Ten years after George Zimmerman killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground laws continue to flourish. While Zimmerman did not use the defense at trial, the case elevated the legal defense to national attention.
On Friday, a jury found a former police captain not guilty of second-degree murder or aggravated battery of Chad Oulson. The then 71-year-old instigated an incident with another moviegoer but then claimed because of his age and seated position; he was afraid of being attacked.
According to CNN, Reeves shot Oulson in the chest after the deceased man threw a bag of popcorn. Reeves was found not guilty by a Florida jury after years of trial delays. In 2014, Curtis Reeves got upset with Oulson for texting during the previews of a movie. After Oulson sent a text checking on his young child, the two men exchanged words.
Fear of being attacked isn’t quite the same as a reasonable fear of death often required for self-defense claims. But Reeves’s history as a police officer was leveraged to give the impression of heightened situational awareness compared to the average person. A judge previously denied his ability to use Stand Your Ground as a defense, but the case again drew attention to the defense.
While neither Zimmerman nor Reeves were ultimately allowed to use Stand Your Ground as a defense, both cases distorted the traditional application of self-defense and permitted the use of deadly force with no requirement on the instigator to de-escalate or retreat.
Research over the past several years found that Stand Your Ground laws led to an increase in firearm homicides. The Washington Post recently reported that Stand Your Ground laws led to an 11 percent increase in homicides.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represented Trayvon’s family after Zimmerman killed him, tweeted that the law persists despite countless examples of racial disparities in its application.
Ahead of the tenth anniversary of Travyon Martin’s killing, the Northwest Florida Daily News published a report about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law’s enduring nature despite ongoing disparities in the application of the defense.
A January 2022 essay by Kami Chavis for the Duke Center for Firearms Law observed that in Florida, more than half of the state’s Stand Your Ground cases, the shooter could have de-escalated but didn’t. Stand Your Ground laws differ from traditional self-defense in part because the shooter does not have to avoid confrontation.
“At the same time, Black defendants accused of crimes do not enjoy the same protections under these laws as similarly situated white defendants,” read the essay. (Read the full essay here).
Black defendants like William Marcus “Marc” Wilson are often denied the right to claim Stand Your Ground as a legal justification. As previously reported by NewsOne, Wilson has been in jail for more than 600 days without bail or even an immunity hearing. Accused of killing a white teenager, Wilson maintains he was acting in self-defense of himself and his girlfriend after he says a group of white youth tried to run the couple off the road.
The presence of Stand Your Ground coupled with conceal and carry laws gave some people an inflated sense of entitlement to shoot first and sort out the specifics later. But Black people like Wilson who genuinely fear for their lives are denied the same consideration when it comes to using the legal defenses otherwise available under the law.
Marc Wilson’s Judge Removed For ‘Appearance of Bias Or Prejudice’ In Stand Your Ground Case
Black Driver’s Stand Your Ground Case Highlights Racial Disparities In Georgia’s Criminal Justice System
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