Tampa Bay Times Finds "Stand Your Ground" Law to Be Totally Wacko

Categories: Broward News
hippo-chase.jpg
Sometimes, "standing your ground" means chasing a guy and hippo-crushing him.
It looks to be a coincidence that the Tampa Bay Times published an analysis of Florida stand-your-ground cases on the same day George "Fib About PayPal" Zimmerman got tossed back in the clink, but it would have been a good read either way.

A poll last week showed that only 35 percent of Floridians are opposed to the law, which removes the duty to retreat and removes civil liability in cases where it applies. Self-defense and stand-your-ground cases come up all the time, as we pointed to earlier this year when we found two potential cases in Broward County in the same week.

The Times reviewed almost 200 more cases in Florida and found -- surprise! -- the law is applied in wildly unpredictable ways. It's definitely worth reading the whole thing, but here are five of the most interesting tidbits it unearthed:

1. "Stand Your Ground" is a great way to get out of charges.
Almost 70 percent of those who claimed they stood their ground went free.

2. It's an even better defense if you kill a black person.
Among defendants who killed a black person, 73 percent weren't charged. Among those who killed while folks, the number dropped to 59 percent.

3. You can start the altercation and still get off.
Contrary to what has been reported over and over again since Trayvon Martin was killed, "people often go free under 'stand your ground' in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended," write reporters Kris Hundley, Susan Taylor Martin, and Connie Humburg. They found cases in which a man shot somebody who was lying on the ground, more than one in which those killed were shot in the back, and, in "nearly a third of the cases," defendants "initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim -- and still went free."

4. Prosecutors, police, and judges can pretty much do whatever they want with the law.
In addition to analysis, the Times piece rattles off a bunch of "stand your ground" cases to show how ridiculous enforcement of this thing is -- there are stories of people leaving fights to get knives, men shooting an AK-47 outside of an apartment complex, and one guy who killed a person who was being dragged away. It's a horrifying read.

4. It's impossible look at all the cases.
Because "stand your ground" results in charges not being pressed, there aren't always records about it. Even though the law is vague, dangerous, and inconsistently enforced, nobody's tracking this stuff. Really.


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11 comments
RebeccaandJoe Girard
RebeccaandJoe Girard

Why is there ono media attention on the white men than have been pulled off their porches and beatten sensless in resonse to Justice for Travon? Cut the racism morons people are people  the crie should be based on the crime itself not the color of the participants. Just the facts...Quit this pulling the race card crap we are ALL tired of hearing it. SERIOUSLY!

CaptainBungholio
CaptainBungholio

Before get all racial, please note that the hippo is black and I sure hope he picks up the pace!

FQS9000
FQS9000

The basic reason for the 'Stand your ground' law is that people were being prosecuted for defending themselves.  That gross injustice is the reason for these laws.  They are not on the books to permit white guys to shoot black guys as seems to be the consensus of dim witted liberals and professional black victims.

Guest
Guest

The Tampa Times "study" is dubious, because the reporters give absolutely no basis for their conclusions as to how either the prosecutor or judge made their decision.

A police officer's probable cause affidavit, the state attorney's information or a grand jury's indictment are not facts.  These documents are nothing more than naked allegations specifically crafted to paint the defendant's acts in the worst possible light.  That is why none of these documents are admissible as facts in any trial, except in the rarest of circumstances.  Although the allegations may be read to the jury, juries in Florida are specifically instructed to presume the allegations are not true, until proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Thus, if the Tampa Times reporters used these documents to understand the facts of each case, their study would be fundamentally flawed and not based on any factual findings.  Their study would be based on only one side of the story, and not necessarily the side the judge found to be likely true or even true at all.

A proper study would consist of analyzing the written immunity motions filed by defendants, or the transcripts of immunity hearings ("stand your ground" is a form of immunity).  From these documents one could learn the ACTUAL FACTS PRESENTED BY BOTH SIDES, NOT JUST THE PROSECUTION, relied on by the court when determining that the defendant acted reasonably, which is the cornerstone of all self-defense claims in Florida.

I seriously doubt they did this study correctly as described above, because a) it requires some legal training to do correctly, and b) it is a tremendous amount of work involving many hundreds if not thousands of hours of reviewing transcripts.  I'm guessing they only reviewed the charging documents, which are nothing but an imaginary story, albeit one told in good faith.

Some of the claims of the reporters are simply implausible.  Stand your ground is not available if the defendant is in the act of committing some other crime.  If a court got it that wrong, it would be appealed, and immunity rulings are subject to appeal.  That is not to say courts never make mistakes, but we have excellent jurors in Florida so I extremely skeptical of these reporters claims which involve persons committing crimes availing themselves of immunity.  More likely than not, the defendant presented facts that showed he acted reasonably, was not in the process of some other crime, and was therefore entitled to immunity.

Now it is true that unsavory characters can avail themselves of self defense laws.  Suppose a drug dealer has a gun pulled on him during a sale...our laws say he may use deadly force defend himself but he may not "stand his ground," he must retreat if possible.  But notwithstanding he is a drug dealer in the midst of a drug transaction, he does have a right to defend himself.  It is also true that one can start a fight, but if the other side escalates the fight to deadly force, the the person who started the fight can defend himself with deadly force.  This makes sense.  If person A shoves B because B cut him off in line at publix, and B then pulls a gun, is not A justified in using deadly force to defend himself?  Are these reporters trained to recognize these nuances?  I doubt it.

Casey Nicole
Casey Nicole

photo is obviously attempting to provoke racial sentiment...kind of sad when the work is supposed to be of such editorial value that one would read the work for its quality rather than fan racial flames

Rich
Rich

...Abdill ... nice  "hunt and peck" statistics ....do you actually get paid for your obviously biased rhetoric ???

Rich Abdill
Rich Abdill

Thanks for your response -- I really appreciate you taking the time to write out your objections. I honestly don't have answers to them, other than to point out that the article says the examples aren't just based on court records, but from interviews with lawyers from both sides of the table. Maybe I'm putting too much faith in the editorial staff there.

Rich Abdill
Rich Abdill

This is ridiculous. Black people aren't allowed to show up in photos unless I'm trying to make a racial statement? You deciding something doesn't mean I was "obviously attempting" to do anything. I laughed at a hippo. That's the end of it, which I think the caption makes perfectly clear.

I also want to respond to your second sentence, but I have no idea what it means.

Rich Abdill
Rich Abdill

I do. I don't understand "hunt and peck" thing though -- I think it's a fair summary of the Times study. What's wrong with it?

Rich Abdill
Rich Abdill

Thank you for your thoughtful and constructive feedback. You've proven me wrong, and I retract the entire blog post.

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