Dec 11, 2013
Dick and Trayvon ... Connect the Dots
Posted on Jul 5, 2013
By Judy Balaban
As a free American, whatever ground you stand on, legally, is your ground. And exercising your conviction by standing on it against someone who might do you harm is your right, perhaps even your obligation. It had a good ring to it and so, before long, several states passed Stand Your Ground laws to go with their Your Home Is Your Castle ones, and once again gun sales skyrocketed.
Nobody has been able to decisively assess the effects of the Cheney doctrine’s offshoot laws. Some studies demonstrate that they have increased violent gun crime, others that crime has decreased, while still others say there has been no change among minority populations but a rise in both hospitalizations and gun deaths among white males. In some states with Castle and Stand Your Ground statutes, there is no unequivocal evidence of any effect, though in Florida—whether or not other factors are involved—since the laws were passed in 2005, gun deaths have tripled.
Cheney’s radical One Percent Doctrine did not give birth to self-defense claims or the concept that it is your right to defend yourself in your own home or anywhere you have a legal right to be. What was new about Castle and Stand Your Ground laws spawned by his doctrine was that—once these became actual statutes—by citing them, you could avoid an arrest or a trial and, like Zimmerman, go home a free man after shooting and killing a 17-year-old boy, who was minding his own business while walking home from a convenience store, after you pursued him solely because you had some notion in your own head that people like him were up to no good and you had to do something about it … and about him.
Once the public took notice of the Martin/Zimmerman case, things changed. The police chief was fired and replaced. A special prosecutor was appointed. The defendant was arrested, bailed out, charged, then detained again and bailed out again. There were depositions taken, evidentiary hearings held, lawyers appointed, and an avalanche of media coverage led up to the June start of the trial. Shortly before the trial began, Zimmerman had a last chance to ask the judge to dismiss the case and grant him the immunity that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and the Sanford Police Department had originally seemed to promise him. By then, though, there were way too many questions about whose ground had been violated on the night when Martin died for Zimmerman’s lawyers to risk requesting that. And so, Zimmerman is standing trial on a charge of second-degree murder and basing his claim of innocence on the old fashioned, pre-Cheney doctrine version of self-defense.
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