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Crossposted at Of Means and Ends

A day after what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 19th birthday, a hearing began in Florida in another case of a young black man killed in a tragic shooting. The case raises questions about just how far the dangerous “stand your ground” laws are going to be stretched:

Jury selection begins today in the trial of Michael Dunn, the man who shot and killed teenager Jordan Davis outside a Florida convenience store in November of 2012. Davis was sitting in a parked SUV outside the Jacksonville store with friends when Dunn, who is white, began complaining about their music. An argument ensued, and then ended, when Dunn fired his 9mm handgun into the vehicle. As the SUV raced off, Dunn stepped out of his car and fired again. Then he and his girlfriend drove to a hotel, checked in, and ordered a pizza. He never called the police and was only arrested because a witness jotted down his license plate. Dunn, who is mounting a Stand Your Ground defense, claimed a passenger in the vehicle had threatened him with shotgun—or a stick. The police found no gun.
One of the many heartbreaking things about this incident (as chronicled in Orland Bagwell’s moving op-docfor the New York Times) is that Jordan’s parents discussed the Trayvon Martin case with their son. From Ta-Nehisi Coates’s interview with Jordan’s mother:
I knew what was happening in the country. But I spent more time trying to prepare Jordan to be safe, specifically being a young black male. I monitored who he was with and what he did. And I would have those discussions with him. But I didn’t know anything about Stand Your Ground until Trayvon, which I discussed with Jordan as well. Every time I saw a case like that I would just pray to the Lord that something like that would never happen to us. Jordan was in a safe environment. We were in a safe environment. Now my eyes are open. It does not matter where you raise your kids. It does not matter what your religious upbringing is.
There’s a terribly sad hopelessness there. Black families receive a lot of messages about responsibility and keeping their children on the right path. But incidents like this show how impossible it is to keep young black men safe in a society that clings to enough racial fear to accept almost any claim of self defense against unarmed black teenagers like Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin or Renisha McBride.

We live in a country where our Congress is too cowardly to pass even modest gun control measures after a massacre of schoolchildren. Where 1 in 3 black men will go to prison in their lifetimes and where a police department can make more stops of black men in a city than there are black men in that city’s population. It can seem impossible to tackle this toxic mess of the United States’s obsession with guns and living legacy of racism. But we owe it to Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, and Trayvon Martin, to try.

Originally posted to Of Means and Ends on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:07 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Invisible People, Support the Dream Defenders, Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Firearms Law and Policy, and Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Congress Isn't Cowardly. (5+ / 0-)

    The USA is a democratic oligarchy, meaning that the people vote for those who will represent the oligarchs. The oligarchs among other things are establishing an armed populace safe to shoot to kill on any least allegation of fear.

    Congress is representing the United States reasonably faithfully.

    The United States is not "we, the people."

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:15:04 PM PST

    •  At least though we're the land of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Victor Ward

      opportunity, where even poor kids can grow up to be one of the oligarchs. Our oligarchy is not an aristocracy.

    •  Impressive logic (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I had previously thought the oligarchs were more like Bloomberg, granting themselves armed protection while denying it to others.

      Instead, you have shown beyond doubt that the oligarchs support a heavily armed populace that would outnumber them a thousand to one.

      Thank you for enlightening me.

    •  I disagree. Congress becomes captive to ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... lobbyists for special interests, who can raise campaign money, raise hell if their boxes aren't checked, and have insider access to the Hill.

      That has very little to do with real voters.

      Lobbyists operate by concentrating power that magnifies their advocacy way beyond its prevalence in society.

      2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:42:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is the first I've heard of this. I truly hope (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rubyr, Glen The Plumber, coquiero

    that it's not a true story, and fully fear that it is.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:17:53 PM PST

  •  I am white and 64 and have been known to wear (13+ / 0-)

    a hoodie--mine is aqua and has Tinkerbell on it and I am female, so that likely makes me less of a target. But these days I worry a lot more about my crazy  50-something white amputee neighbor who has a grudge against us (and everyone who isn't a white tea partier) than I do about the lovely African American family with a teenage son who live across the street.  Sonny is a polite, sweet 15 year old who looks like he's gonna be movie star handsome in a few years--the old jackass is just a mean old man with no family who is universally loathed in the subdivision.

    Trayvon Martin was one death too many. I hope that this ahem person doesn't get away with it. But I've lived in Jacksonville, so I am not sanguine.  I remember the day that the clerks ( both white and black) got their knickers in a collective knot about this really large (pro-football large) teenager who was sitting at a back table, doing nothing but studying. For some reason, they were sure he was gonna be trouble.  They pointed him put to me. I started to laugh. Because the Terrifying Thug was studying with his very pretty girlfriend and would occasionally kiss her hand. And they weren't making any noise or bothering anyone.  I thought they were sweet, and said so.  But that youg man, simply because he happened to be a big guy, could easily have become a victim of "Stand Your Ground".

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:19:08 PM PST

  •  I don't think Dunn has a valid SYG defense (7+ / 0-)

    and think he will be convicted of murder. The same prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, is in charge of this case. As is her MO she has overcharged this case by filing First Degree Murder. Overcharging was one of the fatal mistakes in her prosecution of George Zimmerman. She should have charged Zimmerman with manslaughter. It would have helped her chances for a conviction. Manslaughter in Florida when using a handgun can result in sentences of more than 15 years.

    There are very few similarities between the Zimmerman case and the Dunn case. The Dunn defense didn't ask for a SYG hearing but can offer that defense at trial. I don't think the defense is going to be able to convince the jury that Dunn was in such fear of his life that the use of deadly force was justified. Unlike the Zimmerman case the facts in the Dunn case are well known and the evidence fits the prosecution's theory of the crime.

    Just to remind people that the Zimmerman legal team had contemplated using a SYG defense but decided not to, and used a standard self defense claim. I am not sure why the Zimmerman case is the common reference for SYG when it was an option the defense never used.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:28:28 PM PST

    •  Here we go again. (11+ / 0-)

      Lord help us!

      There are very few similarities between the Zimmerman case and the Dunn case.

      Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

      by JoanMar on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:39:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here's one of many pieces about how (10+ / 0-)

      SYG did actually play a significant role in the Trayvon Martin case:

    •  Come on now (8+ / 0-)

      You know that the jury was given instructions which directly linked to SYG, and the one jurist who spoke publicly directly referenced it.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 11:07:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In Florida, the self-defense law and (5+ / 0-)

        the stand your ground statement are in the same law.  

        The statute is Florida law 776.012.  It says this:

        776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
        (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
        (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
        History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1188, ch. 97-102; s. 2, ch. 2005-27.
        The relevant part of 776.013 (which includes discussion of home invasion, police officers, etc.) is this:
        (3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
        When judges give jury instructions in Florida, the standard jury instructions -- which is what the judge used -- is to but the two concepts (SYG and self defense) together.  Legally, the only parts of those statute that are SYG are the parts I bolded.  The rest of the statutes pretty much follow traditional self-defense (if you took the bold words our, the statute would be only traditional self-defense).  Some people use the terms interchangeably (because they are in the same statutes) but the defend yourself part is self defense, and the "no duty to retreat" part is the SYG part.  Legally, the only time there is a SYG issue is if, at the moment a person is being attached physically, he has two viable options:  (1) retreat to a safe place; or (2) respond to the physical attack with his own physical attack.   In a non-SYG state, he HAS to take option 1.  In a SYG state, he can do either.  

        What the jury said is more self-defense than SYG:

        "because of the heat of the moment and the 'stand your ground.' He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right."
        That bold part is standard self-defense, the law in every state.  
        •  Oh dear Lord (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          a2nite, coquiero

          the instructions to the jury explicitly talked about duty to retreat and necessity of force at the time of attack. You know what I find offensive after all this time? You will not acknowledge that the jurist who publicly spoke literally believed that that they were told that SYG was to be used because the wording is deliberately framed that way.

          Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

          by moviemeister76 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:18:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  From means link because I'm sick of that misdirect (11+ / 0-)
      The jury instructions—and a reason for their verdict: Just because Zimmerman's defense team didn't bring up Stand Your Ground in the trial (more on that below), that doesn't mean the law was irrelevant to the jury's decision. To the contrary, Judge Debra Nelson made clear in the jury instructions (PDF) that they should consider the law:
      If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
      And consider it they did. According to the most outspoken juror, known only as Juror B-37, Stand Your Ground was key to reaching their verdict. She told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview that neither second-degree murder nor manslaughter applied in Zimmerman's case "because of the heat of the moment and the 'stand your ground.' He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right."

      Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

      by Mike S on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 11:19:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you disagree with that jury instruction? (4+ / 0-)

        IF a person is not doing anything illegal, is in a place where he has the right to be, is attacked by another person and fears death or great bodily harm, is lethal force justifiable?

        Forget about whether or not you believe Zimmerman's story. Do you have a problem with that jury instruction?

        If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

        by HairyTrueMan on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:27:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's the law. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, Pi Li, Victor Ward

        The only caveat is that if there was evidence that Zimmerman was the first to threaten or use actual violence, the instruction would have been different, THEN he would have had the duty to retreat if Martin responded to his force with force.  

        During the jury charges conference (where the judge decides what instructions will be given) they discussed that, but the prosecution had no evidence that Zimmerman was the first to use or threaten actual force sufficient to warrant that instruction.  Courts won't give instructions on the basis of "this could have happened."  they do the charge conference after all the evidence is in, so the lawyers have to point the judge to evidence in the record of the case that warrants it.  

        •  You're a lawyer, right? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sharon Wraight, coquiero

          Is it possible to view jury instructions from pre-SYG murder trials where the defendant claimed self defense?  It would be interesting to see the language used and how it compares.

          •  Yes, I'm a lawyer. (4+ / 0-)

            And I may look for that.  But if you compare other states that don't have the SYG concept, it's very clear that the rest -- the not bold part -- is traditional self defense.  

            See wiki's definition of SYG:  

            A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.
            Here's wiki on traditional self-defense:  
            In the United States, the defense of self-defense allows a person to use reasonable force in his or her own defense or the defense of others (see the theoretical background for why this is allowed).
            While the definitions vary from state to state, the general rule makes an important distinction between the use of non-deadly and deadly force. A person may use non-deadly force to prevent imminent injury; however, a person may not use deadly force unless that person is in reasonable fear of serious injury or death. Some states also include a duty to retreat, when deadly force may only be used if the person is unable to safely retreat. A person is generally not obligated to retreat if in one's own home in what has been called the castle exception (from the expression "A man's home is his castle").
            See the part about a duty to retreat?  In the absence of a SYG law, if you are faced with a dangerous situation threatening life or great bodily harm, you can't use deadly force UNLESS you have no opportunity to retreat.  SYG laws make clear that, if you are faced it a dangerous situation threatening life or great bodily harm, even if you have an opportunity to retreat, you don't have to, and you can meet that danger with deadly force.

            Stand your ground laws were written because you might once in a long while have a situation where an attacker comes upon victim with a gun, victim shoots and kills attacker, and victim is charged with a crime, because he had an opportunity to run away (simplistic example) rather than shoot, and because he didn't run away (retreat) he was charged with murder or manslaughter for killing his attacker.  SYG was supposed to prevent that kind of situation -- so that if you are faced with an attacker threatening death or great bodily harm, you can respond with deadly force without looking around to see if you can retreat first.  

    •  I think its pretty disrespectful... (0+ / 0-)

      to the family of Mr. Davis to say the two are similar.

  •  Florida has basically (6+ / 0-)

    become the Wild West and anyone that isn't old, white and male is going to play the part of the Native Americans in this movie. SYG laws have made people think they can just murder with impunity and in many cases they are being proven correct. Just had one here a couple of days ago (panhandle) where a husband shot his wife's lover and her and is now claiming self defense. Then there is the popcorn/texting shooter who claims he was fearing for his life because popcorn. :/

    ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

    by Kristina40 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:11:22 AM PST

  •  To GOP/NRA: not enough guns for everyone... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Glen The Plumber, coquiero

    …but there is way more than enough blood to be shed to keep them satisfied!!

  •  Very different from the Martin case, and (5+ / 0-)

    if these facts prove to be correct (which we won't know until the testimony in the trial) likely a different outcome.

    Zimmerman was found not guilty because the state did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was not in fear of his life or great bodily harm at the moment the gun was fired.  The two witnesses who (IMO) contributed the most to that verdict where (1) the guy who testified he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman punching down "MMA style" and (2) the expert who testified that Z's injuries were consistent with a head beating, including the head hitting concrete, and that had such a beating continued, there was a risk of death or great bodily harm.  The jury may not have really believed it, and there may have been other evidence to the contrary, but the testimony of those two raised reasonable doubt.  The state presented no alternative scenario of where the parties were at the moment the gun was fired that the jury believed beyond a reasonable doubt.  

    Here, there are two BIG differences from the Zimmerman case.  (1) there's no evidence whatsoever (as far as we know now) to corroborate this guy's story that he was in fear of death or great bodily harm because he thought he saw a gun -- and (2) more importantly, Stand Your Ground does not allow you to retreat and THEN COME BACK with a gun.  The law simply says you don't have to retreat.  But this guy supposedly DID retreat -- he left and went to his car.  Once he did, nothing in the SYG law allowed him to come BACK to the car with a gun.  Nothing.

    If this is how the testimony plays out (and like I said, we don't know what that will be yet) I would imagine a different outcome from Zimmerman's.  

  •  Go DMX! Beat the shit outta him! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "radical, ideological wet dream"

    by Scottsdalian on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 07:53:00 AM PST

  •  Our resident Pro Zimmerman crowd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Glen The Plumber, coquiero

    will now bury this comment section with self   contradictions of straw man legal mumbo jumbo , because that is how they bury the over all subject , and the subject is Floridas jim crow "self defence" laws , which include SYG

    The connection between the subject of this Diary and Trayvon is that the defendant is pleading " self defence " , just like Zimmerman did  

    ( SYG ) language was added to Florida's law books in 2005, exactly at the time that Florida put codified "stand your ground." They were part of the same reform, and have always been understood to be as such--even by Stand Your Ground's proponents. :  


    The thing to understand here is that Stand Your Ground laws do not exist in some segregated section of Florida's criminal code. They are not bracketed off from the rest of Florida's "standard" self-defense laws. Stand Your Ground laws are integral to the very meaning of self-defense in the state.

    I do not think you can argue that Zimmerman would have been convicted if not for Stand Your Ground. But you certainly can't argue that the law had "nothing" to do with this case. And you most certainly can argue that SYG reduced the chances of Zimmerman being arrested. If that arrest had happened we probably would not be talking about this case right now.

    The Atlantic

    Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

    by Patango on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:56:38 AM PST

  •  Other than the race of the shooter and the victim (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk, HairyTrueMan

    Virtually no other similarities between the two cases. This should be a fairly easy conviction.

    •  Clearly it's easier evidence-wise to get a (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Glen The Plumber

      conviction here. I'm interested largely in the broader similarities as far as what it says about our culture that people think they can shoot young black men with impunity and claim self defense. Hopefully the outrage, and some of these people being brought to justice, will help turn the tide, but it won't be easy.

    •  farmernate says (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Glen The Plumber, coquiero
      Virtually no other similarities between the two cases.
      Really ? You just have to pretend this did not happen in Fl. ,  falls under the same self defence laws , and pretend that these laws are NOT written and applied in a pro jim crow fashion ( ALEC ) , all within a population that views unarmed black kids as " dangerous " , good luck with that  

      Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

      by Patango on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:23:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ummm (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        coffeetalk, HairyTrueMan

        In one case there was a physical altercation that resulted in two men struggling on the ground. Exactly what happened is very very foggy. Who started it, how did it start, what was happening, really hard to know. There are conflicting accounts and no really good eye witnesses. The accused has a story that may sound a bit fishy, but it's very hard to disprove in court.

        In the other someones shoots another person from a distance without ever being touched by them in the presence of at least three witnesses and then doesn't call the police.

        Pretty dissimilar.

        •  And in scenario 2 (0+ / 0-)

          as I understand it, the guy shot a number of times -- 5 or 6? from what I've read -- in other words, he kept shooting even when there was no sign of danger to him.

          In scenario 1, guy shoots once, and stops.  Expert testifies that the trajectory of the bullet, and the effect on the clothes of Martin, is consistent with Martin being on top of the shooter when the shot was fired.  Maybe you can challenge the expert, but the expert's testimony established reasonable doubt.  

          •  None of that had dooky (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Glen The Plumber, coquiero

            to do with farmernate being wrong

            U 2 should call the defendant and his lawyer and tell them not to bother pleading  "self defence " , I am sure they would find it as interesting as your failed comments in here about the subject matter

            Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

            by Patango on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:24:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe we need federal troops down there... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Lynching is back...

    How long will it take for something to be done?

    Do we need to get federal troops in the South again?

    OMG, like, gag them with a multi-colored spoon. Like, ya know.

    by Jyotai on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:09:36 PM PST

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