An off-shoot of the Castle Doctrine, "Stand Your Ground," is getting a lot of attention in Florida. Last month, a neighborhood watch organizer in Orlando shot an killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy, saying he felt threatened by the young man.
The young man's uncle sums up the fundamental question regarding the 'stand your ground' law--"What gave him the right to think he was judge, jury and executioner?"
The answer to his question may be simple: the state of Florida, which in 2005
enacted one of the nation's strongest so-called "stand your ground" self-defense
laws. According to the statute,
a person in Florida is justified in using deadly force against another if he or
she "reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great
bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a
Was Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, posing a threat to the shooter, George Zimmerman's life? We
may never know for sure, but in Florida - and a growing number of states - what
matters isn't whether or not Martin was actually a threat, only that Zimmerman
"reasonably" believed he was.
But what is reasonable? Ekow Yankah, an associate professor of criminal law
at Cardozo School of Law in New York, says that to some people, it is reasonable
to be suspicious of a young black man walking alone in the dark, reported CBS News.
"We have to decide what counts as 'reasonable' to be afraid of, and nobody
should pretend that that isn't socially and culturally loaded," Yankah told CBS.
Gregory O'Meara, an associate professor of law at Marquette University School
of Law, agrees.
"These 'stand your ground' laws license pistol-packing urban cowboys and
paranoid people," O'Meara told CBS. "We've all been trained to be afraid of black men, and if you're
afraid enough that justifies everything."
But Allen County, Indiana prosecutor Karen Richards, who has prosecuted cases
involving claims of self-defense, told CBS that the new laws simply "solidify what
juries were feeling anyway. If you're in a place where you have a right to be
and you have a reasonable belief you need to use deadly force, juries don't
think you need to retreat."
According to CBS, legislatures in Iowa, Nebraska and Alaska are considering bills
that would similarly expand where, when and how a citizen can kill someone they
perceive as trying to harm them. Bucking the trend, on March 5 Minnesota's
governor vetoed a bill that would have expanded the places in which a citizen
could use deadly force.
In Oklahoma, which passed a "stand your ground" law in 2006, the new language
made it easy for law enforcement to clear 19-year-old Sarah McKinley, who shot and killed a man trying to break into her Oklahoma home
on New Year's Eve. McKinley was immediately hailed as a hero. The situation was
less clear cut when pharmacist Jerome Erlsand shot one of the
young men who tried to rob the Oklahoma City drugstore where he worked in 2009.
Ersland shot 16-year-old Antwun Parker in the head, chased his accomplice out,
then returned and shot Parker five more times as the teen lay on the floor.
Ersland pleaded self-defense, but was convicted of first-degree murder and
sentenced to life in prison, reported CBS.
To read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57398005-504083/the-trayvon-martin-case-exposes-the-realities-of-a-new-generation-of-self-defense-laws/?tag=cbsContent;carouselBar
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