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June 2012, Week 2

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Fri, 8 Jun 2012 21:12:14 -0400
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Five `Stand Your Ground' Cases You Should Know About

by Suevon Lee
ProPublica, June 8, 2012
www.propublica.org/article/five-stand-your-ground-cases-you-should-know-about

The Stand Your Ground law is most widely associated with
the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin [1], an
unarmed 17-year-old killed in Florida by George
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who claimed he
was acting in self-defense.

But as a recent Tampa Bay Times investigation [2]
indicates, the Martin incident is far from the only
example of the law's reach in Florida. The paper
identified nearly 200 instances [3] since 2005 where the
state's Stand Your Ground law has played a factor in
prosecutors' decisions, jury acquittals or a judge's
call to throw out the charges. (Not all the cases
involved killings. Some involved assaults where the
person didn't die.)

The law [4] removes a person's duty to retreat before
using deadly force against another in any place he has
the legal right to be - so long as he reasonably
believed he or someone else faced imminent death or
great bodily harm. Among the Stand Your Ground cases
identified by the paper, defendants went free nearly 70
percent of the time [5].

Although Florida was the first to enact a Stand Your
Ground law, 24 other states enforce similar versions
[6]. Using the Tampa Bay findings and others, we've
highlighted some of the most notable cases where a
version of the Stand Your Ground law has led to freedom
from criminal prosecution:

 * In November 2007, a Houston-area man pulled out a
   shotgun and killed two men [7] whom he suspected of
   burglarizing his neighbor's home. Joe Horn, a 61-
   year-old retiree, called 911 and urged the operator
   [8] to " `Catch these guys, will you? Cause, I ain't
   going to let them go.' " Despite being warned to
   remain inside his home, Horn stated he would shoot
   [9], telling the operator, " `I have a right to
   protect myself too, sir. The laws have been changed
   in this country since September the first, and you
   know it.' "

Two months earlier, the Texas Legislature passed a Stand
Your Ground law [10] removing a citizen's duty to
retreat while in public places before using deadly
force. In July 2008, a Harris County grand jury declined
to indict Horn of any criminal charges.

 * In Louisiana early this year, a grand jury cleared
   21-year-old Byron Thomas [11] after he fired into an
   SUV filled with teenagers after an alleged marijuana
   transaction went sour. One of the bullets struck and
   killed 15-year-old Jamonta Miles. Although the SUV
   was allegedly driving away when Thomas opened fire,
   Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said to local
   media that as far as Thomas knew, someone could have
   jumped out of the vehicle with a gun. Thomas, said
   the sheriff, had "decided to stand his ground [12]."

Louisiana's Stand Your Ground law [13] was enacted just
a year after Florida introduced its law.

 * In March 2012, Bo Morrison was shot and killed by a
   homeowner in Wisconsin [14] who discovered the
   unarmed 20-year-old on his porch early one morning.
   According to friends, Morrison was trying to evade
   police responding to a noise complaint at a
   neighboring underage drinking party. The homeowner,
   thinking Morrison was a burglar, was not charged by
   the local district attorney.

While Wisconsin doesn't have a Stand Your Ground law
that extends to public spaces, Gov. Scott Walker signed
an "intruders bill" [15] in December 2011 that presumes
somebody who uses deadly force against a trespasser in
their home, business or vehicle acted reasonably,
whether or not the intruder was armed. Before the law
was enacted, homeowners could only use deadly force if
their own lives were at risk.

 * In April, 22-year-old Cordell Jude shot and killed
   Daniel Adkins Jr. [16], a pedestrian who walked in
   front of Jude's car just as Jude was pulling up to
   the window of a Taco Bell drive-thru in Arizona. Jude
   claimed Adkins had waved his arms in the air,
   wielding what Judge thought was a metal pipe - it was
   actually a dog leash. Jude shot the 29-year-old
   Adkins, who was mentally disabled, once in the chest.
   As of May, an arrest had not been made in the April 3
   shooting.

Arizona passed a Stand Your Ground [17] law in 2010.

 * In January, a judge in Miami tossed out a second-
   degree murder charge against Greyston Garcia after he
   chased a suspected burglar for more than a block [18]
   and stabbed him to death. The judge decided the
   stabbing was justified [19] because the burglar had
   swung a bag of stolen car radios at Garcia - an
   object that a medical examiner at a hearing testified
   could cause "serious harm or death. [20]" The judge
   found Garcia was "well within his rights to pursue
   the victim and demand the return of his property."

1 . http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-05-18/George-Zimmerman-TrayvonMartin-police-documents/55061830/1

2. http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/florida-stand-your-ground-law-yieldssome-shocking-outcomes-depending-on/1233133

3. http://www.tampabay.com/stand-your-ground-law/data

4. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html

5. http://www.tampabay.com/stand-your-ground-law/

6. http://www.propublica.org/article/the-23-states-that-have-sweeping-self-defense-laws-just-like-floridas

7 . http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/us/13texas.html

8. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/audio/national/20071213_TEXAS_AUDIO/13texas_911_1.mp3

9. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/audio/national/20071213_TEXAS_AUDIO/13texas_911_2.mp3

10. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/BillSummary.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=SB378

11. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20120223/HURBLOG/120229817?p=all&tc=pgall

12. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/03/standing_your_ground_in_louisi.html

13. http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/rs/title14/rs14-20/

14. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/us-usa-wisconsin-shootingidUSBRE82Q02620120327

15. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/walker-to-sign-castle-doctrine-bill-wednesda-bh3brej-135197918.html

16. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-05-27/stand-your-ground-law-trayvonmartin/55208980/1

17 . http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/13/00411.htm

18. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/21/2706789/miami-judge-stabbing-in-the-back.html

19. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/miami-judge-rules-in-stan_n_1385219.html

20. http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2012/03/judge_cites_stand_your_ground.php

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