With the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, pundits and Main Street have begun to talk about laws commonly referred to as ‘Stand Your Ground.’ Although this self-defense law has been depicted as exclusive to the Deep South, that’s not the case. At least 23 other states have such laws according to the left of center publication The Atlantic. Other states provide for self-defense in various degrees by statutes, if a person perceives imminent danger at the hand of another.
Even in New York, a jury in a Rochester suburb accepted a version of Stand Your Ground as a defense for a black man who shot an unarmed white teenager in 2009. Roderick Scott believed Christopher Cervini was burglarizing a neighbor’s car. Scott killed Cervini with a .40 cal. handgun. Scott was ultimately cleared on manslaughter charges, after a trial.
Michael Filozof at The American Thinker explained the details of the tragic death of Cervini, noting similarities to the progression of events that led to Martin’s death in Florida. The major difference in Cervini’s case is that the shooter was charged immediately. Zimmerman was transported to the Sanford Police Dept. and questioned after a number of witnesses were questioned and he has not faced charges.
Filozof also notes the obvious—no intervention from the U.S. Dept. of Justice and no protests like those organized after Martin’s death. Ironically some of the protests after Martin died were organized by hate groups like the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party. NBPP actually published and distributed a ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ flier for the Florida shooter, George Zimmerman.
At the rally where the flier was distributed, there was a DOJ ‘Conciliation Specialist’ present as an observer. DOJ didn’t whisper a word about the flier, a de facto tool aimed at inciting vigilante action with the potential of civil unrest.
For context, it’s useful to know the NOI and NBPP are designated as hate groups by left of center organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Legal self-defense is a no-brainer, but media have largely over-simplified Stand Your Ground, depicting the law as carte blanche for killing. That’s simply not the case.
Florida state Sen. David Simmons told The US Report:
"As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Florida House of Representatives in 2005, I drafted Florida's "stand your ground" law, which was sponsored by my good friend, Rep. Dennis Baxley. It is landmark legislation that has been adopted by 19 other states, because it makes good, common sense. It simply states that if you or your family members are attacked with deadly force, you may stand your ground, rather than be required by law to run. Can you imagine having to run while your wife or children are being attacked with deadly force? If Mr. Zimmerman was not himself being attacked by use of deadly force, then Florida's "stand your ground" law has no application to his use of deadly force."
Florida statutes on Crimes and Justifiable Use of Force support Simmons’ statement. The Florida Legislature posts statutes online. Justifiable Use of Force (Title XLVI, CRIMES, Ch. 776; 776.041) carries specific provisions:
776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1190, ch. 97-102.
Another factor in Martin’s death was Zimmerman’s role as what media have described as ‘neighborhood watch captain.’ However, the official Neighborhood Watch program administered by the National Sheriff’s Association specifically prohibits the actions Zimmerman took after reporting Martin as a “suspicious person” in the gated community in Sanford, Fla.
NSA issued a release, saying Zimmerman’s alleged action “significantly contradicts the principles” of the NWP. The key word is “watch.” The NWP aims at residents as “eyes and ears” in the community, reporting suspicious behavior or actual crimes to law enforcement vested with the power to act. A citizen patrolling the streets with a loaded weapon and following a person he believes suspicious defies the central concept of NWP.
Zimmerman had made numerous calls to police to report incidents or suspicious activity in his neighborhood. The event reports show he called about white males and hispanic males too. Zimmerman’s father had a letter published in The Orlando Sentinel, declaring Zimmerman was hispanic and from a multi-racial background, both facts most big media have deliberately skewed or omitted.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement to investigate the Martin killing, and he appointed a special task force to review the state’s Stand Your Ground Law. Scott also appointed a special prosecutor, state attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville.
On Friday, President Barack Obama expressed sympathy for the Martin family, a gesture most Americans agreed with.
However, Obama then politicized his statement by suggesting if he had a son, the son would look like Trayvon. Our president’s facial features and complexion bear no similarities to those of Trayvon.
Imagine for a moment if a leading conservative politician like Gov. Sarah Palin had made such a statement about Christopher Cervini. The media would’ve suffered a collective hemorrhage.
Hate groups like the NOI and the Nation of Islam capitalize on tragedies like the death of Trayvon Martin as a means of promoting a racist agenda.
What most have overlooked in the death of Martin is that when news of the circumstances of his death gained the ear of the public, the community at large called for an investigation and those calls came from all races and political sectors. There are many lessons to be learned from the death of Trayvon Martin and Christopher Cervini, but thus far, the bully pulpit has been usurped by hate groups and opportunists.
Florida Gov. Scott issued a full statement explaining the steps he took to address the Martin case:
“As law enforcement investigates the death of Trayvon Martin, Floridians and others around the country have rightly recognized this as a terrible tragedy. Like all Floridians, I believe we must take steps to ensure tragedies like this are avoided. After listening to many concerned citizens in recent days, I will call for a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all of our citizens – especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state."
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/March 25, 2012)
*Many thanks to Kim Carroll for helping The US Report to gather information about Stand Your Ground.
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