2014/12/23 ~ Stand Your Ground Essay

STAND-YOUR-GROUND-ASHLEY-PETERSON-EEW-MAGAZINEExamination of Stand Your Ground Laws and Rulings

            There have been a lot of media attentions in the news recently regarding the Stand Your Ground rulings involving many very questionable cases. These cases are confused by interpretations by lawyers and judges and others because the lines and clarity has not been defined within these laws. Individual states also have their own laws written so confusion can happen from one state to another with no Federal umbrella to confine the limitations of the laws. There are a few current cases that are raising major legal questions and concerns and are in great debate by lawmakers and those directly concerned with them. Stand Your Ground laws need clarity and confinement by Federal definitions to create cohesion with the United States between different states so the populous and the court systems can rule and reside over cases effectively.

In Laveen, Arizona, where a similar law is called “Make My Day”, Daniel Jr. Adkins was walking his dog past a local Taco Bell drive thru when a driver in a SUV, with his pregnant wife in the front passenger seat, came around the corner narrowly avoiding Adkins. The 22 year old driver and Adkins exchanged words and the driver later told investigators that Adkins air swung at him and his vehicle but never came into contact with either. He said he was still afraid of Adkins actions and what he might do with the weapon that he thought Adkins was carrying, described as a 3 foot bat or pipe. When Adkins had lifted his arms for the last time, the driver pulled out from his sweatpants a .40 caliber handgun and pulled the trigger. Adkins was struck in his chest and fell to the ground dead. While Adkins and his very faithful canine stay where they were the driver and his fiancée drove to the front of the Taco Bell and called authorities. The driver told police he had no choice but to shoot because the dog was in the way and he claimed to have no other options.

This case raises concerns about what someone would perceive as a threat and what actions they have to protect themselves, others and their property. The laws don’t describe “victims” requirements to not use lethal force if he/she has the option to flee to safety. The shooter chose to not drive away because a canine was in the way and he could not avoid hitting and possible killing the dog. However, he didn’t seem to have a problem with killing a human that he perceived to be threat to himself and his fiancée, because Adkins had a pipe, even though the shooter was well confined within his SUV. A choice was made between the life of a canine and Adkins, and whether to drive to safety to avoid Adkins even if striking the man, dog or both with his SUV. This is an example of where these laws fail both “victims” and “perpetrators”.

Stand Your Ground “allows those who feel a reasonable threat of death or bodily injury to “meet force with force” rather than retreat” (Bill Of Rights Institute, 2010). The “Castle Doctrine”, also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law, is a set of laws that define your right to protect yourself, your property and loved ones; but on your property. It also states and clarifies that if you as a victim have the opportunity to retreat you should do so and in some states if the “perpetrator” is in the act of fleeing you do not have the right to use deadly force. So why don’t Stand Your Ground laws enact the same legalities. The basis for these laws has been with humanity since the dawn of mankind because it is an instinctual trait that you have the right to defend yourself and simply keep what is yours.

The case of Jose Luis Gonzales and 13-year-old Francisco Anguiano raises questions about Stand Your Ground and how it relates to the “Castle Doctrine” and the confusion of Stand Your Ground are further questioned. In this case Gonzales was vacationing in Texas in his small ranch home during the summer. He had grown tired of repetitive break-ins into his home which construed of theft of mainly junk food. One night he confronted the thieves, ranging in age from eleven to thirteen, with a shot gun with the outcome being Anguiano dead and the others beaten with what looks to be the butt of the rifle. The young men tell a tale of being confronted by Gonzales with a rifle, beaten, told to lay on the ground face down, and then of Anguiano being told to “drop it” (referring to a bag of chips) and then being shot in the back. Gonzales explains that Anguiano started to raise his body away from the ground and he thought the young man may go for his legs and try to take him off his balance to take over the situation.

The question for this case comes from Texas laws stating Texans have the right to use deadly force in your home, workplace or vehicle to prevent a violent crime such as rape or murder. Did Gonzales have the boys subdued and had he had control over the situation where he had the ability to contact authorities and had reasonable conclusion he could keep them under control until the authorities arrived? Why were the boys bodies covered with what testimony said was repeated strikes from the butt of a rifle. Why was Anguiano shot in the back killing him almost instantly? Did Gonzales have an option to retreat when the boy “created a threat”? These questions seemed to be placed out of mind as the ruling gave Gonzales exoneration when Stand Your Ground was used, maybe inappropriately as a defense.

Stand Your Ground laws, also known as “Line in the Sand” and “No Duty to Retreat”, states that a person can use deadly force in defending themselves where there is a threat. They can do this without obligation to retreat before using deadly force which includes private and public property. Some situations justify a person using the Stand Your Ground law in court to defend themself in both criminal and civil courtrooms. It can also be used in immunity so someone can never be charged, detained and bars suit and arrest in the first place. Stand Your Ground laws “laws have increased the number of murder and manslaughter cases – rather than serve as a deterrent to crime” (Mulvaney, 2012).

The “Castle Doctrine states that a person has no duty to retreat when they or their home are attacked and some states go even further stating that a person doesn’t have to retreat even in the confines of their own home. Stand Your Ground type laws give a person the right to not abandon the area they stand upon if provoked or attacked as long as he/she has the right to be there in the first place. Some states state that the person must be carrying a firearm legally whether it be concealed or openly. “Today most states have some kind of castle law. The stronger laws do not require homeowners to attempt to retreat before using force to protect their domicile, and there are a select few states that have very strong stand-your-ground laws allowing citizens to use force in their car or at work without first trying to retreat” (Purves, 2011)

Stand Your Ground laws have been openly criticized as “Shoot First” laws by critics. These laws have given results of self-defense claims more than tripling in many states. The critics of the law as well as District Attorney’s offices say it is very difficult to prosecute individuals who kill or wound others and claim their actions in self-defense. Opponents to this law say the “victim” can say they are threatened with the only witness being the “perpetrator” who is now dead and can’t testify.

Stand Your Ground laws, whether you are completely opposed or in complete support of them, should be clarified to direct lawyers, judges and others how to rule, use and preside correctly and efficiently when it comes to cases where Stand Your Ground can be appropriately applied. Laws need to clarify and distinguish between cases of clear self-defense and un-needed violence towards individuals that were committing non-violent crimes or when retreat should have been made to prevent further crimes. This law is certainly a law of this day and age and is still very young, which shows in case after case of people committing crimes from assault and battery to murder and getting away with it because they use Stand Your Ground incorrectly and inappropriately.

 

{Copyright Jeffrey Scott Thomas – The Jibber Jabber Journal}

 

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