by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
In 2005 Florida enacted a law that expanded the right of self-defense. Critics of the law referred to it as a “shoot first” policy, but supporters called the law “Stand Your Ground.”
In 2006, the NY Times said: The Florida law gives people the right to use deadly force against intruders entering their homes. They no longer need to prove that they feared for their safety, only that the person they killed had intruded unlawfully and forcefully. The law also extends this principle to vehicles. The law also does away with an earlier requirement that a person attacked in a public place must retreat if possible. Now, that same person, in the law’s words, “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force. The law also forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of the people covered by the law, and it prohibits civil suits against them.
Here are some examples.
In 2006, Kenneth Allen was angry with his neighbor, Jason Rosenbloom, because Rosenbloom placed eight trash bags on the curb instead of the allowed six. The men got into a verbal dispute. When Rosenbloom approached Allen, Allen shot him in the stomach. Allen told the police Rosenbloom tried to enter his home and claimed self-defense. Allen was not charged.
In 2007, Timothy McTigue and Michael Palmer got into a fight in Rivera Beach. McTigue claimed Palmer tried to drown him. McTigue fatally shot Palmer in the back of the head while Palmer was climbing out of the water. McTigue was acquitted.
In 2009, Jackson Fleurimon shot and killed Lucus Termitus, because Termitus showed up at Jackson’s apartment brandishing a gun and told Jackson not to sell dope on his side of the complex. Fleurimon was granted immunity under “stand your ground.”
In 2012, the term “stand your ground” was brought to national attention when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. (At first Zimmerman wasn’t arrested or charged with a crime.)
In 2013 the Huffington Post wrote, in eight years since “stand your ground” was put into effect the law has been invoked to protect drug dealers and gang members from murder charges, and it’s allowed disputes over lovers and personal possessions to escalate into bloody murder scenes without consequences.
With George Zimmerman, I guarantee you his knowledge of these acquittals contributed to his bravado and reckless behavior.
Between 2005 and 2019 there are a dozen more egregious examples of “stand your ground” acquittals but, miraculously, last week a Florida jury convicted a White man of manslaughter for shooting to death an unarmed Black man in 2018.
The Black man ran into the store while his girlfriend and her two kids waited for him in the car, but they parked in a handicapped space. The White man approached the car and started yelling at the driver for parking in the reserved spot. The Black man came out the store and shoved the White man to the ground, then the White man pulled a gun and fired.
The White man’s defense attorney actually said the unarmed Black man caused his own death by shoving the defendant and placing the defendant in a vulnerable position, but video footage proved, after the shove, the Black man did not move forward or make another threatening motion toward the White man, he was simply defending his girlfriend.
Apparently, the defense attorney’s argument makes sense under “stand your ground,” because the jury didn’t convict the White man for killing an unarmed man unnecessarily. They convicted him because the “stand your ground” statute also states the shooter cannot have instigated the altercation. (If the defense argued the initial altercation was between the defendant and the driver and the Black man initiated a separate violent confrontation, the defendant would have been acquitted.) But all the “stand your ground” acquittals were the influential factor in the defendant’s behavior, and it was his incomplete knowledge of the law that secured his conviction not the fact that he was wrong.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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