In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict for the killing of Trayvon Martin, one thing for sure is the Florida Stand Your Ground law must be put on trial. And just last week, another troubling Florida incident occurred with Roy Middleton, an unarmed 60 year old black man, who was shot at multiple times by two police, while standing on his own property, due to the robbery suspicions of the officers. The man was getting a cigarette out of his mother’s car.
Fortunately, Mr. Middleton survived and ended up with non-life threatening injuries. And a high ranking officer, David Morgan stated that the officers followed proper protocol in almost killing an unarmed man on his own property. “Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said. And in light of the civic groups including Dream Defenders, a group that has taken to the Florida Capitol in protests of the verdict, the Florida legislature has decided that the State legislature should hold hearings on the law to determine the following: Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”
It is apparent that there is misunderstanding of the Florida Stand Your Ground law from those who mistakenly think the law was not a part of the Zimmerman defense to two Florida legislators who co-authored the Florida Stand Your Ground law in 2005 and went on record in May, 2012 saying the law should not apply to the facts of the Zimmerman case. Former Florida Senator Durrell Peaden said that Zimmerman lost the right of the Stand Your Ground law that he co-authored when he followed Trayvon Martin. And the co-author of the law in the House, Rep. Dennis Baxley agreed with his co-author. Yet, at least two jurors, B37 and B 29 stated the law gave them no other choice but to find Zimmerman not guilty. With all the confusion about the application of the law, it is certainly worth reviewing the intent of the law and its application.
Much work has already been undertaken by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper which compiled a long list of Stand Your Ground cases and the outcome depending on the race of the person asserting the defense. The Tampa Bay Times research proved that “if you claim “stand your ground” as the reason you shot someone, what happens to you can depend less on the merits of the case than on who you are, whom you kill and where your case is decided.” And it should not come as a surprise to many minorities that the law when asserted by blacks often results in a conviction and with whites, the opposite occurs. In 73% of the times where there is a black victim, the defense will be successful. Yet, where there is a white victim, the defense will only be successful only 59% of the time.
Many criminal justice laws are disproportionately applied to blacks. And even Florida prosecutors believe the Stand Your Ground law is being stretched in ways unintended. And then there’s the heart wrenching case of Marissa Alexander who asserted Stand Your Ground against her abusive husband when she fired warning shots at a ceiling and received a 20 year sentence for her efforts, when no one was injured. Yet, George Zimmerman remains a free man.
And there is still the outrage in the black community and those who support Trayvon Martin, that an unarmed teenager did not have a right to stand his ground with Zimmerman. Instead, Zimmerman, the person who had the gun was the one entitled to the law and Trayvon Martin, the innocent unarmed teenager was expected to run home and flee for his life. There must be a review of a law that drops all logic in supporting a self- defense law and allows a killer to justify murder under these circumstances.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor who has tried murders, sex offense crimes, drug cases, robberies and economic crimes with a high conviction rate. She has also represented clients in court rooms throughout the country. She frequently appears on RT America, Arise America, CBC ( Canadian), the Washington, DC affiliates of NBC, CBS and Fox New and numerous radio outlets throughout the country addressing issues of race and gender in the law. She founded LegalSpeaks in 2009 to address race, class and gender in law and politics.