Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Stand Your Ground Rears Its Head in Missouri, Again

Matthew T. Mangino
Creators Syndicate
March 4, 2024

More than a century ago, the United States Supreme Court defined limits on the First Amendment. In 1919, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote that freedom of speech "would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." Maybe a jurist in Missouri will soon say that the Second Amendment does not give one the right to spray gunfire into a crowd celebrating a Super Bowl win.

According to police affidavits, the man arrested for firing the first shots at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Rally told authorities he felt threatened, while a second shooter said he fired because someone was shooting at him.

According to The New York Times, experts suggest that even though the shooting left one bystander dead and two dozen people injured, the two shooters might have good cases for self-defense through the Missouri's "stand your ground" law.

Florida passed the first stand-your-ground law in 2005, expanding on what was known as the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine permitted the use of deadly force within one's home without first attempting to retreat.

Florida's stand-your-ground law stated "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force 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 forcible felony." Missouri's law mirrors the Florida statute.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, laws in at least 28 states provide that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker anywhere in which one is lawfully present. At least 10 of those states have language stating one may stand his or her ground.

In probably the best known, and most controversial, stand your ground case, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch in Sanford, Florida. Although his lawyers originally sought a stand your ground defense, his defense team merely raised self-defense. In 2013, he was acquitted by a jury of six women.

Maybe less known, but equally disturbing, was the retired Florida police officer who shot and killed a man inside a movie theater after a dispute over cellphone use, reported The New York Times.

A jury of four men and two women found Curtis J. Reeves Jr. not guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Chad W. Oulson in 2014, in a movie theater near Tampa.

Reeves' legal team argued that he acted in self-defense when he fired on Oulson, who had tossed a bag of popcorn on Reeves.

Missouri's stand your ground law was enacted in 2016. The mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Rally could be a new test of those expanded protections. However, Kansas City already has a high-profile stand your ground shooting to contend with in the meantime.

Eighty-four-year-old Andrew Lester was charged with two felony counts of assault and armed criminal action after he shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, a high school student who rang his doorbell by accident

Yarl was trying to pick up his siblings around 9:45 p.m. when he mistook Lester's home for a home where his siblings were waiting. Yarl rang the doorbell, Lester opened the door and said "Don't come back around here" and shot Yarl in the head through the door.

Lester's trial is set to begin in October of this year, and could be a prelude to the anticipated Super Bowl Celebration stand your ground defense.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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