Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ABA: Stand Your Ground Increases Homicides

A yearlong national study by the American Bar Association National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws found that Stand Your Ground laws increase homicides, have no deterrent on serious crimes, result in racial disparities in the criminal justice system and impede law enforcement.
Since the nation’s first Stand Your Ground legislation was signed into law by then Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005, a total of 33 states now have similar laws. Stand Your Ground has changed the legal definition of self-defense because it eliminates the duty to retreat rule. It has been part of the public debate since the February 2012 fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty a year later in a highly publicized trial.
The study revealed five key findings and resulted in a number of recommendations. The findings were:
  • Stand Your Ground states experienced an increase in homicides.
  • Multiple states have attempted to repeal or amend Stand Your Ground laws.
  • The law’s application is unpredictable, uneven and results in racial disparities.
  • A person’s right to self-defense was sufficiently protected prior to Stand Your Ground.
  • Victims’ rights are undermined in states with statutory immunity from criminal prosecution and civil suit related to Stand Your Ground cases.
Among the report’s 11 recommendations were that states repeal or do not enact Stand Your Ground laws, training for law enforcement agencies on best practices for investigating Stand Your Ground cases, and that states with statutory immunity provisions related to Stand Your Ground modify them to eliminate civil immunity provisions.
One of the most telling failures of the Stand Your Ground laws for panelist and task force member David A. Harris, a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, is that the law has had the opposite effect of what it was intended to be.
“The Stand Your Ground law was sold on the basis that it would lower serious crime and, in particular, it would lower homicide rates. Those were the two promises,” Harris said. Citing two separate university studies done at Texas A&M and Georgia Tech with data collected from 2000-2010, it did not lower serious crime and homicide rates increased in both studies.
“In the Texas A&M study homicide rates increased by 8 percent,” Harris said. “If your city went up 8 percent in murders do you think there would be a little excitement down at city hall? Yeah, I think so.”
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