dean||

    Based on my years of living in Wisconsin, I would be shocked to learn that the homeowner/shooter was himself sober during the incident.

  • Killazontherun||

    You'll have to forgive the liberals of whom an opportunity to exploit a personal tragedy to make obtuse laws give a raging hard-on. They have not had an opportunity like this since Columbine. More than a decade of roadblocks derailing their desire to take your most fundamental rights away, like that all too inconvenient to the orderly goals of the state right of self preservation, is almost an inhuman level of defeat to endure so the Ugliness Parade is quite understandable on their part.

  • Paul.||

    Meanwhile, the American Legislative Exchange Council, partly in response to the controversy sparked by George Zimmerman's shooting of Martin, says it will no longer promote "stand your ground" laws like Florida's or get involved in other noneconomic debates.

    Does this mean we're going to see a sudden rise in "Lie Back and Enjoy It" laws?

  • lightning||

    The really ironic aspect of this is the fact that blacks suffer from violent crime more than any other group (according to statistics) and due to this will now have limited means now to defend themselves.

  • LarryA||

    Not only that, but blacks are more likely to be arrested and heavily prosecuted for the same action.

  • lightning||

    The Wisconsin case makes the shooter, "...somewhat less sympathetic" is again a misunderstanding of self-defense laws. It truly does NOT matter who started the altercation. This is true in any state regardless of whether they have adopted the Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, or use the old escape if you can. Why? Because in the Wisconsin case one could argue that the kid could have and should have GONE HOME (ie escaped). The fact that he did not is in and of itself a threatening gesture to a reasonable person. Forgive the use of caps but I am truly sick and tired of people misunderstanding the law. Self-defense is allowed when you have a limited/no means of escape and you are in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. Limited escape means you have a condition that makes escape unreasonable: children with you, you are physically infirm, or a gun is involved (which can hit you wether you escape or not).

  • Mo||

    "The fact that he did not is in and of itself a threatening gesture to a reasonable person. Forgive the use of caps but I am truly sick and tired of people misunderstanding the law. Self-defense is allowed when you have a limited/no means of escape and you are in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury."

    A kid hiding in a covered porch is a threatening gesture? You and I seem to have a different definition of "reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury". Based on the story as published it sounds like Kind is a dangerous hothead. Would his neighbors be justified in shooting him the second he trespasses on their property because he's shown a propensity to violently kick down garage doors and kill over a mere noise complaint.

  • Evil Otto||

    The "kid" was 20 years old. And hiding does not imply cowering; Kind claims the guy moved toward him when he was discovered.

  • Mo||

    Of course he does. Let's say, hypothetically, that he killed the kid* in cold blood. What do you think he would tell the police?

    http://vodpod.com/watch/113000.....rk-studios

    * I call 23 year old pro athletes "kids", too. Get off my lawn

  • Evil Otto||

    Holy begging the question, Batman.

    If Trayvon told his mom before leaving the house that he wanted to go to a gated community to kill a White Hispanic with his bare hands, what do you think she'd tell the media?

  • Mo||

    You're going to need more than an iced tea and a bag of Skittles to pull that off.

  • lightning||

    Why is he "hiding" on someone else's property? Especially when that someone is some old fart that just broke up your frat party? Is it so unreasonable to think that Jr. may be a little drunk and want to get some revenge?

  • R C Dean||

    It truly does NOT matter who started the altercation.

    I think in at least some states, it does.

    And if it doesn't, it should. The aggressor should never be able to claim self-defense.

    Otherwise, you have a situation where someone starts a fistfight, gets their ass kicked, and therefor has a free pass to pull a gun and grease the guy they started the fight with.

    And that's not self-defense. The fact that the FL law is actually written this way is a major problem with it, IMO.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    And if he starts a fistfight, is kicking the other guy's ass, and the other guy goes to work on him with crowbar?

    It's hard to work up too much sympathy for someone who starts a fight, but I'm not sure that starting a fight means you can then be beaten to death.

  • lightning||

    "The agressor should never be able to claim self-defense"

    Really? How about when the agressor is drunk? Incapacitated? Suffering from mental illness? These folks should just be beat to a pulp and killed by others? This is why so many states use the "need to escape" rule. It is meant to protect people everyone including certain aggressors.

  • LarryA||

    Under Texas law, and I expect many other states, you cannot justify the use of force if you provoked the force used against you. And the provocation doesn't have to be physical. And if you can't justify force, you can't justify deadly force.

    Also, the Texas "no retreat" provision doesn't apply if you provoked the attack.

  • LarryA||

    Under Texas law, and I expect many other states, you cannot justify the use of force if you provoked the force used against you. And the provocation doesn't have to be physical. And if you can't justify force, you can't justify deadly force.

    Also, the Texas "no retreat" provision doesn't apply if you provoked the attack.

  • LarryA||

    I swear, one click.

  • lightning||

    Also NO one has the automatic right to "pull a gun and grease the guy". You have to be in a situation that is hard to escape and be in fear of your life. Being in a fight by itself does NOT involve the circumstances I mentioned that are crucial to self-defense. There are fights that you can safely leave.

  • Paul.||

    Limited escape means you have a condition that makes escape unreasonable: children with you, you are physically infirm, or a gun is involved (which can hit you wether you escape or not).

    Or you're conveniently between the only exit and the intruder.

    "He came at me, officer, I had no choice... if I could take it all back..."

  • Evil Otto||

    Maybe the intruder should just wait for the police to arrive.

    Last I checked there's no legal right to escape the scene of the crime.

  • lightning||

    Unfortunately, then you go to jail, because in the situation you discribe you can escape. Gun owners are taught that scenario constantly due to some being sent to jail because they didn't escape and shot the intruder.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    The circumstances surrounding the shooting are a little different than if the shooter was woken up in the middle of the night by an intruder. The homeowner was was at the very least negligent in discharging his firearm given the circumstances.

  • Evil Otto||

    20-year-old guy (NOT A KID) lurks about on your porch after you just had a confrontation with a bunch of rowdy partygoers and approaches you when you discover him... not negligent discharge.

  • lightning||

    By the way, self-defense is used most often in assault cases, where often the question of who started what is often not clear and cannot be determined. The only time that a person's actions come into play regarding self-defense is IF they in some way blocked escape for themselves and the other person. Otherwise, it is incumbent upon both parties involved in an assault to "escape" the situation if at all possible. What often happens is that due to the presence of a gun, neither party feels safe turning their back and leaving. This is why people with conceal carry permits are told to NEVER draw your weapon unless you intend to use it.

  • R C Dean||

    By the way, self-defense is used most often in assault cases, where often the question of who started what is often not clear and cannot be determined.

    This is a fair point, although I wonder how so many assault cases get brought if it is often not clear who the aggressor is.

    Regardless, when it is known who the aggressor is, I don't think he should ever be able to claim self-defense.

    You start a fight, you assume the risk that you will lose it. You never lose your status as the aggressor, until that fight definitively ends. Then, if your victim still wants an(other) piece of you, and starts a second fight, the initial aggressor becomes the victim, and can claim self-defense.

  • lightning||

    My understanding is that in a run of the mill assault case, both the aggressor and victim have a duty to escape. Also there is the reality that in most garden variety fist-fights, you can't truly claim self-defense (unless like Zimmerman a guy is sitting on your chest pounding your head into the pavement) since most wouldn't make most reasonable people fear for life/limb. Getting your butt kicked is not the same as fearing for your life or believing said beat down will incapacitate you for life. Also in most assaults the state can actually choose to charge both victim and aggressor for engaging in the fight.

  • LarryA||

    You seem to be basing your comments on cases where two people started fighting. At least in Texas you can't justify use of force if you walked into a fight.

    SYG is more for cases where a criminal attacks an innocent person.

    Here the "duty to retreat" is based on two premises:
    1. You can retreat.
    2. The criminal will not pursue.

    An anti-gun, anti-self-defense prosecutor views this as "If you injured or killed the criminal you should have retreated. If you believe there was no way to retreat you just didn't try hard enough. If there was actually no way to retreat, then you should have surrendered and given the criminal what he wanted. I'm going to prosecute you, to teach you a lesson about using force, instead of relying on the police. (Who actually have no duty to protect you as an individual, but I won't tell the jury that.)"

    Then he will drop a hint to the criminal's next-of-kin that they should file a civil suit against you for wrongly killing their beloved family member (with a long record of violent crimes) who was just turning his life around.

    SYG laws were first proposed to prevent exactly this kind of tactic, designed to make successfully defending yourself only slightly better than getting killed.

  • LarryA||

    The problems with the two premises are:
    1. No criminal wants you to escape. It's "Your money or your life!" not "Your money or run away." I've heard many self-defense stories, both from CHLs and from survivors of sexual assault* and other violence. The possibility of retreating from a criminal attack is rare.

    * Yes, back in the 80s when I first volunteered with a rape crisis agency there were men who would advise women, "Don't fight back, that way you won't get hurt." Not all men have learned how wrong that is.

    2. If you give a robber your wallet it is certainly unreasonable for him to continue attacking you. Unfortunately violent crime is not a terribly reasonable avocation, and doesn't attract terribly reasonable practitioners. Once you make yourself helpless or try to flee, a hardened street criminal looks at you the way a mountain lion would a deer with a broken leg. IOW as his lunch.

    The SYG premise is "If a criminal attacks you and you successfully and justifiably defend yourself, you shouldn't be prosecuted, and the criminal or his NOK shouldn't be able to sue you."

    What part of that do you disagree with?

    (CHARACTER LIMITS SUCK)

  • lightning||

    My comments are actually based on the difficulty one has in establishing an aggressor. One can question exactly how many fights outside of teenage years are two folks who are the "meet me outside in ten minutes" and both go. Most fights/assaults are a result of a perceived slight, perceived disrespect, argument, etc. In these circumstances both parties often claim the the other guy started it, escalated it, or created the threat. That and in my previous comment I acknowledged that self-defense cannot always be used as a defense in all assaults. My main point throughout all my comments is that a person needs to reasonably believe that they cannot escape and that they are facing death or serious bodily injury (such that they cannot work anymore). My assertion is that this concept is lost in the Zimmerman case due to folks being concerned with "who started it". This goes to perception subjective judgement. In Zimmerman's case, one can argue that Martin perceived a threat by being followed by Zimmerman, and Zimmerman can also feel threatened by the fact that once he stopped following Martin and went back to his truck he was assaulted. As reasonable adults we can see where both men could claim the other started it. Yet it doesn't matter because self-defense was employed only when Zimmerman was being straddled by Martin and his head was being pounded into the pavement. Any action prior to ths instance would NOT qualify for self-defense.

  • LarryA||

    By the way, self-defense is used most often in assault cases, where often the question of who started what is often not clear and cannot be determined.

    Cite? At least in Texas the "two guys in a bar decide to go outside and settle it like men" situations don't justify use of force for either of them.

    Of the many stories I see where self-defense is successfully claimed, most of the time it's a criminal attempting to assault, rob, rape, or murder a crime victim situation. The fact that only one of them has a criminal record seems persuasive. For examples see the NRA's Armed Citizen db.

    (The squirrels don't like the link)

  • lightning||

    Again, I never said that ALL assault cases can utilize self-defense, merely that it is utilized as a defense in assault cases. The reason why I made this comment was due to those who felt that since Zimmerman followed Martin (ie "started it"), he had zero right to utilize self-defense. Self-defense is authorized when there is no escape and you are in fear of death/serious bodily harm. Example of this being used in assault cases: Domestic violence, escalation of a fist-fight when one party draws a gun, and last but not least, the Zimmerman case. Once Martin climbed on Zimmerman's chest - escape became impossible. Fear of serious bodily harm occurred once he started pounding Z's head into the pavement. Up until this point you would be correct that this would be a simple assault situation and self-defense could NOT be used. However the act of sitting on someone's chest and pounding their head into the pavement meets all the criteria of self-denfense regardless of who started what.

  • Diomasach||

    Of course, it makes perfect sense.
    The Left made Taryvon a martyr and whipped people into a racially biased frenzy over the "cold blooded murder" of the "innocent child" and fully intends to capitalize on that frenzy by using it to push for gun control and to further disarm the public.
    After all, like the great and powerful O said; never let a crisis go to waste...

  • lightning||

    LarryA, forgot to mention thanks for trying a link to NRA's Armed citizen club; I don't think Reason allows such links anymore. The good new is I am an NRA member, which is why I commentted so much on this story. Knowledge of self-defense and when it can be used in critical, and I have found that too many people feel that if it is perceived that a "person started it" they give up the right to self-defense. Which, as an NRA member, you know is not necessarily true. Every situation is unique, and every time a gun owner needs to draw his weapon and use it is a true tragedy. Zimmerman's situation is a perfect illustration of how a simple situation can escalate into a fatal confrontation. My hope is that if people understand the components of self-defense they will be less likely to escalate similar situations in the future.

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