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Heather White

Life Story Recorder, Family Echoes

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Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law is unconstitutional and thus illegal

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

To protect the right to venture out of your home (liberty) to purchase sweets for your kid brother (pursuit of happiness) and to expect to return home alive (life).

Discuss...

This is not a debate about US Gun Law in general.

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    Mar 23 2012: To clarify for those unaware of this high profile case...

    Florida and 27 other states across the USA have a law which protects people who “stand their ground” and fight back against an unprovoked attack - the Stand Your Ground law can be invoked even if lethal force is used - so long as the person who stood their ground was subject to an unprovoked attack and were acting in self-defence.

    In February 2012, a 17-year-old unarmed student, Trayvon Martin, was killed in his own neighbourhood in Sanford, Florida. Martin was walking home from a nearby convenience store when George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighbourhood watch captain, spotted him and called the police. In that call Zimmerman referred to Martin as a “real suspicious guy”. The police call centre officer told Zimmerman to wait for police support, but Zimmerman chose to chase Martin down. After a brief physical altercation in which Martin can be heard screaming for help in police 911 recordings, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

    The local police never arrested or charged Zimmerman - accepting the defence of Stand Your Ground. The race card has been raised in this case since the police recorded Zimmerman as being white (yet he is of mixed race having a Peruvian mother and white father) and Martin was black.

    Is race a legitimate issue in this case?
    Is it disguising a bad law which all too easily excuses excessive force - even lethal force?
    Is such a law against the Bill of Rights?
    Is it disguising bad policing?
    Is it disguising bad prosecuting decisions?
    Is Florida a violent state where life is of no regard and the police powerless to control communities at war with each other?

    Discuss...
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      Mar 23 2012: question. how is that related to the "stand your ground" policy other than the offender uses that law as a defense? since when we condemn a law just because someone arbitrarily refers to it? should the guy refer the the second law of thermodynamics, we would call for abolishing physics?

      this law clearly states "in self defense" and "unprovoked attack". in order for the law to even apply, zimmerman must prove, beyond doubt, that he was attacked, he didn't provoke, and he acted in self defense. if he cannot prove this, the law does not apply.

      suppose the police, the DA or the court will free him based on SYG law. would that mean the law is wrong? no, it would prove that the justice system does not work. if the justice system does not work, it is entirely useless to tweak the law.

      how i see it is the following: people who oppose gun ownership, SYG law, castle law and similar doctrines, shamelessly use this tragic case to further their cause. it is easier than using real arguments.
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        Mar 23 2012: This is one of the most bizarre cases to be followed in the UK about a domestic US issue. Timely, in an election year - race and gun law…

        I can't quite understand the issue over the Stand Your Ground (SYG) law either - it’s illogical to my reasoning - but I may not understand US law well enough. In this case (from what has been released) the SYG law should not apply - Zimmerman failed to refrain from getting involved as directed by the police 911 officer “don’t get involved until police officers arrive”. He over stepped his self imposed remit - becoming the violent attacker. Indeed, if Martin had punched Zimmerman’s lights out he would have due cause to invoke the Stand Your Ground law, as I understand it, since he was going about his lawful business and was subject to an unprovoked attack.

        If this law is being used as an excuse to avoid prosecution it's being miss applied by the police and prosecutors. Zimmerman should be charged with murder. This is where the race issue arises.

        A young black man wearing a hoodie! Why, he must be up to no good - he was asking for it! Shooting‘s too good for the likes of him!

        Now, if that’s the attitude behind this case and the practical application of the SYG law being used to halt arrest and charge for murder - the SYG law is being corrupted. If this is allowed, a precedent will have been set, and US citizen’s should consider that the Bill of Rights no longer applies. Black people are no longer able to expect life, liberty.... However, if it doesn’t apply to one group, it doesn’t apply to any.

        The Supreme Court (is that the correct legal body?) needs to back justice correctly by seeing that Zimmerman is charged with murder. It also needs to accept that the application of the SYG law, in this case, is in conflict with the Bill of Rights and is thus unconstitutional and needs amending to prevent its use in this way again. Those responsible for this mess should be arrested for bringing the law into disrepute.
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          Mar 23 2012: That the U.S. my home is becoming more and more "Unconstitutional". That we keep making these laws that impede our rights and perverse the ideas that our country was founded on.
          And case hasn't made it to the Supreme Court its one the state level. It was taken out hands of local prosecutors and police hands to try and calm a racial unrest that it has caused.

          I figure the issue over (SYG) is that of one of gun control. This issues is one big one that divides the U.S. politically, some saying we need less gun control making it easier to get and own a gun, and others fighting for more gun control trying to make sure the wrong person can't get one.
        • Mar 23 2012: Hi Heather,It's up to the prosecuting attorney of the local jurisdiction to decide if there's a case and how to proceed. The local county has more than enough jurisdiction to prosecute the case if they choose. The Supreme Court would only become involved to decide on constitutionality, something I very much doubt will happen.

          A lot of parents, myself included, have strong reactions to the shooting. African Americans especially so, and it's easy to see why.

          Contrary to popular opinion, the use of lethal force is only legitimate for a narrow range of events in the US. All are based on the legal theory that one has the right to defend themselves. The alternative to Stand Your Ground is the duty to escape and/or avoid conflict if possible. I.e. you can not use lethal force if you have an escape route. Which standard (and they vary from these two cases) is used depends on which state you're in.

          All of the self-defense standards are intended to be a last resort. None of them should be construed as giving a person the right to accost another.

          Best wishes,
          Doug Bell

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