When I penned this post in October 2014, I had been asking Floridian voters to caste their ballots for the democratic candidate Charlie Crist to be its next governor instead of our the current republican Governor Rick Scott who ended up winning by a 1% margin.
I had been encouraging Floridians to vote in memory of Trayvon Martin and his family. This was the 2012 tragedy where George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood volunteer safety captain who had taken a few criminal justice courses, had fatally shot an unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Tayvon had been returning home from a quick stop at a local store with some purchased candy and tea. The shooter George Zimmerman had been given the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the investigation into this fatal shooting because he claimed “self defense, based on the “stand your ground” law in Florida. This “stand your ground ” law makes piercing someone’s claim of self defense a higher hurdle, especially when the deceased victim can’t testify.
My intention at the time, had been to remind folks that all those who were in favor of repealing or amending of the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, needed to show up in huge numbers.
The democratic candidate Charlie Crist had openly advocated the reconsideration of both the “Stand Your Ground” law and the minimum sentencing legislated guidelines of the “10-20-life rule.”
The subject of the “Stand Your Ground” law keeps popping up in different circumstances. This reblog and update of an earlier post explains in part, how this law came to be.
Cliff notes historical review of the “Stand Your Ground” Law…
THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW…….began as a law in 2005 in the State of Florida. It had been sitting in the works as a policy to be enacted into legislation by the NRA and ALEC.
Around 1973, an organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council ) was created by conservative icons like the Paul Weyreich and Henry Hyde with backing from major contributors like the Koch Brothers and Exxon Mobile.
The organization ALEC had a history of creating conservative model-template laws that republicans had on their wish list to assist Republican legislative bodies with passage as soon as the opportunity arose, such as:
1.) Promoting ways to dismantle public worker unions in states with Republican majority led legislative bodies as these are the only big money contributors left who could seriously compete with the big money interests who donate to the Republican party.
2.) This included the promotion of school choice even if the school choices had not been vetted for financial solvency and /or demonstrated a plan for real improvement modeled after current charter schools with outstanding records in impoverished areas around the country such as the Success Schools in New York City.
3.) Promoting voting rules and systems designed to reduce the number of minority folks who vote heavily democrat from having access to the voting booth including the requirement of picture voter identification cards.
4.) Gun rights advocacy including the”Stand Your Ground” Law. This “Stand Your Ground” law which originated in the State of Florida in 2005 has spread to over several Republican led states. This bill allows for the use of lethal force without the shooter having to retreat or do anything to avoid the shooting in order to defend themselves especially in their own territory (home) which is referred to as the “castle doctrine.” In 17 states, even being one’s home or car is not required and the State of Florida is one of them. Under the traditional self defense laws, a person who feels threatened must use reasonable means to extricate themselves from the situation short of using lethal force.
5.) Promoting the interests of the oil and fossil fuel industry including the discounting of scientific evidence regarding the issue of climate change.
Florida was the first state in 2005 to pass the “Stand your Ground” law and several states had later adopted some version. The “Stand Your Ground” law had been developed and marketed for the republican led Florida congress by NRA and ALEC on the basis that law abiding citizens in Florida needed protection against the threat of prosecution from someone just protecting themselves and property during a string of Florida hurricanes, as occurred in 2004.”
In real time, challengers of this law had asked for an example of just one case in which the above situation was an issue. The answer came in the form of a Mr. James Workman who allegedly had been protecting his RV during a storm event when he noticed a man whom he perceived to be an intruder, which caused him to feel threatened. Consequently, he shot the man to protect himself and his wife.”
The sellers of this law claimed that the poor elderly man and his wife had to wait months worrying about legal repercussions while the prosecution took his time to arrive at a decision. The problem with this story, is that the prosecution took only three months to make a decision and the intruder was not just anyone.
Mr. Rodney Cox was a FEMA worker and a family man with a great reputation. No one will ever know what he was doing wondering in the area of Mr. Workman’s RV that evening. The sad thing is that on any other occasion these two men had so much in common including a love for fishing. They could have been good friends. This is how this law came into being with bipartisan support. Many who voted in favor in 2005 now openly oppose this law.
In 2012, because the Trayvon Martin case again, shined a light regarding the “Stand your Ground” law fault lines which did result in complaints/ protests by its citizenry, to where Governor Rick Scott did appoint a task force to study and to make recommendations.
The criticism about this task force was that it was just for show with the appointees being biased already in favor of maintaining this law, as is. As expected, the 19 person appointed Governor’s Commission did not recommend discontinuing this law, but they did make suggestions which were never acted upon.
The task Force did suggest that lawmakers provide a legislative clarification, that those asserting this defense not be engaged in “unlawful activity.
The task force did recommend that police departments and the courts, be provided sufficient training to ensure that the law was applied fairly. In addition, the task force recommended that Florida’s legislative body more clearly define the role of neighborhood watch groups to avoid vigilantism as well as funding a study as to how this law had been applied to date, examining the effects of race, ethnicity, sex.
The task force rejected the recommendations of one of their members, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katerine Fernandez-Rundle that would have restricted the law, including a recommendation to limit immunity from prosecution to defendants who did PROVOKE A CONFRONTATION. In the final 44 page task force report in the appendix, there is a letter written by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. Ms. Fernandez-Rundle recommends amending with one extra condition the law’s language that says a person has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” That person claiming the right to stand his or her ground has to be the person “who does not initially provoke the force.” In other words, you can’t initiate a confrontation, and then kill somebody because that person fought back and was causing you “great bodily harm.”
The commission found no increase in violence due to the enactment of this law
Since this time there have been numerous studies which counter this claim.
Of course, NRA experts have any studies critical of the effects of the “Stand Your Ground” laws on a community as being flawed and without merit. They would refer you to studies done by John Lott or his book of “More Guns, Less Crime.” Mr. Lott claimed that states adopting “Stand Your Ground” laws had seen their murder rates drop by 9% and that overall violent crime had been reduced by 11%, despite other contributing factors such as, overall national crime rates were already trending downwards. For what critics were saying about different studies, read the reference below, ” Myths of Murder and Multiple Regression.”
Many of the voices on the right had their talking points ready, such as the “Stand Your Ground” statute had no bearing on the Trayvon Martin trial, whatsoever.
I disagreed on two points. While the defense team members, did not specifically argue the “Stand Your Ground” law to attain immunity for their client Mr. Zimmerman prior to trial, he did benefit in that it was read by the judge as part of the jury instructions which were several pages long, full of legal words sufficient to protect oneself against an appeal but not in assisting the lay person in having a clear understanding of the law.
This statute had been required to be part of any jury instruction involving a claim of self-defense in Florida. Mr. Zimmerman also benefited in that it was more than two months after the shooting before he was charged based on the assessment that the prosecution could not win at trial with the evidence at hand because of this law. It is only because of a lot of public pressure, media coverage and public demands, that charges were brought which turned the spotlight on police tactics, the judicial system and the problems with this law.
At the time, there was this group, “Color of Change” who had successfully lobbied different companies about their association with ALEC, to explain to business executives of how ALEC had been working to disenfranchise minority and low- income voters with its support of the coordinated proliferation of voter ID laws in republican led states.
“Color of Change” also accused ALEC of encouraging up to 26 other states to enact similar measures to Florida “Stand Your Ground” laws.
The Trayvon Martin case was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In 2012, companies such as Walmart, Coca Cola, Pepsico, Wendys, Blue Cross & Blue Shield and many others ended their partnership with the conservative group, ALEC. “The Color of Change” group is still extremely active and increasing in numbers.
ALEC’s representatives did publicly state that their organization would no longer be participating in these type of political activities.
The Koch brothers had begun their support and funding of various Tea Party groups to support their various conservative political agendas which still included the “stand your ground” law; voter id laws designed to restrict access to the ballot box; denial of any scientific evidence regarding the validity of climate change.
At the time, Yahoo had decided to end its membership. As per the blog, Seattlepi by Joel Connelly, posted on September 25, 2014, “Yahoo, Facebook and Yelp have joined an exodus of technology companies from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that has drafted stand-your-ground and voter ID laws for introduction by conservative state legislators. The first out the door, late in August, was Microsoft. Google announced on Tuesday that it was quitting ALEC’s Task Force on Communications and Technology: CEO Eric Schmidt accused the group of “literally lying” about climate change. Yahoo was reserved, very corporate and close to the vest.”
As per this blog Seattlepi, “a coalition of public interest groups have asked corporate America to quit ALEC. The movement started to take on momentum in 2012: The shooting of unarmed 16-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman triggered a nationwide discussion of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Amazon.com quit ALEC with a flourish at its 2012 stockholders meeting, as a crowd mobilized by Fuse Washington and other groups cheered when news reached the street. Other dropouts have included such giants as General Motors, Proctor and Gamble and Coca Cola. All told, 90 companies have parted way with the organization in the past two years. Facebook took a turn-the-other cheek approach earlier this week.”
- As expected, the republicans argue, the citizen has a right to protect themselves and the “stand your ground” law is just one more tool to assist him or her. Opponents of the law explain that not only is the law disproportionately impacting racial minorities but that it encourages the use of violence that could have been avoided.
I believe the “Stand Your Ground ” law at a minimum should reflect what former Florida Governor Jeb Bush believed he was signing in 2005. On 3/24/2012, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush told the Dallas Morning News “stand your ground” doesn’t apply to this case. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.” He was responding to a question about the Trayvon Martin shooting situation.
This grandmother believes our judicial system should be enabled to allow for the exercise of judicial discretion and not be bound by restrictive laws which allow for no flexibility or common sense, and / or our Florida prosecutors should worry less about their “hard fighting crime” image and more about doing what is right on behalf of lady justice and the taxpayer. There is prosecutor’s discretion.
This “stand your ground” law permits folks who fatally shoot others without any witnesses to have virtually the same immunity or benefit of doubt as a police officer. However, if the victim is not fatally shot, the shooter is subject to the strict Florida minimum sentencing guidelines of 10 years just for improperly “brandishing” a gun without discharge during a crime. If you shoot or discharge the gun, the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years.
- “Crime rates in Florida have dropped since ‘stand your ground,’ says Dennis Baxley”. Politifact Florida. Tampa Bay Times and The Miama Herald. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- Florida legislators vote down attempt to repeal Stand Your Ground law(jacksonville.com)