Search Results for ‘"stand your ground"’

Will Stand Your Ground change the outcome of the Martin/Zimmerman case?

The Orlando Sentinel asked me to analyze how Florida’s Stand Your Ground law affects the Trayvon Martin shooting case. I conclude that in most likely scenarios, the law will make no difference one way or the other on George Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence, though it does help him on some points of procedure. Jacob Sullum has related thoughts at Reason (more at Cato).

The other piece in the point-counterpoint is from Florida prosecutor Buddy Rogers who emphasizes that claims of justifiable homicide have risen sharply (from 12 to 33 a year), even if homicides per capita themselves have not. I took a look at the crime numbers in this Cato post.

To answer a question, it was the Sentinel editors who elected to describe the antagonists in the Sanford confrontation by way of a given name for one (“Trayvon”) but a surname for the other (“Zimmerman”). My own inclination is to use a surname for both.

Michael Mannheimer has an important post on the role of “provocation” in the Martin/Zimmerman case at PrawfsBlawg. Earlier here, here, and here.

P.S. David Kopel similarly argues that Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence (depending on which version of events is accepted) is no different in Florida from what it would be under the law of New York or any other state; he also defends the rationale for Florida’s use of an immunity, which he argues “does not change the law, but… apparently is effective at reminding law enforcement officers of the standard they are required to obey” under court precedents forbidding arrest without probable cause.

Krugman, Brady, and Stand Your Ground laws

I mostly ignore the frothings of Paul Krugman in the New York Times, but his column today pursues a logic that’s insane even for him: in an attack on the right-of-center American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he proposes that Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws tie into a trend of “growing incarceration” intended to line the coffers of private prison contractors. Earth to Krugman: SYG laws bolster criminal defendants’ rights, and your colleagues at the Times have been complaining that as a result it’s too hard for prosecutors to send people to prison for long terms. Next time, could you stop and think before hitting the send button?

In the opinion piece I’m finishing up, I expect to argue that as more facts emerge about the Feb. 26 Martin/Zimmerman confrontation, the 2005 changes to Florida self-defense law known as Stand Your Ground are looking less and less likely to control the legal outcome of the case. Along those lines, I notice in Friday’s Washington Post what I read as a straw in the wind:

“We’ve never thought by itself that the law is the main issue,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “What we think is the main issue is the mentality that that law provides.”

Hmm. So despite hundreds of press assertions to the contrary in the past week, the actual content of the Florida law (as opposed to its supposed furtherance of a vague “mentality”) doesn’t turn out to be the main issue after all. Earlier here and here (& Reason).

Don’t miss related analysis from Eugene Volokh on the scope of the self-defense justification in American criminal law and the standards for probable cause in arresting someone who claims that justification. And Jennifer Rubin weighs in at Washington Post “Right Turn” (quoting me). More: Scott Greenfield, Steve Chapman.

Stand Your Ground laws, cont’d

A media organization has asked me to take a closer look at the controversy over Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law, and I’ll be working on that over the next day or two. In the mean time, here are a few links you might want to check out if you’re following the controversy (earlier):

  • Florida’s law on justifiable use of force, including the 2005 SYG changes, is here. As usual, there is no substitute for reading the statute if you want to know how it works. Links to other state SYG laws are here.
  • Michael Mannheimer at PrawfsBlawg points out that some of the law’s reputed new burdens on prosecutors aren’t in fact new:

    First, some have pointed out that, in Florida, the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense, assuming the defendant has adduced sufficient evidence to present a jury question. But this is true in virtually every State: last I checked, only Ohio and South Carolina require a defendant to shoulder the burden of persuasion on self-defense. Some have pointed out that when a defendant claims self-defense in a homicide prosecution, the State has lost its best witness and the jury therefore hears only one side of the story. But this is true in any homicide case. …

    So what are we left with that distinguishes Florida’s law? Well, obviously there is the “stand your ground” provision which eliminates the common-law duty to retreat. But the law in America has always been ambivalent about the duty to retreat, with about half the States at any given time recognizing the duty to retreat and about half abrogating it. This is not a new development. Moreover, even where there is no duty to retreat, it is still a requirement that the defendant reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent the imminent use of deadly physical force. And even in a retreat jurisdiction, the prosecution generally must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew he could retreat with complete safety. So, in practice, there is not a whole lot of daylight between retreat and no-retreat jurisdictions. …

  • But Mannheimer also points to a more significant difference in the 2005 law, namely that the self-defense justification is couched as an immunity rather than as a defense to be raised at trial. This distinction does accord a significant advantage to some defendants, especially where prosecutors hold a factually weak hand at the outset. “Meg” from Cambridge, among the few constructive voices amid the NYT comments section’s baying mob, makes a similar point here.
  • And a number of commentators raise plausible objections to details of the SYG legislation which do not appear relevant to whether George Zimmerman can escape prosecution for shooting Trayvon Martin. Thus Adam Winkler questions whether immunity should extend to situations where the user of deadly force acted in reasonable fear of lethal danger or forcible felony aimed at some third person other than himself (it would appear Zimmerman asserted danger-to-himself, not danger-to-third-parties, at the police station). And Anthony Sebok, writing at the time of the law’s passage, sharply criticizes the law’s expansion of immunity in home and car scenarios, again not at issue in the Martin case.

All of which is by way of clearing the decks for a closer examination of the provisions of SYG that do relate to Zimmerman’s claim of immunity, which will have to wait for a later post.

Don’t rush to repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws

The New York Times invited me to participate in a “Room for Debate” discussion of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, and my contribution is here. I elaborate on some of the issues at stake — including the failure of Florida’s violent crime rate to rise as predicted under the law — in this Cato post (& welcome Instapundit, Reihan Salam/NRO, Alex Adrianson/Insider Online, Aaron Worthing, David Codrea readers).

Stand Your Ground

Back in 1987, Florida set off a national trend by enacting a law which allows adults with a clean record, who pass a safety class, to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun for lawful defense. Although some states already allowed concealed carry, Florida’s 1987 law led to the concept spreading nationally, so that today 38 states have handgun carry laws similar to Florida’s. Now, a new Florida trend is spreading: “Stand your ground” laws.


Last year, Florida enacted a statute stating that victims of a violent felony attack do not have to retreat from the aggressor (even in a public place), and can use deadly force. Now, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has signed a Stand Your Ground law in his state, and the South Dakota legislature has enacted a similar law.

Because most Americans intuitively agree with the principle of self-defense, opponents of the law, such as the Brady Center, have resorted to making silly claims, such as asserting that the laws allow “a person who just feels something bad is going to happen to open fire in public.” A careful look at the Florida model, which I blogged about last year, leads to the conclusion that the Brady Center’s claims are unmerited.

January 15 roundup

Police and prosecution roundup

  • After parking lot shooting Pinellas County, Florida sheriff “claim[ed] his hands were tied by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But that is not true” [Jacob Sullum, Reason, more; David French, NRO]
  • Major USA Today story on origins of Baltimore’s devastating crime and murder wave [Brad Heath; Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
  • Related: in Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force police scandal, plea bargains punished the innocent [Capital News Service investigation by Angela Roberts, Lindsay Huth, Alex Mann, Tom Hart and James Whitlow: first, second, third parts]
  • California Senate votes 26 to 11 to abolish felony murder rule, under which participants in some serious crimes face murder rap if others’ actions result in death [ABA Journal, bill]
  • New Jersey’s reforms curtailing cash bail, unlike Maryland’s, seem to be working reasonably well [Scott Shackford; longer Shackford article on bail in Reason; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • “Miami Police Union Says Head-Kicking Cop ‘Used Great Restraint,’ Shouldn’t Be Charged” [Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times]

Claim: “international human rights” requires gun bans

So many power grabs now get packed into an international human rights mold: here come claims that IHR requires laws aimed at restricting private access to guns in the U.S. [Leila Nadya Sadat and Madaline George on Harris Institute initiative at Washington U. Law; Patricia Illingworth; Jeremiah Ho] I wrote about the proliferation of international human rights claims in my 2011 book Schools for Misrule, and this site has previously covered efforts to invoke international human rights law against such practices as cultural appropriation, financial privacy and national fiscal austerity, gender-stereotypical speech, liberalization of labor markets, making city dwellers pay for water, failure to return land to long-displaced Indian tribes, disconnecting people from Internet service, lack of hate speech laws (and more and also see), non-recognition of a right to health care, Stand Your Ground rules on self-defense, videogames about war and depiction of rights violations in popular entertainment, evicting homeless encampments, “atrocity speech,” lack of affordable-housing programs, factory livestock farming, and foundling baby boxes. On the gun angle, see also the controversy over the small arms treaty.

October 28 roundup

  • India monk: I’ll need eight months to respond to court summons because my religion requires me to get there on foot [BBC]
  • NYC’s inhospitable treatment of cat cafes leaves you wondering if dogs get a better shake [Nicole Gelinas, New York Post]
  • As VW litigation heats up, keep your eye on lawyers’ angling re: multi-district litigation, advises Ted Frank [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; Rob Green, Abnormal Use; yet more on multi-district litigation, John Beisner, Chamber ILR]
  • A public health study “builds upon Critical Race Theory” to criticize results of Stand Your Ground doctrine in Florida, but most of the cases it uses weren’t decided on basis of that doctrine [Andrew Branco, Legal Insurrection]
  • “Subway ‘Footlong’ Settlement: Lawyers Feed, Consumers Fast” [Judicial Hellholes, earlier, note also this on Subway’s affection for the term]
  • Not only did the free market not cause that $750 generic pill, it might be on the way to generating a $1 alternative [Bonnie Kristian/Rare, my earlier take] Still, it’s a little more complicated than that, as Alex Tabarrok explains;
  • Kathleen Kane saga: “Pennsylvania Attorney General Suspended from the Bar, Still Refuses to Quit” [Hans Bader, CEI]

Politics roundup

  • Weekly Standard runs my parody song about the local governor’s race, “Show Me the Way to Frederickstown, or, Lost in Maryland“; Update: Here’s Lauren Weiner’s rendition, to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Freelance writer Lauren Weiner has lived in Baltimore since 1992. [improved YouTube link with video]
  • Also on Maryland governor’s race: it’s not every day a GOP challenger blames a Democratic incumbent for issuing too few pardons [Radley Balko; more on clemency]
  • Harry Reid forces are latest to demagogue Stand Your Ground laws and role of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but Glenn Kessler calls them on it with Four Pinocchios [Washington Post “Fact Checker”]
  • Enough non-citizens vote illegally “that their participation can change the outcome of close races.” [Jesse Richman and David Earnest, Washington Post Monkey Cage; a response]
  • State attorney general offices are now politicized and targets of lobbying, and why should we be surprised at that given all the power they’ve grabbed for themselves as business regulators in recent years? [David Boaz, Cato] Hot state-AG races this year include Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Arkansas [John Fund]
  • Two views on Alabama proposed Amendment One, curbing use of foreign law: Paul Horwitz (adds nothing to Alabama constitution not already there), Quin Hillyer (insurance against bad judicial decisionmaking);
  • More about the Greg Abbott tree-fall settlement called into question by opponent Wendy Davis [Hugh Kelly, TLR, earlier]
  • Long Island legislator withdraws from State Senate race after charges of high-dollar law-firm misconduct [Newsday]
  • Defaulted mortgages: “Coakley lawsuit has ties to key backer’s interests” [Boston Globe via Funnell] Flashback: Radley Balko in 2010 on Martha Coakley’s awful prosecutorial record (up to that point) [Politico; related, Harvey Silverglate on prosecutors who run for higher office; earlier]