Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zimmerman, Alexander and Stand Your Ground.

A lot of fire has been directed at Florida's Stand Your Ground law that was brought to international attention due to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. A lot of this fire comes from "Liberals" who take the position that Stand Your Ground laws are "dangerous" and likely inherently racist. The problem with most of the commentary (and petitions) about Stand Your Ground is that most of it completely mis-represents what the Stand Your Ground provision is actually intended for.

In brief the Stand Your Ground law was passed in Florida in response to a situation that a homeowner found himself in after a hurricane. Under then current Florida law it was only legal for a person to use deadly force against a person if that person was in their home or vehicle. This was a part of the classic English Common law Castle Doctrine. That is, you are free to defend your home and property from harm.

The hurricane had damaged the home and so the owner parked a RV of some sort on his property and was using that for shelter. While he was in that RV a person seeking to loot the owner's property entered the RV and menaced the occupant. The occupant leveled and fired upon the intruder, killing him.

That action put him in a legal quandary. He was not in his home, nor his car, and it was questionable as to whether the RV would be viewed the same way as a home. In response to this the Florida law was enacted allowing a person to defend him or herself from an attack anywhere they had a legal right to be.

Unlike say, NYC where the law is that one is obligated to try to avoid conflict and may only use force if there are no other options available to you, the Stand Your Ground law did not place such a burden on the victim.

Since the law has been enacted it has been reported that more people have been claiming "Self defense" under Stand Your Ground for shootings that we assume would not have been covered. I say assume because since there were no trials, we cannot know for certain how many were bonifide cases of self defense and how many were cases of "dead men tell no tales". This brings us to Zimmerman and Alexander.

George Zimmerman, who is facing trial, has claimed that his actions were covered under Fl. Stand Your Ground statute because he was attacked by Trayvon. Indeed the police initially let him go based on that claim.

In stark contrast we have Marissa Alexander who has been sentenced to 20 years for simply firing a gun at a man who was attacking her, but who has killed no one.

Gray began calling her names, saying "If I can't have you, nobody going to have you," and blocking her from exiting the bathroom.

Alexander pushed past Gray and went into the garage where she got her gun from her car's glove compartment. Gray told prosecutors in the deposition that Alexander came back into the house holding the weapon and told him to leave. He refused, and what happened next is somewhat unclear. In his deposition, Gray said "she shot in the air one time," prompting him and the children to run out the front door. But when Gray called 911 the day of the incident, he said "she aimed the gun at us and she shot."

From the Huffington Post:
A judge threw out Alexander's "stand your ground" self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside.
The contrasts here are clear. In the case of Zimmerman the fact that he exited his vehicle to confront/follow Martin was not seen as an immediate disqualification of the Stand Your Ground defense as it was with Alexander. Clearly if Marissa Alexander was supposed to leave the scene, then Zimmerman too ought to have left the scene. If the court is consistent, the mere fact that Zimmerman left his vehicle will be enough to have him convicted of a crime (though I'm not sure if that would be murder 2).

Secondly, Rico Grey had a restraining order against him. Therefore it was clear to the courts that he was a threat. After all they *approved of the restraining order*. Alexander was in a place she had a right to be retrieving her property with the expectation that she would not confront Grey.

If we look at the origins of Florida's Stand Your Ground statute you'll see that Alexander's position most closely resembles it's original intent. She was in a place she had a right to be in. A man whom was a known threat to her, who should not have been within a certain distance of her appeared, in violation of his restraint order. That made a threat to Alexander that could be taken as a threat to her life. And most importantly, Alexander did not shoot the supposed victim. Rather her "warning shot" had the effect of securing the premises without loss of life, unlike Zimmerman.

If Alexander can be jailed for 20 years for shooting a gun in the vicinity of someone who was threatening her in a place she had a right to be in, One would expect a convicted Zimmmerman to face far more time than that.

In the end though I don't have a problem with "stand your ground" laws. I think citizens ought to maintain their right to defend themselves, their property and others against assault. What needs to happen though is that it should be crystal clear as to what constitutes self defense.