Stand Your Ground

Citing George Zimmerman's Acquittal As a Reason to Repeal 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Is a Non Sequitur


Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Today Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother,  said she believed Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law "assisted the person who killed my son to get away with murder." She did not explain how, which is hardly surprising, since George Zimmerman's defense was not based on the absence of a duty to retreat for people attacked in public places. Rather, it was a classic self-defense claim that could have been successful in any state. Fulton nevertheless insists "we have to change these laws so people don't get away with murder."

It is not hard to understand why a grieving mother might want to give her son's death some meaning by tying it to a broader cause, no matter how illogical the connection. But the leaders of the National Bar Association (NBA), the African-American lawyers' group that sponsored the event in Miami at which Fulton spoke, surely know better. They nevertheless are throwing their support behind a campaign to repeal "stand your ground" laws, citing Martin's shooting as justification. "Stand your ground laws must fall," says NBA President John E. Page. "It is time to stand up—stand up against 'stand your ground' laws and stand up in the memory of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, and so many others whose killings were carried out by gun violence and justified by these senseless laws. We must not allow anyone to succumb to violence at the hands of vigilantes who devalue human life."

When The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo pointed out that Zimmerman could have successfully used exactly the same defense before Florida's "stand your ground" law was enacted in 2005, Page replied, "Why do you need the law then? There is a common-law right to protect yourself." But since that common-law right was all Zimmerman needed to be acquitted, why is Page citing his case as an example of the injustices caused by "stand your ground" laws? Page's response is tantamount to admitting that his publicity campaign is based on a lie.

The shooting of Jordan Davis, which Page also mentioned, seems like a more promising example. Davis, a black teenager, was a passenger in a Dodge Durango on which Michael David Dunn, a middle-aged white man, fired at a Jacksonville gas station last year. Dunn had asked Davis to turn down the loud music playing on the SUV's stereo, which led to an argument that ended in Davis' death. Dunn claimed he saw someone aim a shotgun at him from a window of the vehicle, although police did not find any weapons. This is a case where the absence of a duty to retreat might be important, since Dunn arguably could have left the gas station instead of drawing his gun. But it is a bit premature to say that Dunn's killing of Davis was "justified" by the "stand your ground" law, since he was charged with first-degree murder the day after the shooting and has not been tried yet.

Bizarrely, the NBA statement also mentions Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was killed by gunfire at a Chicago park in January. The suspects, 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams, told police they mistook Pendleton's friends for members of a rival gang. It is true, though not widely recognized, that Illinois imposes no duty to retreat on people attacked in public places. But unless Ward and Williams plan to claim they shot Pendleton in self-defense after she attacked them, it is hard to see what "stand your ground" has to do with this case.

Enough with the phony examples. If critics of "stand your ground" laws can find cases where people really did get away with murder because of the changes made to Florida's self-defense law in 2005, they should talk about those. When they say "stand your ground" laws should be repealed to honor the memories of Trayvon Martin and Hadiya Pendleton, they are literally talking nonsense.

And yes, it is still nonsense if you cite the jury instructions or the interview with Juror B37, neither of which shows that Zimmerman's acquittal hinged on his utterly irrelevant right to stand his ground while he was pinned to it and pummeled.

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  1. Irrelevant to the case, an amazingly dumb request if you look at the statistics for black defendants.

    1. Said with all due respect to the grieving parents. I can’t blame them for wanting to make sense out of all of this, and there’s little doubt they’ll be taken advantage of.

      1. Hell, they are taking advantage of this. A dead son has turned into a gold mine for them. They’ll have speaking fees and nonprofit salaries and etc. for the rest of their lives.

    2. Since when do gun control activists have Black folks’ interest in mind?

      1. Who does? Seriously, if I were black, I’d fucking vote against these people attempting to speak for me, because it’s been obvious for decades that they don’t. Not even a little bit.

  2. Front Line tried to gin up some “evidence” that Stand Your Ground leads to whites getting away with killing blacks at a disproportionate rate a while back. They came up with a statistic that SYG leads to whites killing blacks being 354% more likely to be acquitted than in non-SYG states. Sound bad, right?

    The problem was that their master statistician was guilty of some pretty bad malpractice: over the entire period he examined (2005?2009) there were only *25* examples in the entire nation of whites pleading self defense in killing blacks (average of five cases per year, split between SYG and non-SYG states) so he was nowhere near statistical significance. The most he could have said that would have been true was “these events are so rare that we cannot draw any conclusions about the impact of SYG laws”.

    So these sorts of arguments by (irrelevant) anecdote are par for the course in these discussions. If SYG is helping people get away with murder, it is amazingly uncommon and ineffective at doing what its opponents accuse it of doing. It certainly has not been a “license” for whites to murder blacks.

    So even if they get rid of SYG, it won’t change anything for its opponents. It would be, at most, a hollow victory.

    1. Source here

      Read the article if you want to see how a news organization tries to deliberately gin statistics into something and hide just how weak they are: they hide the problem of their small sample, wave their hands around it a bit to downplay concerns about it, and they avoid giving any relevant absolute numbers, which would have made it obvious how pathetic their case was.

      1. Hey, its a chart that ‘proves’ that for it to be a crime there has to be a black person involved. Notice how there’s no ‘white vs white’ for comparison.

        1. There isn’t anything there except numbers that are selected to reach the scariest possible conclusion (and also the most indefensible set possible out of that data set). I think that article should be used as a textbook case of how not to do statistics.

  3. Black girl’s got a second white ear behind her right one. I’m amazed that, given the high-profile nature of this case, this interesting fact never came out.

    1. If the media let on that Trayvon’s mother was multi-racial multi-eared, it would ruin the narrative.

    2. I wondered about that, too.

  4. I’m left wondering several things.

    Why, if “little Trayvon” was so frightened of the creepy ass cracker, did he not run straight to his father’s girlfriend’s house (something indicated as totally possible for him) and lock the door? Even if he could not reach safety, why did he not call 911, instead of gassing with his girlfriend? And no, I don’t buy the “he was scared the homo would break in and rape his dad’s girlfriend’s 12 yo kid”.

    Also, if Trayvon’s father is this model of a concerned parent, why did he not find out about the shooting until late the next day?

    Sounds like someone’s trying to assuage a pile of parental guilt at someone else’s expense.

    1. There is a macho aspect of ghetto culture that says you must confront anyone who disses you. Martin, being a young thug, was hardly going to say to his girlfriend: “I just ran home and am safe now.” It’s much more likely he said “I’m going to teach that cracker a lesson.”

      Trayvon’s father seems to be (or was) a Crip.

  5. When they say “stand your ground” laws should be repealed to honor the memories of Trayvon Martin and Hadiya Pendleton, they are literally talking nonsense.

    But, but…. Life is precious…and God…. and the Bible

  6. “he was scared the homo would break in and rape”
    So Trayvon was profiling a white man out by himself at night as gay?
    Why is this kind of profiling apparently o.k. with Mr. Martin’s supporters? Is Homophobic bigotry now acceptable?

    1. Is Homophobic bigotry now acceptable?

      Well yeah. Just as long as it isn’t the Christfag Rethuglikkkans doing it.

  7. The squirrel followed the giraffe.

  8. OH gimme a break, the kid was a thug plain and simple!

  9. Perhaps Ms. Davis should look into the her son’s abuse of “Lean” or “Sizzurp” which he died with two of the three key ingredients on him. Side effects are paranoia and increased aggression. You know, like beating the shit out of a creepy-ass cracker/homo/rapist?

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