It’s Too Slippery, To Simply Stand Your Ground

By | July 21, 2013

A short time ago I wrote an article entitled “George Zimmerman Verdict: Just or Unjust.” In that article I described Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as a “doorway to hell.” If you missed that article you might want to take the time to read it. Some of the points in that article are salient to this article.

Stand Your Ground laws exist in many states. Some are better written than others and by their very nature some are quite different from others. Perhaps the most notable difference is that some laws require that the person that you are “standing your ground” against, must have a deadly weapon.

So some laws are better than others but prosecutors and judges, in every state in which these laws exist, have been critical of their states’ Stand Your Ground law.

All of these laws were intended to do what their very name states: you don’t need to retreat from a dangerous situation, you can simply “stand your ground.”

Now let’s look at why the idea of these laws was so appealing to so many people. The appealing part is the belief that now you can protect yourself and your family from dangerous villains, criminals, rapists and general ne’er-do-wells. Don’t get me wrong, I like that idea myself. The world is a dangerous place. There are people out there who want to rob you and would gladly kill you to achieve that end. Not to mention the people out there, who really don’t care about your money, they simply want to kill you. As recent history has shown, you aren’t safe in a movie theater and your children are not safe in a public school. The safety of you and your loved ones is not guaranteed in this world.

So the idea of a Stand Your Ground law, sounds pretty appealing, especially if you don’t think it through, as our politician-legislators never do. Is “never” too strong a word? Probably not.

The Stand Your Ground laws are political moves. They are designed not to protect you but to acquire your vote. That’s the ugly truth of it. They sold us those laws by promising to make us safer. Do they make us safer?

They sold us those laws by presenting us with fantasy scenarios. Not all the possible fantasy scenarios but just the ones that were the most politically beneficial. They sold us scenarios where we are the innocent victim walking down the dark street, when we are approached by the perpetrator monster. It’s frightening indeed to imagine having to try to defend yourself, against a monster, unarmed. So as the scenario continues, we need to be able to pull out our gun, kill the monster and when the police arrive, to be comforted by the police, told “poor baby, poor baby,” receive a pat on the back by the police and return to safety in the comfort of our home.

It’s a great fantasy but the real world is far too complicated to allow for a simple fantasy. Reality says, it can’t happen that way. Now you might say, but the laws allow us now to do exactly that. Look at what George Zimmerman did to Tryavon Martin. Zimmerman shot an unarmed kid who had just turned 17 three weeks earlier. Zimmerman had a gun, outweighed him by 50 pounds, had studied martial arts three nights a week for a year, had followed Tryavon after being told not to by the 911 officials and he got away with it.

Yes he did. Does that tell us that the law works? Not at all. Here’s the problem. In the fantasy scenarios you are always the good guy. The other guy is always the bad guy. You always play the part of the innocent, law-abiding, victim who was never looking for trouble, was minding his own business and was as pure as the driven snow.

But remember, there are two parts that need to be played in this fantasy scenario. One we have already mentioned and that’s the part that the politicians have sold you. The politicians sold you a screenplay and assured you that in this play you would always play the part of the innocent, good guy, victim and you could never play the part of the bad guy criminal because after all, you aren’t a bad guy.

It’s a play and there’s two parts. There have to be two parts because for you to be a victim there has to be a perpetrator. So that’s two. Bad guy tries to hurt good guy. We all know that you are a good guy in real life and that’s no BS. So why wouldn’t you assume that you are going to play the part of the good guy? Why wouldn’t you look at the Stand Your Ground law from the vantage point of the innocent, would never hurt anyone, good guy perspective?

And the answer is: you wouldn’t! You know yourself. You know your intentions. You are pretty much a good guy. But what about the guy playing the second part? Does he know you? Does he know you are a good guy? Does he know you would never harm another or commit a crime? Don’t forget he’s walking down that same dark street that you are and he very well may also be a big believer in the Stand Your Ground law. He made be carrying, legally, a gun to protect himself from bad guys. Now you know you’re not a bad guy but does that stranger know that you are not a bad guy?

What standard is that stranger in the dark using to determine your “bad guy” status? Well, he certainly doesn’t have your school records to look at. It could be the way you’re walking, the way you look but it’s got to be something pretty superficial because there isn’t that much perceptual information available.

There won’t be time for him to talk to your neighbors, your fellow parishioners at church, your past teachers, or your friends or family members. If you look like a crook, if he perceives you like a crook, well my friends– prepare to die.

That’s the problem. Who’s the bad guy? I mean it doesn’t really matter who the bad guy is. What really matters is how the other participant in this two-part drama, perceives you to be. If he perceives you to be a crook, you’re going to die.

Remember, George Zimmerman was completely wrong about Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman believed that Martin was a criminal, a drug addict, someone up to no good. But he was wrong. Martin was legally residing in that community. He was doing nothing wrong, except slowly walking in the rain, talking on the phone, on his way home to eat skittles and to drink iced tea.

He’s dead. And you could very well be next. Please don’t think otherwise. Being innocent does not stop you from dying, in the Stand Your Ground laws. If the guy with the gun thinks you are a crook, thinks you are dangerous but is wrong, completely wrong, he can kill you and get away with it.

That’s a fact, Jack. Read the Tampa Bay Times article.

That’s right. It doesn’t matter if you are completely innocent. It doesn’t matter if the shooter is wrong. The way the laws are written, you are allowed to be shot and killed, if someone “believes,” not “knows” but simply believes that you are a danger to him.

Remember, when those slick-vote, hungry politicians sold you on how great it would be to protect yourself from a crook in the night, they never bothered to tell you that you might be the guy who is mistaken for the crook in the night.

At the very least the laws need to be rewritten. Before somebody shoots you because he “believes” he is in danger, he should know the following. He better be right. He better think it through and through. Before he shoots you, he should know that if he’s wrong and you are not a crook but instead are really the innocent victim, that he will be himself executed or face a lifetime in prison.

The way the laws are written now, someone “believing” you are a danger is enough. It should not be enough. The laws need to be rewritten. If someone decides to take your life they had better be right in their assumption that you are a danger. There should be a massive penalty for being wrong and killing an innocent person.

It’s easy to think that you are always going to play the good guy in that two-part, real-life drama. In reality, it’s up to the other guy to assign you your part in the play and hand you the script that he’s written.

If you jump ahead to the end of that script, you might find a death scene. A scene where you have been tragically miscast into the starring role.

10 thoughts on “It’s Too Slippery, To Simply Stand Your Ground

  1. Brigid

    Dr Randle, it’s reasonable to review the merit of Stand Your Ground laws as written in each state’s statutes. I always like to go to the source.

    Here is what I found researching the specific language of Florida’s statutes:

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

    Maybe self-defense doesn’t warrant additional legislature. I see where you’re coming from in your opinions. But what I read in the statute doesn’t translate to the “Trayvon as monster needing to be shot just because” scenario.

    IMO it’s more than someone just subjectively “believing” they’re in danger from a monster and randomly shooting. What that describes is the street violence with astounding number of black-on-black perpetrators and victims . Or any ethnic group street gangster/gang violence.

    In Florida’s statute, the person using deadly force defending themselves will be investigated by LE to determine if the self defense was unlawful. That holds the action to a higher standard of scrutiny and lawfulness.

    GZ sustained a punch to the face resulting in a diagnosed closed fracture to nose. Ouch. Have you had a nose injury? It can cause acute pain and disorientation. It was considered the first act of aggression and bodily harm. As much as the broken nose and scalp lacerations are discounted or not even acknowledged, no one can dispute that extreme fear could be experienced when pinned down after that initial surprise assault.

    Personally, I’d think immediately of concussion and losing consciousness in those initial seconds. Trayvon was known as a skilled fighter by his friends although not allowed into evidence. GZ may have outweighed him but TM was young, in his prime physically, tall. He didn’t judge GZ to be a formidable opponent because according to Rachel Jeantel, he circled back to engage in confrontation.

    GZ should have stayed in his car, should have let police handle it. He did not. For this foolish action leading to the shooting he stood trial. The jury didn’t convict without evidence to support the charges.

    IMO anger and disappointment should be directed at the inept prosecution. The witnesses,especially the combative ME, were not prepared to testify. I believe the state (Angela Corey) was so confident in a conviction, they didn’t invest enough time preparing. Lesser charges were excluded which could have resulted in some jail time for Zimmerman.

    1. mysteryquest

      You state: “The jury didn’t convict without evidence to support the charges.” Actually, the jury did not find the defendant to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a little different. Also, if you are going to “admit” evidence in your “analysis” that the jury did not consider, i.e, Travon Martin’s supposed fighting prowess, then you should consider Zimmerman’s background such as the fact that he was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer. The charges were subsequently reduced and then waived once he entered an alcohol education program. An ex-wife also filed a restraining order against him alleging domestic abuse. http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11808013/content/90966487-the-mostly-african-american-crowd-demanded-the-arrest-of-zimmerman

      One could say he had anger issues. Ironically, enough no toxicity test was administered on him. Of course this evidence was excluded because it probative value was outweighed by the fact that it was unduly prejudicial. IMHO, it is rather jaundiced to consider evidence against Travyon Martin that was excluded from the trial but not do the same for George Zimmerman.

      The standard is not just fear, it is fear of death or great bodily injury. Zimmerman obviously did not sustain a concussion or lose consciousnesses. The fact is, his injuries were slight. Anyone engaged in a fist fight, could fear that they may sustain a a concussion or lose consciousnesses. So they would be justified in shooting their opponent. Great law!

    2. Mary Ellen

      As I recall Ratchael Jeantel’s testimony, she told TM to run, after relaying to her that a “crazy ass cracker” was following him. To my recollection, he told her he’d lost him (GZ) and was almost home. The circling back was GZ’s story, among many; to in my mind, to secure a reasonable defense, under the law.

      None of us know what really happened and people make suppositions based on conjecture. Mine is that GZ saw TM going down the “dog path” and ran to his street to head him off at the back entrance. I recall TM telling Rachael that he showed up again and was right behind him. I believe GZ never identified himself and tried to detain TM knowing the police were on their way. TM may have punched/pushed GZ down and run back up the path to get away from the menace.

      Whether or not TM threw the first punch (some have said the nose bruise was kickback from the gun), it was an unfair fight with the police on their way, GZ training MMA 3/times/week and a loaded weapon with one in the chamber.

      To my mind, TM was a typical teen, lollygagging home from the store, talking on the phone to a friend. I can only imagine how frightened he was on seeing this “CAC” pointing a gun at him and screaming for help, for his life, which was sadly lost.

      Forty yrs. ago I was staying with a friend and decided to pick up some groceries. When I returned to her apt. 2 men were in the process of robbery and mayhem. I backed into the hallway and screamed for help/police. The only weapons I had were cans of tuna and a cabbage. They could have easily overpowered me, but I was lucky the gun jammed and they hightailed it out of there.

      Dr. R. I am quite interested in the victim/perpetrator dynamics in this case. As I see it, TM was the victim, yet the defence portrayed GZ as a pathetic looser wus. Yet they portayed TM as some super hero thug, who had x-ray vision able to see a gun through his clothes/torso spueing “gansta” cliches. When does the perp play victim? I’m sure it plays out frequently in the criminal justice system. Is it a kind of “Gaslighting” thing? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

  2. mysteryquest

    George Zimmerman did not have a diagnosed broken nose. In order for it to be diagnosed he needed to get an x-ray, which he never bothered to do which is indication of what little pain he was actually in. As far as black on black crime what does that have to do with George Zimmerman’s case? Additionally, I don’t remember Rachel Jeantel testifying that Travyon Martin ” circled back to engage in confrontation.” Perhaps you can provide a cite to that. The simple fact is the only other eyewitness to this confrontation is dead and the physical evidence indicates that George Zimmerman was simply in a fist fight as his “story” that he was punched +12 times and his head was slammed on the concrete 12+ times is just ludicrous and his injuries to not even begin to correspond to such an occurrence. When you get to kill someone because you claim to be in fear or your life, then you get to say whatever you want happened and put the burden of proof on the prosecution when the person in the best position to challenge your story is dead.

    1. Brigid

      You speak with the certainty of an MD in stating GZ did not sustain a broken nose, was not diagnosed with a broken nose. Are you a medical provider?

      The EMT treating George Zimmerman believed his nose warranted the attention of a specialist because it was broken. When GZ consulted his doctor the following day, he complained of a painful nose. But you know with the same certainty what little pain he was in.

      His physician, a licensed PA, noted black eyes, a swollen nose, diagnosing a closed fracture of the nose which is a BROKEN nose. It was recommended that he consult a specialist. Here is the doctor’s report, courtesy of Maria Cristina, who kindly linked the report previously.

      http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/99022693?width=1279

      You also know he declined an x-ray. I don’t know that but you’re certain of it. Even if that’s accurate, it’s not “usually needed or helpful.” Broken noses are diagnosed “through a physical examination and medical history.”

      http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/broken-nose-nasal-fracture-topic-overview

      I see no value in further communicating about this case. Emotion seems to be driving your interaction with me and I don’t know why. It’s become the opposite of debate or exchange of informed opinions, the ideal in a forum like this. I don’t understand the defensiveness when I inquire about details and facts. I genuinely wanted answers to help draw conclusions or just better understand. But I give up. It’s not worth it.

      Ideas

      1. mysteryquest

        I’m relying on the testimony of Zimmerman’s Physician’s Assistant who actually examined him. It can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWcboXbBiTE starting at about 1:27:08 She states that she would say that Zimmerman’s nose was “likely” and “appeared to be” broken but she could not say “definitively” because there were no x-rays.
        Ironically enough, the only reason she even saw him was because his employer sent him home until he could get a note from his doctor so to speak. In other words, say 12 hours, give or take, after the deadly altercation, he returned to work without requiring a visit to the hospital or his own doctor. A quick recovery indeed from having been punched 12+ times and having one’s head slammed on the pavement 12+ times. Such an assault on one’s person might well have disabled a lesser man! As for the rest of your comment, me thinks you doth protest too much.

  3. Elaine

    I used to live in Florida. Melbourne to be exact. One block from “Hanging Tree Lane.” See “James Clark,” http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1989-01-15/news/8901170137_1_eau-gallie-rossetter-lynching

    I think if “Due Process” was without complexity in 1926 as 10 white men ignored the rights of the accused and sought their own kind of justice while everyone turned their head, then how can we ignore the inimical law now that has virtually angered the masses into shouting justice denied for Trayvon Martin? The parable of those two examples remain in the verdict for Zimmerman, “Not Guilty,” so say ye all. A law that, once again, makes it’s own kind of Justice. At least that’s how I see it. For what it is.

    And what I’ve seen and heard is justified outrage. A verdict determined by a law that on it’s face is without logic, yet requires prudence in deliberation by a jury? I don’t believe a lot of people knew much, if anything, about SYG. Including the media. I think there was a lot of confusion over Zimmerman waving his right to a hearing on SYG, opting for “self-defense.” To me, how much difference is there in “self-defense” and “SYG”? Not much. Unless a jury of ones peers determines your fate vs the judge in a hearing. She believed there was enough evidence to move forward and denied the defense motion for acquittal.

    And as Dr. Randle notes, the language in the SYG is different in most states. In some, the “Duty To Retreat” elements are included. This circumvention of “Duty To Retreat” in Florida I don’t believe was unintentional. It seemingly removes a “legally recognizable cause of the harm” while providing a “Teflon” type of protection from civil action without that inclusion. It nearly effectively ties the hands of victims from pursuing a civil remedy. The law, as it stands, is the perfect recipe to foster the perfect crime, a crime of intent, for gain, for retributions and self-justifications. You can get away with murder.

    I feel if DTR elements were included, they would protect potential victims from people like Zimmerman who fail to reason and who take matters into their own hands. And in this case it’s what Justice ‘could’ have meant had DTR been a part of that law. The Law, as written, has allowed this travesty of injustice…the premise of Laws that should reflect a moral and ethical standard for the protection of all people concerned.

    What is the definition of the word duty? “A moral or legal obligation; a responsibility: “it’s my duty to uphold the law”” Taken in context with “retreat,” or “stand down,” does this not meet a legal standard? Where is the morality and ethics in the law as it stands now? In my opinion, there isn’t any. And that’s what is so completely wrong with it.

  4. Don Osborne

    Dr K., another most interesting article which, as usual, hits the nail on the head.
    ‘There should be a massive penalty for being wrong and killing an innocent person’. How true.Though Z did not receive any sort of penalty in a court of law, he will suffer one beyond the courts, I suspect.
    Though his explanations lacked any ring of truth about them, Z manipulated these laws to justify killing his ‘suspect’ in them, and the greatest fear is that others will now follow suit. Those laws don’t make a lot of sense to me – though re-arming the delusional Z doesn’t either. Will he return to his ‘duties’ as NW of the Retreat at Twin Lakes? Wouldn’t be doing much for business there you wouldn’t think. To refer to Z as a ‘watchman’, as many do, is fallacious. Once he strapped on that loaded gun and began to ‘track’ his suspect, he relinquished any association with NW.
    I cannot get over those ‘injuries’ that Z suffered in this ‘life and death’ struggle, as I believe I could have inflicted greater on myself – or at least my wife could have on me. Nor can I reconcile the fact that he was punched many times and had his head repeatedly slammed into concrete, with him not losing consciousness or co-ordination, and being able to clearly call for help without the slightest quaver to his voice or the merest interruption to the words – and then for others to observe he was normal afterwards. I suppose I should overlook such trivialities and just blindly accept his story.
    The greatest concern about these laws were identified by Maria on this blog: ‘Z’s actions, if copied by many others, endangers us all.’
    Perhaps Z could write a book entitled ‘How To Get Away With Murder – With The Help Of The Law.’

  5. Observer

    Dr. Randle, you are absolutely right. The Stand Your Ground Laws put us all in danger when we walk down the street.

    Under this law, gun carriers are allowed to shoot and kill anyone they perceive is going to inflict great bodily harm or kill them or is going to kill someone else.

    This to me is creating vigilantism and recreating the wild wild west where every man wears a gun on his hip and the quickest draw lives.

    Innocent bystanders could also be shot if they get caught in the crossfire.

    The people who will be arming themselves with guns on the street are the people who should not be carrying guns because they believe their life is in danger, everyone is suspicious and could harm them.

    It is insanity.

    I would never carry a gun or pull a gun on anyone because I could be shot and killed if the other person is carrying a gun and a better shot or if the other person could take the gun away from me.

    Protecting oneself in our own home is dangerous enough because the intruder could disarm you and use the gun on you and your family. When shooting a gun on the street, you are endangering many innocents who could be caught in the crossfire between two gun owners who believe the other is going to kill them.

    In Florida that night, not only Zimmerman or Martin were in danger of being killed but so were all of the residents in the complex. Had Martin and Zimmerman been rolling down the hill and the residents came out to see what was going on and Zimmerman fired the loaded gun, the bullet could have hit and killed one of them.

    Stricter laws need to be passed to ensure that people who get gun permits are sane, responsible gun owners.

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