A Black family walked out of a Florida courtroom on Thursday morning with the satisfaction of getting justice against the man who used the state’s controversial and many times racist “Stand Your Ground Law” as a defense for killing their innocent son.
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Nouman Raja, a 41-year-old former police officer, was found guilty of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Corey Jones in 2015. The since-fired cop, who at the time was in plain clothes and failed to identify himself, gunned down the musician who was stranded in a broken down SUV on the side of a Florida highway, NBC News reported.
In using the Stand Your Ground defense, the former officer claimed that he feared for his life.
The law, which has been described as a license to kill Black people, protects shooters from prosecution if they feel threatened. Unlike other self-defense laws, it does not require the shooter to try to flee the scene before using deadly force. In a controversial decision, the Florida Supreme Court in December authorized police officers to use the law as a defense.
Outside the courtroom, Jones’ father, Clinton Jones Sr., praised the decision.
“The truth will always prevail. Regardless of how many bad cops there is, the truth will always prevail. And this is what happened today: It was the truth that convicted him. It was the truth that brought him to justice. It was the truth that sent him to jail. It was the truth — that gave us justice for Corey,” he said.
Race has played a major role in determining who gets convicted in Stand Your Ground cases. Shooters who killed a Black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time, according to a 2012 analysis by the Tampa Bay Times.
Raja was listed as white in court documents but he is of Pakistani descent. And while police shootings that result in trials and convictions were rare, those guilty verdicts seemingly came a lot more frequently for police officers of color. That was especially true for Peter Liang, an Asian-American NYPD officer who was convicted of manslaughter for killing an unarmed Black man in a public housing stairwell in 2014. Meanwhile, Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used an illegal chokehold to kill Eric Garner for a nonviolent misdemeanor, has remained employed by the NYPD while escaping any punishment, let alone a trial.
Stand Your Ground first received national scrutiny when Trayvon Martin‘s killer George Zimmerman invoked it in 2012.
More recently, the Florida law sparked outrage in the killing of Markeis McGlockton last year. In that case, Michael Drejka, 49, was seen on video shooting the unarmed Black man on July 19 in the parking lot of a Clearwater convenience store. McGlockton, 28, pushed Drejka to the ground after he came out of the store and saw the man arguing with his girlfriend about a parking space for handicapped drivers. Drejka, in turn, shot McGlockton, claiming self-defense.
In that instance, County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to make an arrest because of the Stand Your Ground law. However, a loud public outcry prompted the county attorney to get involved, which led to manslaughter charges against Drejka. It was unclear how that case would end, but the McGlockton’s killer has been released from jail on bond.
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