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George Zimmerman's lead defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, doesn't like the way jurors are being instructed on the state's "stand your ground" law. Currently, the jury is told about them in every case of self-defense. O'Mara views that as unnecessary and said last week that he would submit a proposal to the Florida Bar to give judges discretion on when to include the "stand your ground" instructions to juries. But there are obstacles:
"In order to change the jury instruction, the Florida Supreme Court or the legislature has to approve the change," said David Weinstein, a former state prosecutor now in private practice in Miami. "It's hard to see that happening in the current political climate," he said.
O'Mara's proposal actually might be a slight improvement in this law that encourages people to shoot first and claim they feared for their life afterward. However, outright repeal of the worst "stand your ground" laws—Florida's and several of its American Legislative Exchange Council-backed imitators—would make for the better outcome, as in fewer dead black teenagers.

The statute gives people added legal protection in cases when they have used deadly force in a confrontation. "Stand your ground" says a person has no "duty to retreat" in a confrontation as long as she or he was behaving legally. It allows a defendant to obtain a pre-trial immunity hearing, a sort of mini-trial before a judge who can decide whether a full-blown jury trial is called for. If the judge decides that "stand your ground" applies, that's the end. Case dismissed. Some of the consequences include people getting off without penalty even when they have shot someone in the back, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

In the case of Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and Michael Dunn's killing of Jordan Davis, no "stand your ground" hearing was sought, so the law was not technically part of either trial. But judges in both cases gave the jurors "stand your ground" instructions. In the Zimmerman case, jurors said that influenced their decision to acquit. Dunn's jury was hung over the most serious charge of first-degree murder. Jurors in that case were also influenced by the "stand your ground" law, legal experts said.

O'Mara wants to change that situation:

"Only include it in those cases where the 'stand your ground, no duty to retreat' issue is relevant," O'Mara told Reuters on Wednesday. [...]

O'Mara said his proposal was "a nice polishing of the jury instructions that will address people's concerns that juries are getting confused about stand your ground when it's not appropriate."

"Inappropriate" is the label that should be applied to the entirety of Florida's poorly written, loosely interpreted "stand your ground" law and those like it across the country. Legitimate self-defense claims don't need this addendum.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:43 PM PST.

Also republished by Support the Dream Defenders, Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Shut Down the NRA, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipped & rec'ed (6+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:47:28 PM PST

  •  I think that is a good idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and also has no chance of getting past the Florida legislature.

  •  I don't often disagree with MB, but I do here. (16+ / 0-)

        I don't see Mr. O'Mara's proposal to leave the giving of a SYG instruction to the trial judge's discretion as a slight improvement. It could be a disaster. I could envision judges preventing people of color from using the defense and reserving it for upstanding white people only (or mostly).
          The only thing that Florida can do to make it right is to wipe this abomination off the books. Completely. Not that it will happen, but a hillbilly can still dream, right?

    The Republican motto: "There's been a lot of progress in this country over the last 75 years, and we've been against all of it."

    by Hillbilly Dem on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:15:35 PM PST

    •  This was my first thought. (6+ / 0-)

      Then only the Dunns and Zimmermans of this world would have this "protection".
      Agree, too, that the only acceptable way forward is to get rid of this abomination - as you so aptly describe it.

      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 Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:29:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  aren't we already seeing this in multiple cases (8+ / 0-)

      where the GZ DA is also the DA for the Alexander case:
      I understand she is also the DA for the movie theater shooting:

      In any case, many folks feel she "threw" the GZ case while "throwing the book" at Alexander

    •  What about reasonalbe person standard? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have to wonder if the reasonable person standard is being properly explained to juries.

      Would a clarification here be desirable?  Dunn was not acting as a reasonable person would.  

      I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

      by DavidMS on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:00:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  However that is going to be very hard (0+ / 0-)

        to prove as it is a "reasonable person" and not a "reasonable person with perfect (i.e. camera like) senses".  In other words, given how the eye and brain work it is going to be very hard to prove that he did not see something that looked like a gun from that angle.  Any number of optical illusions could be used to provide reasonable doubt as to what he saw.  In fact, that Blu-Ray movie you just watched relies on many such optical illusions as that is how it compresses the video with little to no apparent quality loss.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:29:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think the judge can say... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        that the defendent is not a reasonable person.

    •  disaster for more than this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RockyMtnLib, JoanMar

      in practical terms the limiting of SYG laws to certain protected classes seems to be achieved through jury selection. This was indicated by the conviction of a women who stood her ground against her husband.

      Is there any doubt that if Jordan Davis had been packing as the NRA recommends, and had killed Dunn in perfectly reasonable self defense, that he would not have been characterized as a gangbanger out looking for someone to kill.  The same was clearly true for Dunn, but he was in the protected class that is allowed to murder at will and the type of person SYG is designed to protect.

      SYG is designed to allow the people who want to kill other people a better opportunity.  Before SYG my conservative friends talked about their hope that they would walk in on a convenience store robbery and be allowed to kill someone.  Rand Paul expressed this thought when he said he did not care who killed the kid walking out of the liquor store, a drone or a person, as long as someone did.  Now all someone has to do is start an argument, then kill the victim.

      Only repeal will be effective.  Modification will make the law more palatable to those who do think killing, while necessary, needs to be a bit more controlled.

  •  Further streamlining: (8+ / 0-)

    No need to waste the time of busy judges, just use this handy skin color swatch chart.  I haven't labeled the swatches for which Stand Your Ground applies, but do I really need to?

    Skin Color Comparitor photo My_Skin_Colour_Swatches_by_DeathRattleSnake_zpsaef309d5.jpg

    "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

    by Subterranean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:26:04 PM PST

  •  The only "improvement" to this law... (7+ / 0-)
    O'Mara's proposal actually might be a slight improvement in this law that encourages people to shoot first and claim they feared for their life afterward.
    possible is it's repeal.

    "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

    by CanisMaximus on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:37:27 PM PST

  •  Rather than more discretion, I would favor (6+ / 0-)

    a complete repeal.  Although that is unlikely due to the paranoid neurotic trend across our entire nation, we need to reject SYG outright everywhere.  Traditional "self defense" law is capable of handling difficult decisions regarding the justness of someone's deadly actions.

    The extent to which SYG has been distorted into pursue and kill, shoot in the back, shoot people on the porch, shoot people in the driveway, and shoot delivery people at the wrong house should show exactly why it needs to be repealed. But the current crop of lawmakers who are overly concerned about their penis size are unlikely to do the right thing. Or maybe it is just their tiny testicles which are the problem...  I could have been completely wrong only a sentence ago.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:44:25 PM PST

    •  An idea to get this terrible law repealed: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      providence, a2nite

      How about a boycott of major tourist destinations in Florida:  Disneyworld, Universal Studios et. al.?

      Perhaps you are worried that your kid could drop an ice cream cone on someone's foot while you are standing in the infinity line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride,.  Under SYG, the person feels threatened by the dropped cone and shoots your kid.  If someone can be threatened by popcorn, why not a spilled soda or a dropped jelly bean?

      The only way this law will be repealed is by a major effort to boycott Florida's big tourist attractions.  I think  these corporations would put the pressure on Gov. Bat Boy to repeal if their bottom line looks like it could be hurt by the law.

      What do you Kossacks think about this idea.  Who should spearhead? "Moms Demand Action"?  Your thoughts????

      If Liberals Hated America, We'd Vote Republican

      by QuarterHorseDem on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:46:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is not certain how many states have SYG laws (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, salmo

    Some say 23; others say 26 or 32, depending on how SYG is interpreted state to state but it is no secret that it is open season on scary strangers or anyone who appears to be scary to a gun owner for any reason.  (I note this as a homeowner was exonerated in shooting a 72 Alzheimer's patient whom he saw wandering on his property.)

    At any rate, here are a couple of articles:

    The point is two decades of paranoia training has paid off as many Americans are not only afraid now but they are also armed.  A recent poll in a gunning magazine revealed that 90% of readers carried on a regular basis; a majority also carried a fixed blade or large pocket knife as well as a "backup" piece.  The most fave "carry" calibers were .45 or .40 while fewer than 50% underwent regular training or brushup training with their weapon.

    All of this is worrisome to me (Disclaimer: I have a CWP and have owned and collected firearms for years)  

    •  Until the law was changed in Colorado... (6+ / 0-)

      ...last year—one of the laws that got to Democratic legislators recalled and another resigned—"training" for someone seeking a concealed carry permit could be done via an Internet class. An applicant need not have fired the gun s/he was going to carry or ANY gun at all EVER. Some other states have no training requirement.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 03:13:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that is what is worrisome for me; even those with (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades

        military or LE experience and training need re-training from time to time just to knock off some of the rust as some of us are years from any training or else are handling a different weapon from the ones which we were trained with

  •  No Jury instructions can change this law (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    From what it actually is:
    A white person can kill a black person anytime they want and never the other way around law.

    Lived in Florida for two years, that was plenty.

  •  I believe that juror meant "self-defense" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yeah, she/he said "stand your ground", but the way they decided this case was simply based upon normal self-defense law if you read other things he/she said in that interview. If you read her/his comments in context, he/she is saying that it was self-defense after Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman.

  •  Limit SYG instuctions to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    gated communities only (where the swing in real-estate values makes it worth while)

  •  George Zimmerman? Really? (0+ / 0-)

    What your next diary gonna be about, MB? The Oscar Pistorious case? Brad Pitt & Co's selfie on twitter?

    Issues of our day indeed.

  •  There's another court case? (0+ / 0-)

    George Zimmerman still has to pay attorneys?

    Color me dumbfounded. Not paying attention. Joe the not-a-plumber redux murderer dude is still in Floridian court proceedings?

    I'd kick his "Really not an MMA-star" ass in 22 seconds. Violently and fatally.

    Give or take..

    Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies, We were roaring drunk on petroleum -Kurt Vonnegut

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:01:14 PM PST

  •  I'm a CC carry advocate (0+ / 0-)

    I'm going to be unpopular here, for sure.

    I have Crohn's disease.  I have chronic asthma,  About a month ago, I received my last radiation treatment (of the 38 I received).  If a person comes up to me and threatens me and gets in my face and says he's going to "kick my ass" (which could very well cause me to die), what would someone here or in a jury ANYWHERE say if I used my gun to shoot this person to keep him from that?

    It is a question not ever asked.  "What about people that carry a gun to defend themselves that are very subject to being killed at even the most minor injury"?

    There are many issues here that have to be considered.  

    •  Anyone can be killed at any time (5+ / 0-)

      People are definitely killed every day by being beaten up - healthy strong people also.

      I live in a major city. I can't think of a time if ever that someone randomly decided to threaten me and tell me they were going to "kick my ass" in the way you described.

      You can live in fear your entire life or you can live your life. I don't understand this mentality where if you didn't have your gun on you 24/7 you'd be at constant risk of death. It just doesn't happen.

      If someone randomly and suddenly attacks you, you'd be incapacitated before you could use your gun. If someone robbed you with a gun, I imagine you're not going to start a quickdraw contest.

      When we stop putting leaders from the past up on pedestals and ignoring their flaws, we can start seeing our present leaders for what they really are.

      by PhillyJeff on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:20:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly right. Every child old enough to walk (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and go outside on their own power needs to be armed against exactly that contingency.  Now, the littlest ones, of course, can only handle small guns at first, but soon enough they'll be able to handle a manly side arm.

    •  When is the last time someone... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FogCityJohn, wishingwell

      ...threatened to kick your ass?

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:37:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And when is it "relevant"? (0+ / 0-)

    Any bill carrying this nonsensical idea (hard to believe, but even more nonsensical than the original stand-your-ground nonsense) should be titled "The Criminal Defense Appellate Lawyers' Early Retirement Act."

    I foresee many attorney hours spent going back and forth with whether the instruction would be relevant, and any ruling that stand-your-ground doesn't apply would be met with a swift appellate filing that the court erred or abused its discretion or some other grounds for why the decision was wrong. Criminal appeals would become a growth industry until such time as the Florida legislature was able to completely de-fund public defenders.

    •  That already happens. (0+ / 0-)

      There are always arguments over what jury instructions should be given on the facts of a particular case.  Generally there are rules about when instructions must be given, should be given, and may be given.  A defendant is entitled to an instruction on a self-defense theory if there's enough evidence to go to the jury on that issue.

      Jury instruction conferences and arguments are part and parcel of every trial, whether civil or criminal.  I don't see this as adding much, if anything, to an appellate court's workload.

      Not saying O'Mara's got a good idea.  Just saying that I can't see it increasing the burden on either trial or appellate courts to any significant degree.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:33:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If I bludgeon someone to death with a brick, ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, i saw an old tree today

    can I use the 'Stand Your Ground' defense, or does this defense only apply to NRA members, and not brick masons?

    I just missed being run over by the wheel of good fortune. The guy standing next to me was not so lucky.

    by glb3 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:03:02 PM PST

  •  basically if you dont have a gun (3+ / 0-)

    you have to stand down. the gun has more rights than you do.

    drones are a cost effective way of generating enough new terrorists that calls to cut military spending will fail.

    by just want to comment on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:14:17 PM PST

  •  O'Mara has a point. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The SYG instruction should have never been included in the Zimmerman case since it was straight up self-defense.  Kind of hard to retreat when you're laying on the ground getting your face beat in.

  •  SYG endorses unnecessary deaths. (0+ / 0-)

    It's completely abominable that there is a law that says that, even though it wasn't necessary at all, it's sometimes okay to kill someone.

    Fuck. That. Noise.

    Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
    Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
    Code Monkey like you!

    Formerly known as Jyrinx.

    by Code Monkey on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 04:50:42 PM PST

  •  What Florida law boils down to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1.  Fire a weapon, don't kill or hurt anyone, get jail time.

    2.  Fire a weapon, kill someone, you get to skate.

    I think the whole state of Florida fell down the rabbit hole.

    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

    by arlene on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:03:49 PM PST

  •  It sure sounds like a step in the right direction (0+ / 0-)

    ..but since "Stand your ground is not a defense, but an immunity statute, providing immunity from criminal prosecution." that at best creates the presumption that a shooter had a reasonable fear.. and at worst acts as a license to kill..

    ..why not limit of SYG instruction as a guideline only at the time of the Stand Your Ground hearing - only?

    A defendant charged with a crime who wants to raise Stand your Ground files a motion to dismiss claiming stand your ground immunizes him from prosecution....

    A hearing is held before trial. The burden is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that stand your ground immunity applies.

     The judge weighs the facts. If the judge agrees the defendant has shown stand your ground immunity applies by a preponderance of evidence, the charges are dismissed. The defendant can't be prosecuted.

    If the judge finds that the defendant has not met his/her burden, then the case goes to trial.

    Why not completely forbid the use of, application or even mention of the SYG immunity statute in any way to the trial including jury instruction if the defendant's claim was previously rejected as insufficient?

    That's what I'd like to see in lieu of getting rid of the law altogether - It's bad law

    Thx MB

  •  The SRO of pampered poodles (0+ / 0-)

    The entire legal profession including the courts are corrupt because they are the last SRO (Self Regulating Organization i.e. where the fox guards the henhouse) in the American economy.  The conduct of every other profession in the United States is subject to U.S. laws and public oversight boards (FINRA, public accounting board Et cetera).  After TWO LAW FIRMS, one inside and one outside Enron, WERE FOUND TO HAVE KNOWN THAT ENRON  WAS DRAMATICALLY OVERSTATING THE VALUE OF THEIR ASSETS IN THE PUBLIC RECORDS to the SEC BUT FAILED TO REPORT IT - that lead to a stock market crash  and the reduction of 50% of the value of public and private pensions in the United States   they, the legal profession, were included-  with the accounting firms in the Sarbanes Oxley act to be stripped of their SRO exemption And placed under the jurisdiction of a public accountability board (as were  accounting firms).    The legal club - and that’s what it is a club and not a professional - went ape.   “We can’t possibly be subject to the same laws as mere Americans and as other American professions.  how could we overcharge,  prejudicially restrict our services from Americans in favor of corporations, and conceal our incompetence?”  “why it’s unheard of.”  So they lavishly paid off legislators and the legislators withdrew it from the bill. Almost all lobbyists working to crush the health and safety of the American people for the benefits of corporations That  pay them are lawyers.  There was a time when lawyers went into the profession to do a public service.  Now they only go into it for the money.  the legal profession benefits from a franchise given to them by the American people (the license s given by the state)   with the implicit and explicit requirement that they act on behalf of the American people and particularly the people of the state that granted them to license. Taking advantage of the fact that they are presently only accountable to the local bar made up of Their fellow pampered poodles, they turn their back on their fellow citizens, they use public positions for private gain – example David Samson still head of the port authority of New Jersey  voted on reduction of rents to one of his  law firm’s clients from $900,000 a year to $1 a year, removing that revenue from the people of New Jersey . They have violated that public trust.  Congress needs to   complete the job that they started in 2000 and remove their special treatment exemption, install a public accountability board that citizens can go to for Atty. Misconduct instead of just going to the colleagues of the attorney’s fellow pampered poodles and, just as they did with the accounting profession in the year 2000, place their conduct under U.S. law

  •  good but (0+ / 0-)

    maybe it should also include a provision that SYG is not a valid defense if the defendant himself/herself STARTED the altercation - meaning they had the option of retreating or seeking help  or not engaging but instead chose to shoot.

  •  Here's an interesting case of self defense... (0+ / 0-)

    versus stand your ground out of Kansas City. Warning: The video at the bottom of the story is quite graphic.

    I would argue that even if the police officer was wrong to detain the man, the cop was still justified in the shooting because he was in grave danger.

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

    by HairyTrueMan on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 06:20:23 AM PST

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