The push for an investigation was led by Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki.Just how mind-bendingly outrageous some applications of the law in some jurisdictions have been was demonstrated again in Florida last Thursday when, after just two hours of deliberation, jurors acquitted 70-year-old former Army Lt. Col. Ralph Wald in the slaying of 32-year-old Walter Conley. Wald had awakened in the middle of the night on March 10 to find Conley having sex with his wife, Johanna Flores, on the living room floor. He told the court he shot the man because he thought Conley, his next door neighbor and wife's former lover, was raping her. In fact, the sex was consensual and Wald never mentioned "rape" in his 911 call.
"This is something the commission has not done in decades—a full-blown field investigation of an issue with potential civil rights ramifications," Yaki told The Huffington Post, explaining that much of their work in recent years has focused instead on briefings and receiving testimony.
Wald said on the stand: “If the same thing happened again, I would do the same thing. I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I had a problem, I found someone raping my wife. I took care of it. I got a gun and I shot him.”
The Tampa Bay Times investigated some 200 stand your ground cases last year and found egregious abuse of the law, including the killing of two unarmed people, of a man as he lay on the ground, of victims shot in back—sometimes while leaving the scene and presenting no threat. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants started the confrontation, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim. And yet they went free. In some cases, the defendants left the scene, armed themselves and returned to the fight. They too were let off.
The Times also discovered a racial component: people who killed a black person went free 73 percent of the time; people who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time.
The Civil Rights Commission will likely focus its investigation on Michigan and South Carolina in addition to Florida.