- 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]
A big piece by Mike Spies in the New Yorker on the history of Florida as a battlefield on gun issues asserts that 1) Florida enacted the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law in the early 2000s, and broadly hints that 2) the law resulted in a jury’s 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Is that so? Though both points are often claimed, as we’ve pointed out in the past, neither stands up to scrutiny. As Peter Jamison of the Tampa Bay Times noted in this 2014 piece, the “truth is that Florida did not pioneer the controversial rules” abolishing duty-to-retreat in favor of Stand Your Ground; many states had long since done so through case law development. Much more on the legal background in Ilya Shapiro’s 2013 Senate testimony, which points, for example, to a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1895. (Florida’s statute did introduce new procedural protections at the charge stage for defendants, which is a different matter.)
Meanwhile, Zimmerman’s acquittal came after his lawyers advanced a conventional self-defense theory as opposed to one rooted in Stand Your Ground.
The magazine’s celebrated fact-checking system does not seem to have functioned well in this case.
- Why Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board hasn’t done much to fix its police crisis [J.F. Meils, Capitol News Service/Maryland Reporter]
- Three prosecutors with high national profiles who’ve put up dogged, maybe too dogged, resistance to actual-innocence claims [Lara Bazelon, Slate]
- Carceral liberalism: Advocates press to do away with statute of limitations for sex assault prosecutions [Scott Greenfield]
- “No charges have been filed against the cops. All of the officers involved are still employed by the department.” [Christina Carrega, New York Daily News on nearly $1 million award to Oliver Wiggins, unsuccessfully framed for DWI after police car ran stop sign and crashed into his vehicle]
- Founding-era views of duty-to-retreat vs. stand-your-ground might be more complicated than you think [Eugene Volokh]
- The trial penalty “is among the most important features of America’s criminal justice system, and yet there is no reference to it in the Constitution” [Clark Neily, Cato]
- Mother who gives 10 year old the run of a Lego store: Mom of the Year, or candidate for arrest? [Lenore Skenazy on Ontario County, N.Y. incident]
- Sorry to see WSJ Law Blog close. A wealth of valuable content, often first on stories, showcase for rising writers [farewell post]
- Oops! “The bill as [passed] …allows a pregnant woman to commit homicide without consequences.” [Lowering the Bar on New Hampshire measure]
- No, a court really didn’t overturn Florida stand-your-ground law. Let Eugene Volokh explain [Volokh Conspiracy] Still, the recently enacted procedural fillip the court did strike down was one of practical significance to many defendants [C.J. Ciaramella, Reason]
- In the mail: John Corvino et al., Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination. Good opening essay [Oxford University Press]
- What one bad lawyer can do: feds chase $600 million in disability claims linked to fugitive Eric Conn [Chris Edwards, Cato]
- 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]
Decent articles on Stand Your Ground in the general press are relatively few, being far outnumbered by those that are sensationalist, axe-grinding or simply uninformed. So it’s nice to be able to recommend this one by Peter Jamison in the Tampa Bay Times [via Jacob Sullum].
In other news, a United Nations panel in Geneva monitoring compliance with international human rights law has questioned a wide range of United States domestic policies, including some states’ adoption of Stand Your Ground as well as lack of gun control and other offenses. “The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992.” Another reminder that treaties have consequences, and that ratification of other purported human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), would not be without public consequences relating to many domestic policies. [Guardian]
- After criticism of heavy-handed Ankeny, Iowa police raid on persons suspected of credit card fraud, not actually reassuring to be told militarized methods needed because one house occupant had firearms carry permit [Radley Balko, more, more]
- Advocates strain mightily to fit unpopular Dunn verdict into Stand Your Ground theme [David Kopel, Jacob Sullum] More: sorry, pundits, but Rasmussen poll shows public’s plurality SYG support unshaken [Althouse]
- “‘Drop the Cabbage, Bullwinkle!’: Alaskan Man Faces Prison for the Crime of Moose-Feeding” [Evan Bernick, Heritage] “Criminalizing America: How Big Government Makes A Criminal of Every American” [ALEC “State Factor”]
- “We’ve also bred into dogs … an eagerness to please us.” Bad news for K-9 forensics [Balko]
- “Has overcharging killed the criminal trial?” [Legal Ethics Forum] Is the “trial penalty” a myth? [David Abrams via Dan Markel, Scott Greenfield]
- What if cops, as opposed to, say, gun owners, were obliged by law to purchase liability insurance? [Popehat]
- That’s productivity: North Carolina grand jury managed to crank out roughly one indictment every 52 seconds [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
Yesterday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin held a hearing on Stand Your Ground laws. My Cato Institute colleague Ilya Shapiro testified (video link here) and I recommend his written testimony, a condensed version of which is also online at National Review.
On the history of these laws in America:
…there’s nothing particularly novel, partisan, or ideological about these laws. All they do is allow people to assert their right to self-defense in certain circumstances without having a so-called “duty to retreat.” The SYG principle has been enshrined in the law of a majority of U.S. states for over 150 years, originating as judge-made common law and eventually being codified by statute.
At present, about 31 states — give or take, depending on how you count — have some type of SYG doctrine, a vast majority of which had it as part of their common law even before legislators took any action. So even if these statutes were repealed tomorrow, SYG would still be the law in most states because of preexisting judicial decisions. And, of course, some states, like California and Virginia, maintain SYG only judicially, without having passed any legislation.
It’s also worth noting that of the 15 states that have passed variations of the law since 2005, the year Florida’s model legislation became law, eight — a majority — had Democratic governors when the laws were enacted. None issued a veto. Democratic governors who signed SYG bills, or otherwise permitted them to become law, include Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Brian Schweitzer of Montana, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Janet Napolitano of Arizona. The bills in Louisiana and West Virginia passed with Democratic control of both houses in the state legislatures, in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Even Florida’s supposedly controversial law passed the state senate unanimously and split Democrats in the state house. Conversely, many so-called “red states,” or those that have a significant gun culture — such as Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming — impose a duty to retreat.
The Supreme Court has noticed the issue as well:
At the Supreme Court, SYG dates back to the 1895 case of Beard v. United States, in which the great Justice John Harlan wrote for a unanimous Court that the victim “was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force as, under all the circumstances, he, at the moment, honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, were necessary to save his own life, or to protect himself from great bodily injury.”
And Ilya does not allow to pass unremarked the browbeating tactics of subcommittee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.):
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention before concluding one episode in the leadup to this hearing that has unfortunately contributed to the sensationalism surrounding discussions of SYG laws: Chairman Durbin’s attempt to intimidate businesses and organizations that have had any affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (because ALEC had sponsored model SYG legislation, among other reforms that may not have curried Chairman Durbin’s favor). Chairman Durbin’s letter noted that responses would be included in this hearing’s record, but just to be safe, I’m submitting with this statement both the Chairman’s letter and the response by Cato’s president, John Allison.
- Is there mens rea in the tainted-cantaloupe prosecution? [Politico, Marler-backed Food Safety News]
- “Some unanswered questions about private prison quotas” [Paul Gowder, Concurring Opinions]
- “Smoke A Joint, Lose Your Kids” [Radley Balko]
- Senate “Stand Your Ground” hearing postponed [earlier, and check out our new stand your ground tag];
- “From Streaking to Possible Sex Offender to Tragedy” [Free-Range Kids, Reason; related on sex offender registries, Jacob Sullum, ABA Journal]
- Also related: New app for anonymous denunciation, courtesy of the feds: sure, what could go wrong? [Free-Range Kids, FireDogLake]
- Florida prosecutors consider seeking death penalty for pain doctor whose customers overdosed [Sentencing Law, Broward Palm Beach New Times]
“… is to allow citizens to monitor government, not to allow government to monitor citizens.” — Center for Competitive Politics on Sen. Dick Durbin’s demand that private donors provide information about their involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization for state legislators, and with the issue of “stand your ground” self-defense law.