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April 30, 2012

Stand your ground
Posted by Teresa at 10:22 AM * 234 comments

The trouble with stand your ground laws is that the entire transaction can take place inside the other guy’s head: they decide they feel threatened, and then they decide to shoot you. If they have no duty to pursue non-lethal alternatives, you’re at the mercy of their imagination.

For extra credit: How would you demonstrate in a court of law that the shooter didn’t actually feel threatened?

Comments on Stand your ground:
#1 ::: Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:10 AM:

You devastate the entire Stand your Ground concept in three sentences. Well played, Teresa!

#2 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:11 AM:

A qualified yes to this, but it isn't quite that simple. The pertinent part of the Florida statute: "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." This provision is an affirmative defense and therefore the burden of proof is on the person who used deadly force to establish (a) that s/he had a right to be where s/he was; (b) that s/he was not engaged in any illegal activity; (c) that s/he reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent "death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." Whether that belief is "reasonable" is a question for the judge to determine ab initio which is peculiar, but probably constitutionally necessary.

I think the statute is horrible policy-- crazy, even-- but it isn't quite accurate to say that the entire transaction can be in the mind of the accused. The belief has to be reasonable, so if you are, for example, Bernhard Goetz, you will have problems. Based on what we know about Mr. Zimmerman's conduct and the circumstances surrounding this event the probable outcome is not all that clear cut either.

#3 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:12 AM:

Looking at, for example, Florida's stand-your-ground law:

"a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if...[h]e or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony."

2011 Florida Statutes, § 776.012. (I probably got the Bluebooking wrong.)

The statute goes on to say that there is a presumption of reasonable belief of harm in circumstances involving home invasion, but let's put those aside.

The use of "reasonably" is a classic legal formulation. This is a fact-based inquiry: both sides describe the scenario, and the jury (or judge, in a bench trial) decides whether the facts support a conclusion that the shooter's belief was reasonable, based on what the "reasonably prudent person" would do.

(While I think stand-your-ground laws are extremely problematic, be careful what you undermine..."reasonably prudent person" standards are all over tort and criminal law.)

#4 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:27 AM:

As for how you prove that the shooter didn't feel threatened, well, first of all, it is for the shooter to prove that he did, and that he had reason to, not the other way around. So, for example, the shooter could say something like "I felt as though the person I shot was about to break into a house because I didn't recognize the person, and the person was concealing his face, and the person was walking behind a row of houses eying the windows." You could have a field day cross-examining someone on this, starting with what the weather was like ("Cool, raining") what sorts of things the shooter wears on cool, rainy days, what sorts of things he's seen other people wearing when the weather is like that; what he saw other people wearing that day; what he himself was wearing; whether he'd seen other people walking in that area that day and on other days; whether he ever walked there; whether he ever looked around when he was walking....

It gets even easier when you get a case like this one where the issue is whether you reasonably felt threatened. You can't initiate the threat, for example. (That's something that most commentators seem to miss. You can't see someone walking down the street, waive a gun at them and say, "What are you doing here?" Under those circumstances the other guy would have the reasonable belief.)

My point is that there is more to it than just crazy ideation. Except for the part about the Florida legislature thinking that this was a good idea.

#5 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:37 AM:

I suspect it's rather important to know how the law is actually applied in Florida, lest we walk off a cliff making assumptions in the fashion common to computer/math people reasoning about the law.

#6 ::: Jack V ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:42 AM:

Coming from the gun-light UK, I think "castle" laws and "stand your ground" laws come from an at-first reasonable opinion, that if someone is menacing you, it's ok for THEM to undergo the risk that the confrontation might be escalated. If you beat someone up, and they have a gun, well, yes, sometimes you will be unlucky. You should know that.

But more and more examples seem to show they don't really do any good in real life.

In fact, it seems like they obviously won't -- if someone can believe they have the right to stand their ground with deadly force, it's only a matter of time before two people, reasonably but wrongly, believe that about each other, and then what happens?

WRT to the legal language, it seems like "reasonable belief" is a reasonable premise for the law (if it exists at all), but that the law is bankrupt because people (including judges) can take that as a license to go all gun-ho and try to justify it with this law...

#7 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:02 PM:

Bill Altreuter @2 "This provision is an affirmative defense and therefore the burden of proof is on the person who used deadly force"

I can see one major problem with this assertion you're making -- I mean, apart from the fact that that's just not how the Florida law has worked at all since being voted in -- and that is that the defendant in a criminal trial in the US does not bear the burden of proof. Sometimes we call that concept by its shorthand: "innocent until proven guilty."

#8 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:05 PM:

I *know* that the ability of school bullies to game zero-tolerance policies, so as to get their victims punished for hitting back, has been mentioned here. The killing of Trayvon Martin fits that pattern perfectly.

#9 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:18 PM:

What I think is relevant here -- and what I've pointed out before -- is not just the racial element of this but the gender element.

Most of the cases I've seen profiled are of men shooting other men -- even though women are (at least socialized to be) much more intimidated by strange men than men are.

I used to work late hours (read: up to 4 am) in the lab during grad school. On the (short) trip home, I can justifiably say I felt threatened by virtually anyone else I saw around me. Yet I suspect that, had I shot any of the people I encountered -- even if they had approached me in a threatening manner -- I wouldn't automatically be given the credit that the "stand your ground" rule seems to give white men.

#10 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:21 PM:

you’re at the mercy of their imagination.

Yep. And in some circumstances, you might not have any idea what's going on in their head until they've got you in their sights. Or perhaps later.

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:25 PM:

I've a vague recollection of self-defence laws in other US states which do impose a duty to retreat, and they're pretty controversial too.

Other than that particular aspect, it looks like a pretty standard definition of a self-defence case. I wonder what the law it replaced or modified says. I wonder how much it differs from how the actions of the Police would be covered in the law. I don't think you could require them to retreat.

Will Frank @3, the case the politicians used to justify this law did apparently have an aspect of home invasion in it, but it was pretty minimal.

So the whole thing maybe isn't as crazy as it seems, but if I were planning to sue anyone over a shooting, I'd be having a close look at what the politicians and press were saying the law was intended to do, because that does effect a reasonable man's behaviour.

As it happens, I've walked down a public highway, carrying several prominent offensive weapons. In English law, there's a lot of this lawful purpose and reasonable man stuff. I sometimes wonder, these days, if there's enough "and don't be bloody silly" in the Police training. There doesn't seem to be any of that inculcated into prospective politicians

#12 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 12:34 PM:

I urge folks to read the entire article TNH linked to.

#13 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 01:00 PM:

Well, those laws aren't so much justification for defending yourself as much as they are justification for carrying a concealed weapon. That is, what's the point of concealed carry (and the industry surrounding it with gun and training sales) if you're not allowed to "defend yourself." Without the one, you don't need the other. They weren't drafted in an attempt or even with the attempt to defend oneself in mind. There were drafted so people could say, "Well, I might HAVE to use a gun… I better get one."

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 01:20 PM:

The article Teresa linked to is bouncing off of Patrick's recent Sidelight on the invention of jaywalking. Specifically, this paragraph:

Twenty years ago, an out-of-control driver plowed through New York’s Washington Square Park, killing 5 people and injuring 27 others. That horrific incident caused a public outcry and galvanized advocates in what has become known as the livable streets movement. But the driver, a 74-year-old woman, was not charged with any crime.
It wasn’t always like this. Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles.
#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 02:27 PM:

Bill Altreuter #s 2 & 4: So, if I were to shoot (presuming I had a gun) someone I perceived as threatening my person on my property, and I were tried for this, the burden of proof would be on me the accused? The legal system has changed has it? That's new and different.

#16 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 02:32 PM:

For extra credit: How would you demonstrate in a court of law that the shooter didn’t actually feel threatened?

I would have thought that merely pursuing the person you ended up shooting would be sufficient. However, Florida case law shows several gang shootings where both parties went out looking for trouble, shot members of the other gang, then successfully argued in court that the Stand Your Ground law applied to them, getting them off. This tells me that the law is badly written, but then ALEC might have wanted it that way, since they wrote it and lobbyied for it.

The basis behind most criminal law is "Mens Rea", a latin phrase meaning "guilty mind". To convict, for most crimes, you have to show that that defendent knew what they were doing was wrong. There is no magical mind reading device, and if there were, I think the human race would become extinct very quickly. Some laws, like kiddie pron, are strict liability laws, and it doesn't matter whether you knew it was a crime or not.

As pointed out above, I agree that Bernie Goetz-type behavior will get prosecuted everywhere. But if Zimmerman had kept his mouth shut, he would have been acquitted despite the racial protests. It is my opinion that he's going to talk himself into jail with his big mouth, otherwise he would not spend a day in jail.

Some other states with statutory "duty to retreat" standards have prosecuted homeowners who failed to jump out of second storey windows in order to retreat (PA comes to mind as one) when the homeowner shot intruders. The idea that a person should be required to flee from the safety of their own home in order to protect burglars is offensive to me. Maybe I've watched Death Wish, V for Vendetta, and Batman, movies.... No. Not maybe, definately. I have no wish to go out and make trouble, if it comes for me in the night, in my house, one of us is going out in a body bag.

#17 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 02:51 PM:

#16 ::: Tangurena

The problem with any law that says you can kill anybody who scares you (as opposed to threatens you) is that that's just a declaration that "* Hunting Season is open," because some people are scared to extreme violence by the mere existence of *s, much less the sight of a * walking down their street. Where * is whatever racial epithet you can think of.

#18 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 02:52 PM:

abi #14: Some common factors: In both cases, the duty of protection is being shifted from society (including potential attackers) to the victim. Also in both cases, the basic drive for that shift is not genuinely coming from the populace -- it's been pushed by extra-governmental agencies with expert PR and major agendas.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 03:06 PM:

What worries me about stand your ground laws (we have one such here in Georgia) is that they empower people to assume that anything they think to be a threat is such. X is a panhandler approaching Y on the street, Y responds to X with deadly force using his perfectly legal concealed firearm. Y explains, "I felt threatened, he was behaving oddly, he had something in his hand. I had to defend myself. I stood my ground." That would be legal here in Georgia.

#20 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:00 PM:

Full disclosure - I'm a gun owner. I also think Zimmerman was almost certainly wrong in shooting Martin.

I read the article TNH linked to, and, assuming the facts are as reported, score it 1-1-1. One clearly not self-defense (Arizona) one clearly self-defense (Florida) and one not proven beyond a reasonable doubt (Texas).

It's sad that the Florida case ended in a shooting, but I see no way for the residents to know about Cox's (victim) prior injury. In Texas, I suspect that Gonzales (shooter) was overzealous and trigger-happy, but believable to a jury.

It appears that the Florida Stand Your Ground law is being misapplied to justify pursuit. However stand your ground as a legal concept really shouldn't be that controversial. We in Illinois have had that rule since at least 1953, as noted in this brief state Supreme Court ruling.

There are a lot of laws that require us to see inside another person's mind. The difference between first and second degree murder is premeditation, as is manslaughter. There's a saying that you can't legislate common sense, and I think that has to apply to all laws.

#21 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:03 PM:

I'll take the Arizona case in the linked article for the extra credit. A reasonable person would not be in fear of their life in that case. They were in a car, and even if they couldn't drive away, until the victim actually hit the car with something, they were perfectly safe.

#22 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:03 PM:

Thinking about Trayvon Martin and the Stand Your Ground laws: it has never been clear to me that the SYG law applies to Zimmerman's behavior, though I am sure his attorneys will do their best to make it fit. Surely, the person whose case SYG fits is Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was following Martin with a weapon, after having been explicitly told not to do so by the police dispatcher. The question then becomes, given the SYG law, by what reasonable standard can Trayvon Martin's right to turn and defend himself (as opposed to requiring retreat) from a threatening stalker be discounted, in favor of that stalker's right to shoot him?

At least, that would be the question had Trayvon Martin survived.

IANAL.

#23 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:18 PM:

Lizzy @22: There have been reports, of uncertain veracity, that Martin physically attacked Zimmerman before being shot. These have been brought up mostly by defenders of Zimmerman, implying that he was justified in shooting his attacker.

But surely, if there is truth in this report, Martin was attempting to defend himself against the strange man who was pursuing him with a gun. Whether Martin knew about SYG or not, if he could not escape, it's self-defense.

I was once walking through the large building where I worked, shortly after public closing time, when I encountered another worker from a different department who did not know me nor I him. We had a strange conversation which I eventually realized was generated by the fact that each of us thought that the other was a lost member of the public who should have been out of the building by then. Had we been empowered to use force against trespassers ....

#24 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:19 PM:

Bill Altreuter @2: The belief has to be reasonable, so if you are, for example, Bernhard Goetz, you will have problems.

Remember that the actual Bernhard Goetz, in a state without a Stand Your Ground law, was cleared of everything but possession of an unlicensed handgun.

#25 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:37 PM:

Fragano @15

This is essentially a variation on the standard self-defence argument, and all the same difficulties apply.

1) The prosecution have to prove their case "beyond reasonable doubt".

2) Self defence requires you to admit you did the act: it is not "I didn't shoot the guy, and I was in fear of my life."

3) Self defence hinges on the behaviour of the reasonable man in the specific circumstance. Defence and prosecution will have different views of what those circumstances were. Is it plausible that you thought you saw a gun? You shot a guy climbing through your window, and the bullet hit him in the back? As defendant, you still have reasonable doubt on your side, but you can still talk yourself into prison.

4) Juries are funny. In some places, self-defence while black is still a capital crime.

#26 ::: john ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:44 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 15:

If a defendant chooses to present this specfic defence, then they concede that they physically killed somebody, but allege further facts, including about their own state of mind, as part of an affirmative defence.

In doing so they assume the burden of proof in a limited sense, restricted to proving their new claims: this is part of the common law in common law jurisdictions, and is not novel. (If I defend myself against a charge of shoplifting in Alaska by saying I was in Australia the whole time, it's up to me to find witnesses, old flight tickets, visas and so on. If instead I claim that no shoplifting actually took place I don't need to prove anything or call any witnesses, and can restrict myself, or in fact my lawyer, to poking holes in the prosecution evidence.)

But the overall burden of proof remains on the prosecution: a much lower level of evidence than "no reasonable doubt" for the defendant's new claims should raise sufficient doubt against the prosecution to make it impossible for a jury to bring a guilty verdict.

#27 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 04:49 PM:

Ayse @7 and Fragano Ledgister @ 15-- an affirmative defense is different from an ordinary defense, like, for example, an alibi, or a simple denial. Try thinking of it as a justification. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the elements of the crime have been committed by the defendant. That means that, for example, the defendant knowingly killed someone, with malice aforethought, or with reckless disregard for the life of others, or in the commission of another (usually enumerated) felony, like arson or kidnapping or something. Now that's all proved. If the defendant wants to mount an affirmative defense the defendant must show that the elements of that defense were present. It took place in my home, for example, and the victim had broken in. Or, in this instance, "I had a reasonable concern for my own safety."

In the Florida statute this gets a little muddled, because the court considers the defense as a matter of law after the charges have been made, I guess on a motion to dismiss brought by the defendant. I'm not clear on the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, but it sounds to me as though the defendant's burden of proof is something less than establishing the elements beyond a reasonable doubt-- on motion it is probably a clear and convincing evidence standard, and at trial it might even be a preponderance of the evidence standard, since that would defeat the prosecution's proof.

As for Goetz, well, I could tell you stories.... except I can't. What I can say is that he was ably represented, and that the jury either accepted his self-defense claim or engaged in an act of jury nullification. The Bronx jury that heard the civil case was not so inclined-- but there was a different burden of proof in that action.

#28 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 06:08 PM:

Chris Gerrib @20:

I read the article TNH linked to, and, assuming the facts are as reported, score it 1-1-1. One clearly not self-defense (Arizona) one clearly self-defense (Florida) and one not proven beyond a reasonable doubt (Texas).

My read on the Arizona one matches yours: I don't believe that was self-defense. When somebody yells and waves their arms angrily at you because you just almost ran them over with your SUV, you don't get to shoot them. Also, the driver -- who never left the car -- stated that he couldn't drive away because a dog was in the way, so he had no other choice but to shoot the pedestrian through the heart. Yet according to the article, the Arizona shooter has not been charged with a crime.

The Florida one seems self-defense but also heartbreaking in an "if only they had known" way. (Actually, the concussion in the Florida case and the intellectual disability in the Arizona case both broke my heart.)

And I agree with you about the Texas one that the guy sounds trigger-happy but believable to the jury. And his believability to the jury coincided with the jury's wish to "send out a statement" as the article said.

I'm still thinking about the other Florida one, the Garcia/Roteta case, though I'm coming down against it being self-defense because I agree with the other prosecutor that "The law does not allow for you to use deadly force to retrieve your property."

But I really want to know why the Arizona shooter, the one that you said and I agree was clearly not self-defense, has not been charged with a crime. So do Daniel Adkins' parents.

#29 ::: Pondering ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 06:42 PM:

Can one use the existence of a Stand Your Ground law as part of the justification for shooting someone? "I felt threatened because I thought he might be armed and knew that, if he felt threatened, he'd know he could shoot me, so I shot him first."

It would be silly if it weren't deadly. I certainly feel less safe because of Stand Your Ground laws.

#30 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 06:50 PM:

Bill, #2 and #4: You make valid points, but they're not really refutations of Teresa's points, because those things all happen after the fact. At the time the encounter is happening, the situation is indeed exactly as she has described, and that's pretty much how the Treyvon Martin murder went down. It was all in Zimmerman's head from the moment that he saw a black person in a hoodie walking down the street.

This is analogous to the way any sexually-attractive woman is "asking for it" to a rapist no matter where she is or what she happens to be doing; all she needs to do is be there, and the rest of it is in his head.

#31 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 06:51 PM:

> How would you demonstrate in a court of law that the shooter didn’t actually feel threatened?

I feel confident in predicting that such a "demonstration" will be immediately forthcoming just as soon as some unsympathetic peon, somewhere, guns down one of his widely-admired superiors, then goes on to try using a "stand your ground" law as a legal defense.

#32 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:35 PM:

I was going to post the "why affirmative defence does not invalidate innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt" bit (basically, the "affirm" of affirmative defence is affirming that what the prosecution claims happened actually did happen, and the "defence" part is that it's not a crime (or not the crime being charged) because of whatever legal reason.) So I'm glad someone from the contiguous 48 did it, so that IANAL, IANevenAA doesn't have to factor into it.

But still, the problem with me with those kinds of affirmative defences is that I'm never going to use them; and if they're used in any context involving me, I've been horribly wounded or killed - at which point, do I really care whether the act was considered reasonable enough to not be a crime?

I'm just as wounded or killed if the "stand your grounder" loses his case for an affirmative defence as if he wins. Without that regulation, however, while certainly someone may be hurt because they weren't allowed this mode of self-defence, I won't be hurt because someone thought they *were* allowed it.

My life, under "stand your ground" law, is effectively predicated on some random's "sane and sound" (note, *not* reasonable. That's just the guideline that the jury will use after the fact.) judgement, mostly irrelevant of what I do. I realize that my life is predicated on a day-to-day basis on a lot of random's "possibly insane or unsound" judgement, and while that worries me, I can't do much about it, save avoiding increasing the danger.

So I am in favour of laws that don't lower my survival-depending-on-random's-judgement quotient, unless there's a corresponding upside (I am much more likely to die in a vehicular collision than any other non-medical reason, for instance. There's an upside to living in a urban environment with cars, though). For me, for "stand your ground" laws, there's no upside. For most people, in my belief, there's no upside, because for most people, finding themselves in a "stand your ground" situation is about as likely as lightning strike, unless they push the envelope "because they can" (and yeah, with that law in place, a lot of people push the envelope "because they can"*). For many of the rest, unfortunately, my (totally ungrounded, except in cynical purview of the statistics and similar cases) belief is that the chance of them successfully using this affirmative defence is much lower (viz. Dave Bell@25 #4), so it will only be of effect when *they* get shot.

...Aaaand, the difference between me and a real writer is that it took much more than three sentences to say the same thing :-).

(*) I remember someone saying, maybe here, that one of the things he taught as part of firearms ownership courses is the affirmative defences available in his state, and why you didn't want to *ever* have to make one (starting with "you shot someone, you'll be over in the corner throwing up your last week, and will probably relive the moment for the rest of your life", and going immediately to "legally, you may have been in the right. But you will have to *admit to shooting the guy*, and only *then* will you make the case that you were allowed to. If you don't make that case, or if the jury doesn't believe you, you *have already* made the prosecutor's. This is not a good, or cheap, situation to be in, even if it works.") I'm guessing 90+% of the people that took his courses got it, including at least half of the "I can kill someone and get away with it!" people. Some, unfortunately, are unteachable.

#33 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:41 PM:

These days, we could wait a couple of days and see if the shooter brags about it on his blog. I'd say "his or her," but it hardly seems worth the effort.

#8: That was me all through grade school. The tough kids could needle me until I was enraged enough to make a clumsy attempt to swing on them, then they'd play with me until a teacher came out and dragged me off to the office for the lecture on how only animals use violence. As he talked, he would idly play with a wooden paddle that invariably concluded this ritual.

#34 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:45 PM:

Chris Gerrib @ 20

I'd agree that the case of the Florida couple defending their trailer is a clear case of self-defense, and the lack of prosecution was the correct decision. The thing is, the case predates the stand your ground law as it's the case that *sparked* the stand you ground law. Notably, the defender was never charged so IMO "Stand Your Ground" is a solution in search of a problem. Well, except for the problem that waiting three months for the prosecutor to formally rule self-defense causes psychic pain no innocent person should ever need endure.

It should be noted that the Florida law also grants immunity to arrest and prosecution in cases of justifiable use of force. (Sec. 776.032) I'm not sure if any other state copied that bit of foolishness.

Arizona's law looks like it's better worded since it specifies in Sec. 13-405(A)(2)that self-defense applies "When and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force". Nothing about being afraid here. From what I can tell a decision not to prosecute looks purely political, and it being Arizona I can imagine a lot of pressure in that direction. However, I am neither an attorney nor terribly familiar with Arizona law.

#35 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:48 PM:

Pondering @ 29 - if you can convince a jury that's reasonable, yes. I suspect it would be a hard sell.

Mycroft @ 32 - your fears are real even without a Stand Your Ground law. There is a saying in gun circles - "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." I wish it weren't so, but there it is.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:49 PM:

Bill Altreuter/Dave Bell: The truly fascinating thing here is that under SYG laws as they have been written the shooter has a clear right to defence of self and property and no need to withdraw from a perceived threat. All that is necessary is the perception of threat. Given the nature of American society, I am liable to be seen as threatening by a 6' 5" 280 lb white linebacker. Were I to claim that such a person appeared threatening to me, I might have a difficult time persuading a jury. I have some problems with this.

On the other hand, people who might tempt even the most patient, do seem to be protected: http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/specials/weirdflorida/blog/2010/11/man_accused_of_pulling_gun_on.html

#37 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Chris Gerrib @35: Oh, I agree with you that it's there. I would disagree with the quote, in many cases - there are fates worse than death, and being in a "judged by 12" situation can very easily lead to many of them - but my sense of "what's my life worth" is different from many, and I realise that affects my judgement. But for some people, that's the way they think, and I have to deal with it.

The problem with SYG is that it encourages the kind of two-valued blinkered thinking evident in that quote. A secondary issue is that to certain people, it leads to behaviours that vastly increase the chance of being in an affirmative defence situation (some, as I say, actively look for the opportunity. These people are called "uncivilized", at best, but they exist). Better yet to avoid either case - and that can almost always be done (and when it can't, it's frequent that one of the other two options is limited, as well) - but SYG discourages analysis of that third (, and fourth, and fifth, and...) option; so does the quote, for that matter.

I think that was another thing that was covered in that firearms training discussion that I referred to earlier - yes, you'd rather be in an affirmative defence situation than dead, but you still *never* want to be in an affirmative defence situation. By the time those are your choices, you've already lost. But yeah, take the least worst outcome, now that you're stuck with it. But the goal was to knock out the "I Stood My Ground, Everything'll Be Fine" mentality that several prospective gun-owners have, and replace it with "I'm still alive, and I might only go to jail until bail is set. That's slightly better than the alternative."

#38 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:56 PM:

On the other hand, every time you see someone in public yelling at their spouse or threatening to slap their kid, this law apparently gives you carte blanche to blow them away. (A forcible crime is apparently any crime, not necessarily a felony, that involves the use or threat of violence.)

#39 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 12:00 AM:

It would be interesting to know whether these laws have been associated with any noticable increase in the number of shooting deaths in circumstances where the SYG law would be expected to apply. Anyone have a link to some data?

The best I could find in a quick Google search was thischart showing an apparent drop over time in justifiable homicides by both civilians and police. I suspect this is just tracking with falling crime rates, though--fewer guys trying to rob the liquor store leads to fewer guys being shot by the owner while trying to rob the liquor store. Also, the data stop at 2005.

This report has more data. It goes through 2008, and shows a slight increase in justifiable homicides by both police and civilians, but not any obvious huge increase to me. (But this is by eye.). Again, I suspect the driver here is more likely falling crime rates than stand your ground and concealed carry permit laws, but I could certainly be wrong.

#40 ::: Eric Walker ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 02:27 AM:

Just a side thought on defense: the moral--and, I believe, legal--principle is that one is not allowed to "defend" by administering to the wrongdoer a penalty significantly more severe than the law would apply. Breaking and entering, for example, is not a capital crime. The idea of defending "one's castle" with deadly force violates that principle; it is not till the aggressor clearly threatens death or at least grievous bodily harm that lethal force becomes a possibly acceptable response.

Obviously "clearly" and "threatens" are words with some width, but that is the general idea, which SYG seems almost intrinsically to breach.

#41 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 04:23 AM:

If lethal force is an acceptable standard for defending your castle, then anyone who breaks in is in mortal danger, so they are clearly prepared to kill or be killed, so they are threatening your life, so you should be allowed to shoot them, so lethal force is an acceptable standard for defending your castle.

#42 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 07:06 AM:

re 40: Someone who breaks into my house while I am present I will assume has the potential for trying to injure me; someone who thus enters with main force I would have to assume intends specifically to do me harm. It's not reasonable in such close quarters to expect that the resident must operate within a finely honed restraint while the criminal, being free from the constraint of law in his own mind, may act as he pleases. Also, given that force at all in reality can jump immediately to lethality, the logical extension is that the resident may not legally mount any defense at all. I think the real operating principle, if there be any weapon at hand, is "better than carried by six".

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 08:41 AM:

To my mind, there are two important issues wrt SYG laws, concealed carry, etc.:

a. Do they lead to more people being shot unnecessarily--that is, in circumstances where shooting (or stabbing, or whatever) does not serve to defend someone's life or interrupt a serious crime or whatever?

b. Do they lead to more murderers / attempted murderers getting off because they're able to use the SYG law to justify shooting their rival drug dealer or something?

If they don't have this kind of bad effect, or some other noticable effect, then they probably don't matter that much.

#44 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 08:58 AM:

albatross @43: I'm wary whenever someone suggests that certain laws are acceptable because "they probably don't matter that much."

#45 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:51 AM:

Paraphrasing what the man in the story said while throwing a starfish back into the ocean, "It matters to this one."

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 10:01 AM:

So there's Duty to Retreat, at least in some places. Duty to call the police should be in there too, along with the duty to yell for help at the top of your lungs a few times, to warn the neighbors and maybe prompt them to call the police as well. Then there's the duty to ascertain whether the other person speaks English, has normal sight and hearing, and isn't listening to an iPod; isn't interacting with someone else you're not aware of; isn't responding to some event you're not aware of; isn't a harmless crazy talking to God; and is not conducting a conversation via an in-ear phone.

Is there a duty to warn the person whom you think is threatening you that you think they're threatening you, you have a gun, and you believe you have the right to shoot them? I think there should be.

If people didn't panic and make bad decisions, there'd be no video footage of them trying to outrun the police.

===

I've been in interactions with people who turned out to have a completely alien take on what was going on. The landscape they inhabited had only the street grid in common with mine, but they were sure I was an inhabitant of their landscape, and they interpreted my behavior in that context.

It takes a while to sort out something like that. You have to have enough exchanges of dialogue for it to become apparent that your understandings don't match.

Anyone who's known me for a while will have heard me say more than once that in a civilized society, we aren't responsible for the things we do in other people's dreams. If someone's got a gun pointed at me, I want to give them as much time as possible in which that thought can occur to them.

===

Real predators, the kind who have a lot of experience committing crimes, can move surprisingly quickly. If you're unlucky enough to have a run-in with them, odds are good that you'll have to stop and think about what's happening, because it will be outside your set of known transactions. They won't have to do that. They already know the script.

Making decisions fast enough to deal with guys like that has a very large overlap with making decisions fast enough to shoot your neighbor who's incoherent and is pounding on your door because he can't find his phone, is having a heart attack, and only knows he needs help immediately.

When you're confused, the person it's easiest to get the drop on is someone else who's as confused as you are.

===

If you're in a car, a person outside it who doesn't have a gun isn't threatening you. He could be threatening your car, but that's all. You can lock your doors and roll up your windows, if you haven't already. You can phone the police. You can drive away, slowly if there's a dog in the way. You can lean on your horn and not let up. You can say "I'm sorry I scared you," and let the other guy rant himself out. If the police have been called, you can ride out the situation until they arrive. Even if the guy is breaking your windows, you are not in imminent danger of your life.

#47 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 10:05 AM:

Albatross, Elise: Laws that don't matter shouldn't be on the books, because if someone figures out how to make them matter, the way they do it will be unanticipated and unintended.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 10:21 AM:

Eric Walker @40, I'm not sure I'd wager my life and Patrick's life that someone who breaks into our apartment will just take our laptops and leave. Once he's through the door, we're cornered.

On the other hand, I was mugged the first year we lived in NYC. My father was very upset, and asked whether he couldn't send me a handgun. I explained that (a.) New York City wouldn't like that; (b.) if I'd had a gun in my purse, they'd have gotten that too; and (c.) if by some unlikely chance I'd had a gun and managed to hold on to it, there was a brief period there where I was so furious that I might have shot them. They were a bunch of kids in their mid-teens. Mugging me was a crappy thing to do, and I didn't and don't wish them well, but I've never regretted passing up the chance to kill them.

#49 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 10:36 AM:

Just a few days ago in the US Southwest (think it was AZ), a motorist nearly hit a pedestrian with his car. The pedestrian blocks the car and begins yelling and gesticulating; the motorist pulls out a gun and shoots him, and later claimed that he was "in fear for his life" due to the angry fist waving by his victim, and could not drive away because the pedestrian and his pet were blocking his way.

AFAIK no charges have been filed against the shooter, even though witnesses claim the pedestrian had no weapon.

#50 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 11:33 AM:

John L: That is one of the cases discussed in the link provided in the OP. When Chris Gerrib @ 20 and 21, and Elise at 28 refer to Arizona, that's the case. If it isn't, if there are two identical cases ... then that makes it all worse.

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 11:43 AM:

I found it instructive to turn to the Wikipedia article, not because it is well-written, but for the revelation that SYG is have been federal law for over a century. The defining case, Beard v. United States, concerned a group of three brothers who came, armed, to their uncle's property intending to take away a cow which had come to Mr. Beard along with one of the three (whom he had been fostering). The eldest of the three had threatened to kill Beard on the previous day (having been told to appeal to the courts in this previous encounter), and upon their reappearance the confrontation led, perhaps inevitably, to threats and gestures and the appearance of drawing a gun, and thence to shooting. The Beard case was reaffirmed by no less than Oliver Wendell Holmes in Brown v. United States.

I'm not sure how all the state laws relate to these federal rulings; I gather from the commentary that the former are generally of recent enactment. But they need to be seen in a context of pulling federal law down to the state level, not as novelties.

#52 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 12:28 PM:

I tend to view both SYG and concealed carry laws as corrosive to the body politic. First, they validate the idea that our fellow humans are in general so terrifying that we must always have the option of going out armed against them. Second, they tell the rest of us that more of our fellow humans are secretly armed and ready to shoot and that this is sanctioned by the state because our fellow humans are in general so terrifying that we must always have the option of going out armed against them. Both of these things increase the overall level of fear in the populace, and high levels of fear are corrosive to democratic social structures. I say this as someone who enjoys shooting, is a decent shot, and who enjoys guns.

#53 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Teresa: Real predators, the kind who have a lot of experience committing crimes, can move surprisingly quickly. If you're unlucky enough to have a run-in with them, odds are good that you'll have to stop and think about what's happening, because it will be outside your set of known transactions. They won't have to do that. They already know the script.

Doesn't even require experience. I can testify from direct personal experience that a person who is committing his first violent crime can move a lot faster than 2 dozen people whose opening move is "WTF???"

Someone I respect a lot asked me if I thought it would have made a difference if some of us had been armed. No, I answered, it wouldn't, because by the time we'd registered that the guns were real, the 3 victims were already dead and the shooter was leaving. As you say, you can't hope to be ready to react to something like that, unless you're on such a hair-trigger that you'd blow away a dog-walker hurrying to cross the street ahead of a speeding car.

#54 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:01 PM:

People who think they will instantly know how to disarm and immobilize a gunman sound an awful lot like people who think they don't need a seat belt because "when impact occurs, I'll put both hands on the steering wheel and push myself away from it as hard as I can."

#55 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:17 PM:

John L. #49: That sounds a lot like the Daniel Adkins Jr. case in Phoenix that's mentioned in the article Teresa linked to in the post.

============

In my opinion, any homicide should be tried in a court, just as after the loss of any ship the captain is tried by court martial.

It is possible that the shooting may be found to be justified. Possibly not. But that should always be in the back of everyone's mind when they decide to slip that pistol into their pocket.

The Stand Your Ground laws, heavily lobbied for by the NRA, are, as I understand it, a way to ensure that shooters don't have to worry about being arrested, far less tried, for any homicides they commit.

Instead, any use of a firearm should result in a trial.

#56 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:20 PM:

John L (49): In my town, across the street from my place of employment, there was a road rage case a few years ago that culminated with one driver getting out of his car and pounding on the other car. The second guy drove over him, killing him. He was pulled out of his car by passersby and arrested. He got probation.

#57 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:32 PM:

The problem comes from extending the response to having some guy kick in your door at three in the morning over to some guy shaking his fist and yelling "What's amatta you?" on the sidewalk at three in the afternoon.

#58 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:50 PM:

Kip W @ 54... In the latest episode of "Mythbusters", the kids tried to see if putting superglue between your body and the seat would be as effective as safety belts. It was not. (Meanwhile Adam and Jamie tested how difficult it is to drive while wearing high-heeled red shoes.)

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 01:51 PM:

My go-to source for advice on dealing with attempted rape is How To Say No to a Rapist and Survive. Among the advice in it is "If you are in a car and he is not, you have a tremendous advantage." Also "You don't have to kill him; a tap at 5-10 MPH will be enough to break his knees, after which he won't be going anywhere until the police get there."

The applicability to the Arizona case, and to the one mentioned by Mary Aileen @56, should be obvious.

IMO, if people have rehearsed in their heads how they would kill someone else under the SYG laws, but have not put any thought into identifying and using non-lethal methods of getting out of a bad situation. they are much more likely to go directly to the "lethal force" approach. And unfortunately, this sort of thinking is exactly what SYG laws encourage, because they don't emphasize that lethal force should be your last resort.

#60 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 02:23 PM:

C. Wingate @ 51

A major difference between the Florida SYG law and the federal cases you cite is that the Florida law has a much lower threshold of danger for the justified use of lethal force. Brown v. United States says "Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife." In Florida reflection can't be demanded in the presence of a swung car radio. Heck, in Florida reflection can't be demanded in the presence of an unarmed but really scary guy.

The other difference is that Florida also grants immunity to arrest and prosecution to those acting in self-defense. So a defendant gets a pre-trial hearing where if he can convince the judge beyond a preponderance of the evidence that he or she acted in self-defense, the defendant doesn't even have to go to rial. If they fail and go to trial, they can argue self-defense again to a jury.


#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 02:56 PM:

Lee #59:

Lacking any data, I have an unpleasant suspicion that altogether too many peoples' mental models of violence of all kinds (guns, cars, knives, etc.) are basically built from watching movies and TV shows. And the thing to understand there is that, as with almost everything else, if all you know about X is what you've learned watching TV shows and movies about X, you probably don't know anything about X. This is true whether X is gun violence, war, terrorism, conspiracies, business, politics, police work, medicine, etc. The job of those shows and movies is to entertain you, and any education they do is incidental and removed at the first sign that it is detracting from the entertainment/selling tickets and commercials part.

This is one of those things we all know consciously, and yet it's really hard (at least for me) to force myself to remember when I'm theorizing about something I don't know much about. TV and movies and books and such have this property that you feel like you've got some kind of vicarious experience with stuff you don't really know *anything* about. I suspect very strongly that this leads to all kinds of bad laws, policies, political and social movements, etc., usually without the people involved even aware of where they got their ideas about the thing they're trying to make decisions about. (I suspect much news coverage has something of the same problem, though there they're probably at least trying to balance the entertainment with education/information.)

#62 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 03:10 PM:

Elise/Teresa:

My point is just that this has a bit of the feel of the latest media scare. Are SYG laws actually leading to some noticeable increase in questionable shootings, or to some noticeable increase in not really justifiable murders getting off?

The data I could find Googling around last night didn't really support that, but I don't know it would have shown the effect either way. On page 32 of this report it shows a large decrease over time in justifiable homicides by both police and citizens (way down from the early 80s), but there is a small uptick in the last couple years (the report goes through 2008) for both police and citizen justifiable homicides. (I would expect SYG laws to increase justifiable homicides by civilians relative to those by police.)

My best guess, as a non-expert looking at this data very quickly, is that the driving factor is probably crime rate--fewer liquor store holdups = fewer liquor store robbers getting shot in the attempt. And there's probably a fair bit of random variation from year to year in there. If there is an effect, I suspect you would need to crunch the numbers a bit to find it, and that it's not especially large. My impression is that this is consistent with the experience with concealed carry laws--they don't seem to have a big obvious effect on crime rate in either direction. Researchers can sometimes tease an effect out, but with enough freedom in choosing their definitions and model parameters that it's hard to know if they're finding anything real.

#63 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 03:10 PM:

Gnomed

#64 ::: Fragano Ledgister sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 03:29 PM:

Twenty-two years ago I was tapped by a car while crossing a street in La Jolla. The crossing sign had just come on and I had the right of way. I was angered by the idiocy of the driver, yelled at him, and gave him a one-fingered salute. He looked less than contrite. Had he whipped out a gun and shot me claiming fear of imminent death (from my fearsome finger), a SYG law would, it seems, be on his side.

#65 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 03:51 PM:

albatross@61

And the thing to understand there is that, as with almost everything else, if all you know about X is what you've learned watching TV shows and movies about X, you probably don't know anything about X.

I'm inclined to think that if your only information about something is from tv and movies, you actually know less than nothing. You have a strong image in your mind which overrides what you could notice about the real situation.

#66 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 04:48 PM:

It seems to me that the problem that the writers of this law intended to fix was that someone could threaten you with deadly force out on the street, and if you used deadly force to defend yourself, the local prosecutor might charge you with murder based on his own later analysis of your tactical situation and his opinion of your options to retreat. Fixing that problem seems like a worthy goal. Making decisions under extreme pressure isn't at all the same thing as analyzing those decisions later from the safety of one's wingback chair.

The intentions of the lawmakers, however, aren't law. Those intentions exist only in their minds. The law is what it is, and it may or may not accurately express those intentions, and once released into the wild, it may or may not do what you'd expect it'd do. Rules can surprise their makers.

My problem with these laws is that they permit me to strap on a gun, go pick a fight with a stranger, and then shoot him dead if I start to lose the fight. If there aren't any witnesses, and I'm capable of making up a story and sticking to it, it's virtually impossible to disprove my story about how my victim attacked me, and equally impossible to prove that I wasn't reasonably in fear for my life.

The law won't be perfect. There will always be difficult cases on the edges. We have to live with some number of murderers getting away with it, and some number of law-abiding gun-owners being charged with murder when they were legitimately defending themselves. The position of the modern gun lobby, and of the Florida legislature, is that minimizing the latter takes absolute priority over the former.

I suppose if I liked to walk around in public carrying a concealed handgun I might feel the same way, but since I don't, I'm not persuaded that protecting handgun owners from unjustified murder charges takes priority over protecting everyone else from murder.

Mr Macdonald's suggestion in #55 seems to me like a wise way to go.

#67 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 04:53 PM:

Eric Walker @40.

I am very unhappy at the thought of conflating actions in self-defense (or the defense of others) with penalties. And I suspect that such conflation is at the root of most SYG justifications.

In self-defense you do what is necessary (not what you feel the other person deserves) to protect yourself. And yes, use of possibly-lethal force is very much a last resort. But if it is the only resort left if you are not to be the fatality, you should not have to worry about extenuating circumstances. OTOH, if, as it was a couple of centuries ago, theft of property worth a shilling or more carries the death penalty, that even if you agree with it does not justify summary extra-judicial execution.

J Homes.

#68 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 05:21 PM:

albatross @ 62, I don't have time (I'm supposedly working) right now to crunch the numbers, but I think you're probably right that the fall is correlated to the fall in general crime rate. But I think to get a better idea of the impact of SYG laws would require looking at rates of justifiable homicides relative to overall homicides, and not just the raw numbers themselves. You may have already taken that into account, and just be eliding that calculation, but I think it's worth making explicit

#69 ::: Patrick ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 05:48 PM:

Laertes wrote: "It seems to me that the problem that the writers of this law intended to fix was that someone could threaten you with deadly force out on the Laertes wrote: street, and if you used deadly force to defend yourself, the local prosecutor might charge you with murder based on his own later analysis of your tactical situation and his opinion of your options to retreat. Fixing that problem seems like a worthy goal."

That's not a problem, that's the system working as intended. Joe says Bob threatened him with deadly force, there was nowhere to retreat to and no other options available, and that's why he shot Bob. The Prosecutor doesn't believe Joe, and presses charges.

What alternative would you possibly want? The Prosecutor doesn't believe Joe, but oh well?

Having to face charges is not the same as being convicted of a crime. Your need for a prophylactic against conviction is much greater than your need for a prophylactic against prosecution.

#70 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 06:05 PM:

I'd think the measurable effect of the Stand Your Ground laws should be much more observable in the rate of firearm sales. The obvious intent of such laws is to shift the risk to armed civilians for the misuse of firearms onto the broader population, thus lowering the true cost of ownership. One would expect to see that show up first as an increase in firearms proliferation, and to a much lesser extent, later, as an increase in the rate of crimes involving the accidental or negligent misuse of firearms.

Imagine the shouts of outrage from the NRA were it to be presented with a serious proposal to mandate that firearms owners carry comprehensive liability insurance.

#71 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 06:52 PM:

Prosecutors from time to time charge shooters who most likely shouldn't have been charged, and often get convictions when they do. I'm thinking here of John McNeil and Cory Maye, though I expect there are lots more just like them. I'm not sure that's a problem that can be completely solved, but it's not necessarily wrongheaded to try. A law that would have prevented a prosecutor from charging (and thereby convicting) Mssrs Maye and McNeil would have done some good in those two cases.

When I say that solving the problem of law-abiding folk being charged and sometimes convicted when they really shouldn't be, what I mean is simply that, yeah, it'd be nice if that wasn't happening.

Where I part ways with the SYG folk is that I'm unwilling to blind myself to the collateral damage that such a law would produce. Even if they won't, I recognize the tension between preventing the prosecution of justified shooters and preventing the escape of murderers.

In poker, the only way to win every pot you can possibly win is to never fold, and therefore lose a lot of money you don't have to lose. People who don't recognize that fact make poor gamblers. The only way to spring every shooter who ought to be sprung is to let an awful lot of cold-blooded murderers off the hook as well. People who don't recognize that fact make poor legislators, though often very popular ones.

So, yeah, I agree with Mr Macdonald in #55: You kill someone, you face a jury. That'd be a good idea. Though it'd produce the occasional injustice, on balanced it'd probably do more good than harm. But I don't think the SYG people are completely crazy, and their effort could be plausibly traced back to a basically good intention, though it's one that they've carried to silly extremes, utterly without regard to the consequences.

#72 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 07:16 PM:

"Prosecutors from time to time charge shooters who most likely shouldn't have been charged, and often get convictions when they do."

You mean, "when the defendants are black." Which is my main problem with SYG: it seems to be a license to kill black men (and boys).

#73 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 07:27 PM:

I think part of the problem is that a lot of law-abiding citizens feel scared, angry and frustrated. We're bombarded with news stories about crimes, both the horrific ones like the home invasions that turn into rape-murders and the smaller ones like the kid who saves for months to earn some prized possession and buys it only to be held up hours later and relieved of it, and are afraid we'll be next. We're angry that we should have to live in fear and be constantly at risk of having to beg and plead for the predators to be merciful and only take our stuff, not our lives, etc. (a situation which for many people is both frightening and extremely humiliating). And we're frustrated by the sense that the bad guys are gaming the system so that the rules protect them instead of us, such that they can act with impunity but if we do anything but meekly submit, we get punished.

This situation is only exacerbated by the growing sense that the police treat law-abiding citizens like criminals instead of going after the real criminals. So law-abiding people no longer feel they can rely on the police to protect them, and in fact often fear that calling the police will put them at risk of being victimized all over again, this time by authority -- or at best getting an indifferent response by an overworked cop whose attitude is that you should be grateful the thug just stole your stuff and didn't kill you.

In that climate it's unhappily easy to see how SYG laws and Castle laws get passed. People who are sick of feeling helpless and at the mercy of the criminals and don't trust the police want something done so they don't have to feel like easy prey waiting to be munched, and it's so much easier to pass this kind of law than to dig into the mess of a police culture gone toxic or the even deeper problem of a society that glorifies gaming the system rather than stigmatizing it.

#74 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 07:31 PM:

Laertes @71

Of course, both of the cases you cite are subject to much more powerful distortions than any relating to self defense. As a thought experiment, how likely do you think each of the following hypothetical defendants is to receive a fair trial? (Note that we're considering whether they get a fair trial, not whether they are guilty or deserve jail. If it helps, imagine there are one hundred of each sort of defendant, half guilty and half not.)
a) A black man accused of shooting a white man.
b) A black man accused of shooting an on-duty police officer
c) Someone accused of murder for shooting a burglar in their own home

I'd say the problems in those cases have much, much more to do with racism and police power than they do with self-defense law. It's a bit like looking at the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and concluding that sewing machines need built-in fire-suppression equipment: Yes, that would have prevented this particular disaster, but it doesn't generalize correctly. The problem is locking workers in, not that sewing causes fires.

#75 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 08:02 PM:

Devin @74

a) Not very likely, unless the black man is very wealthy.
b) Not a chance in hell.
c) Probably? But maybe not so much if the shooter has darker skin than the victim.

Of course the pervasive systemic racism of the American justice system makes SYG an even bigger disaster than it'd otherwise be. But SYG is so terminally wrongheaded that even if you cleaned all the racist gunk out of our system it'd still be terrible law.

Are you sure it's wrong to critique the law on grounds other than racism?

#76 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:11 PM:

@71: I know it's standard to say that it's better that a thousand guilty men walk free than a single innocent man go to prison. But your defense of the SYG laws seems to boil down to the idea that the only way to guarantee that *no* innocent men will go to prison is not to charge any of them with a crime.

#77 ::: Herb Martin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:12 PM:

The shame is that so few people will read and can understand what is in the law, especially "Stand Your Ground".

That word "reasonable" means that others, specifically prosecutors, judges, and juries must agree.

Basically, all it really says is that you don't need to "run away" if you are legally allowed to be in a location and that you cannot be committing an illegal act.

Someone yelling at you? Hurt your feelings? Nope, you cannot take violent action.

Someone trying to kill you? Yes, you can.

#78 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:32 PM:

#76: I'm not sure how to respond. I don't recognize my comment at #71 in your reply. Are you sure you're talking to me?

#79 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:39 PM:

I have a problem with "if you fit this case, charges shall not be laid." I don't have a problem with "if you fit this case, you are not to be found guilty of the charges, should they be laid."

So, wherever Laertes (and others, but Laertes is the one talking here about avoiding people *being charged*, not *being convicted*) says "shouldn't be charged", I have a problem with the statement (though, it seems from later comments, not his position). I am much more in line with Jim Macdonald @55 that "you shoot, deliberately aiming at someone to kill or injure, you get to have your day in court."

Again, I am trying to be careful about the onus: someone charged with a firearm crime who didn't do it, or who is willing to argue that they didn't do it, gets to sit back and watch the prosecutor prove "beyond a reasonable doubt". Someone charged with a firearm crime whose defence is "I shot the guy, but here's why, and legally that makes me not guilty of the crime" gets to make their "reasonable case".

Sure, if it turns out that the case is reasonable on the face, and as a result the state says "we won't get a conviction on this evidence, so we won't waste time and money pressing charges" - that's a fair to me legal judgement, and that's what we pay them for (I think a public statement of that fact, rather than just not doing anything, would be in order, in case the public doesn't agree). However, if the law says "if you assert this set of circumstances, the state will not press charges" - that's really ripe for abuse.

A separate argument is "what's a reasonable case"; I don't want the Arizona case to be considered reasonable (if for no other reason than I've done a "the hell - they're handing out licenses to the blind now, or do you just not care about anybody but your fat ass?" routine myself more than once); I don't want "recent immigrant-looking" people to be much less likely to be defending themselves than immigrants of more European ancestry; and I really, *really* want to make it clear that even if the SYG law is on your side, choosing to SYG is a penultimately pessimal solution, that really only should be essayed when the alternative is ultimately pessimal.

#80 ::: Patrick ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:40 PM:

Laertes wrote: "So, yeah, I agree with Mr Macdonald in #55: You kill someone, you face a jury. That'd be a good idea. Though it'd produce the occasional injustice, on balanced it'd probably do more good than harm. But I don't think the SYG people are completely crazy, and their effort could be plausibly traced back to a basically good intention, though it's one that they've carried to silly extremes, utterly without regard to the consequences."

In my best estimation, the place SYG laws come from is a desire to make it easier for "law abiding citizens" to defend themselves from "thugs." I think the tendency to divide the world up like that, and to pre-judge whether people committed a wrongful killing by which preconception they best fit into, probably isn't coming from a good place. It is literally a desire for a double standard that protects "us" from "them," coupled with a conviction that double standards are appropriate because of the inherent goodness of "us" and evil of "them."

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:40 PM:

Another piece of this mess is that just going to trial can be financially ruinous for a lot of people.

#82 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 10:18 PM:

@78: Sorry, that was too aggressively phrased (and cut down from the comment I had originally intended to write) -- I was referring to the SYG defense you were citing (i.e. that the best way to prevent cases of clear self-defense from resulting in prison time was to simply make a law that you can't prosecute them). Your statement itself was way more nuanced.

#83 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 11:46 PM:

Fragano @64:

Twenty-two years ago I was tapped by a car while crossing a street in La Jolla. The crossing sign had just come on and I had the right of way. I was angered by the idiocy of the driver, yelled at him, and gave him a one-fingered salute. He looked less than contrite. Had he whipped out a gun and shot me claiming fear of imminent death (from my fearsome finger), a SYG law would, it seems, be on his side.
Now someone who doesn't know you will explain that SYG laws don't actually do that, not understanding that for you, they work differently.

There's an odd fannish anecdote that's stuck with me for decades. Elliot Shorter is a longtime fan and, incidentally, a cousin of Velma Bowen's. When he was young, he was sometimes mistaken for Roosevelt Grier. Big guy.

So, at some convention or other Elliot goes out to eat at a coffee shop with a group of fans. Which is normal. Only as soon as he walks in the door and the waitress catches sight of him, she literally screams out loud and runs for the kitchen.

Elliot is not threatening -- not scary at all. He's just big brown guy. But somehow, seeing him come in the door is enough to reduce this waitress to blind panic.

Henry Louis Gates got arrested on his own front porch in Cambridge.

Another story. The first year Patrick and I were in NYC, I temped for a while at a grant-awarding foundation that had offices in the American Bible Society Building. That's an incredibly safe part of the city, just north of Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center, half a block west of Central Park.

For a while there we had another temp, a fast and accurate but very nervous typist from way out in Queens. Her first day there, she asked about lunch options. I explained that there was a good deli across the street. She looked scared. I took her to the front window and pointed it out: see? Right there across the street. Another woman who worked at the foundation was just leaving it to come back to the office.

No way. She wasn't going out there. It was dangerous. Something might happen to her. "Like what?" I wanted to say, but didn't because it was useless.

Damn it, you should have the same right to yell at careless motorists that anyone else does.

j h woodyatt @70:

The obvious intent of such laws is to shift the risk to armed civilians for the misuse of firearms onto the broader population, thus lowering the true cost of ownership.
That sounds interesting, but is there a typo in it? In any event, could you unpack it further?

Leigh Kimmel @73, I'm not arguing, but can you explain how these feelings have gradually been increasing while actual crime rates have been falling?

If I'm inclined to blame anyone, it's the people who continually broadcast the message that "you're helpless and at the mercy of the criminals, and the police will not help you."

Herb Martin @77:

Basically, all it really says is that you don't need to "run away" if you are legally allowed to be in a location and that you cannot be committing an illegal act.
I have to differ on that point. I think that if you have the option of running away instead of shooting someone, you should be required to run away. I also don't see what "legally allowed to be in a location" has to do with self-defense.
Someone yelling at you? Hurt your feelings? Nope, you cannot take violent action.

Someone trying to kill you? Yes, you can.

Not someone trying to kill you. We have other laws for that. This one covers believing that someone is trying to kill you, and acting on that belief.

I'm sorry. Am I nitpicking too much? I don't mean to.

#84 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 12:20 AM:

Teresa, "can run away" is too broad, at least if you take Holmes as your authority. I do not get the impression that Brown was physically prevented from flight, but it seems highly questionable that he could have safely fled his attacker. Safe flight surely seems necessary, as a qualifier. OTOH I think it could also be argued that a threat which could plainly be safely fled isn't life threatening and therefore couldn't justify a potentially lethal response.

As far as "legally allowed to be in a place": the implication is that trespass deprives you of your right to insist that you may stay there. SYG does not seem to be applicable to the burglar who has a gun pulled on him by an accomplice at the job site.

#85 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 01:36 AM:

Laertes @75

Of course criticism on other grounds is reasonable. I think I read your 71 as more supportive of SYG than you intended.

#86 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 01:39 AM:

At least nobody died this time.

New owners of a house, having the wrong skin color, are held at gunpoint by self-appointed "neighborhood watch" vigilantes, then arrested by the responding officers. I don't think there's any doubt that if they had made any move which could have been interpreted as "aggressive" by the thugs, they'd have ended up as dead as Trayvon Martin.

#87 ::: Eric Walker ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 03:26 AM:

Re 40, 41, et al. The argument that the victim of a crime--say breaking and entering--might have a gun and be prepared to use it somehow makes the perpetrator a legitimate murder victim I find unpersuasive. Certainly if one finds an intruder in the house one is in fear, but till there is a social consensus that breaking and entering is a capital crime, it is wrong in any reasonable sense of the word to shoot the intruder. Obviously, if the intruder presents an actual menace, say by wielding a deadly weapon in a manifestly threatening manner, that is another matter, but so is the lawful penalty, because the nature of the crime has shifted.

Not that's it's relevant to the theoretical argument, but I suspect that the great majority of those who break and enter--the crime most likely to provoke fear reactions owing to the sense of being "trapped" by the intruder--do so with places they think unoccupied. Even the punks are not, I suspect, usually looking for a confrontation.

It is also interesting in a practical sense to reflect that in stress situations even trained police officers often miss, even repeatedly, subjects six or so feet away. A handgun is not a very good idea for home protection: the criminal is more likely to attack if fired on than otherwise, and you'd probably miss.

#88 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:38 AM:

TNH #83: In fact, not long before, at a bus stop just round the corner from where the idiot tapped me with his car (memory insists that it was a BMW, but memory may be wrong), a post-doc with dreadlocks (and the dark brown skin tone normally typical of those of African descent) was peacefully engaged in the serious criminal activity of waiting for a bus. This, you understand, was right across the street from the graduate student housing estate at UC San Diego. A passing San Diego city patrolman stopped and arrested him for loitering. At a bus stop. That one cost the city government, as I recall, a fairly substantial sum.

#90 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 10:44 AM:

TNH #83: This one covers believing that someone is trying to kill you, and acting on that belief.

Or, believing that someone may, at some time in the future, try to kill you, even if he isn't doing it right now.

#91 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 10:50 AM:

Chris Gerrib #89: They've since been released on bail.

#92 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Thanks to post-9/11 hysteria, we seem to have some crimes on the books that are so serious that people accused of them aren't entitled to a trial.

Here's the flip side. Being scared by someone's skin color so much that you have to shoot them is so trivial, there's no need for one.

#93 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:45 AM:

TNH @83: A lot of the problem is the development of the 24-hour news cycle, first through the dedicated news channels (CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews), and then through constantly updated news websites. When most people got their news through a daily newspaper or the evening news on a regular broadcast TV channel, they tended to hear about a crime only if it were local or if it were particularly heinous or happened to a very prominent person. Now people hear about a lot more crimes, creating the perception of crime being on the increase and thus of their personal vulnerability, the observed statistics nonwithstanding. There are probably additional psychological factors involved in the constant availability of such news, rather than it being available only in a time-restricted form (a daily paper, a half-hour news program that came on at a set time each day).

My essay Violence on the News is dated now, since I wrote it in 1995 when the Internet was just beginning to become widely available, but I think it still has some valid points about perceptions vs. actuality. M. Granger Morgan's article on risk assessment in Scientific American (listed in the bibliography) was particularly useful for me in forming my thesis, and while it may have been superseded by subsequent research, it's a good place to start in further reading on the phenomenon.

#94 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 01:58 PM:

Chris, #89: That's the same article I linked. Notice the following:

1) It took the intervention of a high-powered lawyer to get them arrested -- the responding officers told them they'd "done a good job". I am dubious as to whether a public defender could have accomplished the same thing.

2) The perps don't believe there's anything they can be charged with, and don't see that they did anything wrong. No matter what happens, they will continue to think of themselves as martyred victims of racism. No, I'm not kidding.

3) The owner of the house is now concerned about whether it will be safe for him and his parents to live there, and rightly so IMO. Violent racist creeps tend to run in gangs.

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 02:04 PM:

Oh, and one other thing about this case. Both the thugs and the cops demanded to see the closing paperwork on the house, before they would be willing to believe that someone who had the keys had a right to be on the property. I've only ever bought one home, but I was certainly not furnished with a copy of the paperwork to carry around as proof of ownership. Have things changed that much, or am I right in thinking that this was a completely unreasonable demand?

#96 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 02:17 PM:

Eric, #87: Allow me to point out that for a woman -- especially one living alone or with only her children -- this equation looks very different. A burglar unexpectedly confronted with a male homeowner, especially one who looks healthy and fit rather than elderly and frail, is likely to retreat. Confronted with a lone female, many of them will consider it lagniappe.

#97 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 03:26 PM:

In 70, I wrote:

The obvious intent of such laws is to shift the risk to armed civilians for the misuse of firearms onto the broader population, thus lowering the true cost of ownership.

TNH @83 asks me...

That sounds interesting, but is there a typo in it? In any event, could you unpack it further?

I don't think I made a typo, but I are not a professional writer, so I am often unclear. I was riffing on the article on The Invention Of Jaywalking that Patrick sidelighted.

My observation is that these Stand Your Ground laws are the result of a lobbying campaign on the part of firearms makers to lower the true cost of firearms ownership— rather like the way automobile makers lobbied heavily to shift the risk of liability for accidents away from drivers and onto "pedestrians."

If the Stand Your Ground law provides your customers with a kind of insurance against bearing the costs of a legal defense against criminal prosecution in many of the common cases in which your product will be used, and the cost of this insurance is neither born by you nor your customers, but rather by the giant risk pool we call "society at large"— in the form of everyone everywhere bearing a slightly increased risk of having their internal organs unnecessarily ventilated by a negligent or accidental firearm discharge— then you can expect that passage of a Stand Your Ground law in your jurisdiction will bring increased demand (due to the lower true cost of ownership) without requiring you to lower your nominal prices at all.

Does this makes sense?

#98 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 03:50 PM:

The trouble with insanity in general is that so often the entire transaction takes place inside the crazy person's head. There will always be crazies among us; we are all at the mercy of the imagination of crazy. Crazy happens, sometimes violently.

Every so often, someone like Gabrielle Giffords gets shot by a crazy person. There is approximately nothing the law can do to prevent this. Stand Your Ground laws, and many other laws, incorporate the reasonable person or prudent person standard into the law, specifically to prevent their use as legal defense of craziness.

In the US, prosecutors have enormous discretion in who to charge, and with what crimes. When the prosecutor is biased (racist, misogynist, homophobic, etc.), and acts on that bias in office, the application of the law will be biased, regardless of the letter of the law. This situation is not peculiar to Stand Your Ground; it has been with us for as long as the governmental monopoly on criminal arrest and prosecution. Stand Your Ground law does not change this problem.

There is almost no recourse against a biased prosecutor who chooses not to bring a charge due to his bias. Media frenzy sometimes works, and appeal to a different jurisdiction sometimes works, but the majority of the time that a prosecutor doesn't want to bring a case, it's just not going to happen. Stand Your Ground law does not change this problem, either.

Stand Your Ground, the law, should not be confused with Stand Your Ground, the media fig leaf used by prosecutors defending their choices to the public. Fixing the problems of biased criminal prosecution goes a lot deeper than talking about the use of SYG law as a media fig leaf for a prosecutor's decision not to bring a criminal charge in a particular fatal shooting, whether the shooter is Mr. Zimmerman or otherwise.

#99 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:04 PM:

#77 ::: Herb Martin: "That word "reasonable" means that others, specifically prosecutors, judges, and juries must agree."

In most cases so far the only person needing any kind of convincing is the DA who will decide to bring charges or not (or even the cop who chooses not to recommend bringing charges to the DA). That's not a level of scrutiny I'm particularly comfortable with.

"Someone yelling at you? Hurt your feelings? Nope, you cannot take violent action."

Sure you can. Just make sure the victim is dead and there are no eyewitnesses. Then whatever story you tell the police is the TRVTH, and the fear-cycle happening in your head might as well have been acted out on the street.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:23 PM:

jh:

Do you have evidence of that? I wouldn't be shocked if it were true, but I'd like to see the evidence.

#101 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:28 PM:

C. Wingate @84:

As far as "legally allowed to be in a place": the implication is that trespass deprives you of your right to insist that you may stay there.
I still don't see the applicability. Self-defense is self-defense: a reasonable person reasonably believes that they are imminently going to be hurt or killed, and their only effective defense is to take action that may hurt or kill the person threatening them.

How does "having a legal right to be there" come into that? If you can get out of a threatening situation by some means other than shooting the guy, you don't shoot him, period the end. If you're being attacked and are in imminent danger of being killed, you have a right to self-defense. It's not about who gets to stay where. It's about not getting killed at that moment.

Let's imagine that I'm someone who carries a gun at all times. As I believe I mentioned earlier, if someone were to break in through the front door of our apartment, Patrick and I would be cornered. I can imagine firing at someone who was aggressively invading our home via that route.

It would be different if they were climbing over the back fence, or breaking in through the back basement door. The basement has two doors, front and back. If somebody's breaking in through one, you can go out the other. I have as much legal right to be in my back yard or my basement as I have to be on the main floor of our house, but I don't have the same right to shoot someone who invades them.

The only logic I can see to this law -- and I'm not saying it's good logic -- is that it protects and reassures the kind of blowhards who are always going on about how if someone sets foot on their propitty, they're gonna shoot first and ask questions later. Why invoke the otherwise irrelevant "I have a right to be here," except to nullify their responsibility to judge and act reasonably when lives are at stake?

Also, let it be noted that Trayvon Martin had the right to walk on a public street, and Daniel Adkins had as much right to be in the Taco Bell parking lot as the guy in the SUV.

Now, something that's been bothering me for years is the practice of bottling up peaceful protesters in tiny, barren, deliberately uncomfortable areas just because they're protesting, and not allowing them to leave. I can't see how that's legal. The right of the people peaceably to assemble, the right to petition for a redress of grievances, and freedom of speech, are all right there in the Constitution. The public streets are public -- they're shared public space. I have the right to stand on a corner and pass out leaflets, or stand out in front of some offending business with a sign explaining what I think is wrong with them. I don't see how that changes one bit if there are nineteen other people present who have approximately the same opinions I do. The Constitution doesn't say we have the right to peaceably assemble as long as there are only a half-dozen of us, or unless there's a Republican political convention in town.

I have a legal right to be out on the streets of my own city. Why aren't there Stand Your Ground laws that protect me? Why aren't there SYG laws for photographers, or pedestrians and cyclists, or brown people who are taking walks or waiting for the bus?

It seems to me we're looking at some fairly radical deprivileging of public good, public law and order, and shared public space, in order to unjustly over-privilege private property, private prejudice, and the privatized use of force.

#102 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:35 PM:

j h woodyatt, thank you for the expanded version. That's a very interesting observation.

Albatross, I'm not sure how feasible it is to ask for hard evidence. There are a lot of tendencies where you can see who generally supports them, and who derives benefit from them, without there being any hard evidence of their existence beyond the tendencies themselves.

#103 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:47 PM:

@87: I wonder if the lawful punishment for a crime is a useful guide to what sort of immediate reaction on the part of the victim is appropriate.

Suppose a man attacks me on the street, unprovoked, with his bare hands. For simple battery he might be facing a short stretch in the county jail, but even so, I wouldn't be permitted to personally imprison him. Likewise, I'd be legally entitled to defend myself, and I wouldn't expect to find myself in legal trouble even if I cracked a few of his ribs or broke his nose. But he wouldn't be sentenced to a beating.

B&E obviously isn't a capital crime, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the homeowner who discovers an invader has no reason to fear for her life. The law shouldn't require us to be mind-readers. I'd be terrified if I found an intruder in my apartment. Breaking in to someone's home is a shocking violation. It doesn't seem unreasonable to fear that someone capable of one shocking violation is capable of more.

#104 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 04:58 PM:

#103 ::: Laertes :"I wonder if the lawful punishment for a crime is a useful guide to what sort of immediate reaction on the part of the victim is appropriate."

In one sense it's not: people don't choose their actions based on a rational consideration of all options and consequences.

But we do know that when people think about how they will react in a scenario, that is the way they will react. This is how we train first responders and people who deal with crises, and soldiers and cops. This is how my own household prepares for emergencies of the predictable sort (earthquake, fire, perhaps I should add home-invasion robbery).

There's a series of connections we should make between the two of these. Basically, the more you've gone over how you'd handle your gun in an emergency -- perhaps to keep yourself focused during target practise with your new handgun -- the more likely that will be your immediate and instinctive response when shit hits the fan.

More training helps, of course, as well as varied training. But private gun owners are not required to get that sort of training, and rarely choose to do so.

#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:06 PM:

Leigh Kimmel @93, I can understand that people with poor risk-assessment skills who spend a lot of time watching the dumber kinds of TV news might work themselves up into a tizzy, but --

1. I swear, I remember people doing exactly the same thing when all they had was the newspapers plus thirty or sixty minutes of news every evening. Amplification was accomplished by talking worriedly to each other, rather than by watching multiple news cycles.

2. In any event, I don't see the benefit of passing laws that give them permission to act on their fears. The ascendancy of public law over private force has taken more than a millennium of struggle, and is a core value of our civilization. You don't yield ground like that lightly.

3 People who start out afraid, then act on their fears -- buying guns, stockpiling freeze-dried food, watching out for what they imagine are suspicious-looking persons -- don't get less afraid. Acting on their fears reinforces them: they must be in danger; they had to buy a gun. Society must be on the brink of collapse; they've had to stockpile food and ammo. And so on. Again, I don't see the benefit in encouraging them to believe their fears are real.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:13 PM:

My guess is that one reason for the SYG laws is a lack of faith, well founded or not, in the legal system. They seem a bit like mandatory minimum laws in that they take choice away from judges and courts, because their backers felt (rightly or wrongly) like the courts were making really bad decisions. A similar notion is zero tolerance policies, which seem like they're an attempt to override local decisionmaking in a place where the establishers of the policy think the local decisionmaking is too lenient or inconsistent or whatever.

Now, my suspicion is that in many cases like this, the cure is worse than the disease. Mandatory minimum sentences, in particular, seem like they have had a huge negative impact on the world, by putting lots pf people in prison for long terms for fairly minor drug crimes, and by giving prosecutors a much stronger hand to play in negotiating for plea agreements (plead guilty to something or you will be looking at a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence). You can see that reflected in our huge prison population, I think.

I suspect SYG is probably also bad policy. But it would be interesting to know whether it's having an impact you can see in something like shooting statistics or murderers getting off. There are huge numbers of bad policies and laws in the world, and most of them probably don't lead to huge messes, or really much impact on the world at all.

But the concern that the legal system could not be trusted to deal fairly with people who legitimately shot someone in self defense doesn't look obviously wrong to me. As Nancy said, even successfully defending yourself from prosecution probably means spending every dime you have or can raise, burning a year or two of your life, massive marriage- and health-wrecking stresses, and the potential for a long prison term hanging over your head. I don't know that there's a good solution for this.

#107 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Laertes @103, I've walked into my living room (dressed only in a towel!) and found a stranger in my home. I've had other strangers come into my home, rummage through my possessions, and commit various acts of vandalism. I've had my car broken into twice. I've been violently mugged. All these events violated the hell out of my sense of personal security. But they didn't entitle me to kill the people involved.

#108 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:21 PM:

albatross @106:

My guess is that one reason for the SYG laws is a lack of faith, well founded or not, in the legal system.

I am pondering that in light of what happened to these women, who have good reason for less faith than most in the legal system.

So... lack of faith on whose part? It's a question rather like "cui bono*?" Somehow I don't hear about trans women of color being the primary advocates of SYG laws.

*Who benefits?

#109 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:23 PM:

Albatross, I can't see any good alternative to there being legal repercussions for killing someone.

#110 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:27 PM:

Interestingly, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law has a specific exception for cases of domestic violence.

In Florida, Marissa Alexander shot a (legally registered!) gun into the air in order to scare off her abusive husband, who had been attempting to strangle her just minutes before. (A husband who had previously been jailed for beating her badly enough that she wound up in the hospital.) She has now been convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm and faces the likelihood of a 20-year jail sentence. The judge specifically denied the defense's motion for dismissal under "Stand Your Ground." (Sources: here, here.)

You can read the text of Florida's law here.

It's patently obvious that laws like Florida's are designed, not to create justice, but to further a social system in which certain kinds of people get lots of slack and other kinds of people get none. And yes, no prizes for guessing the color of Marissa Alexander's skin.

#111 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 05:43 PM:

Elise wrote, #108: "Somehow I don't hear about trans women of color being the primary advocates of SYG laws."

As Vixy says in the post you link to, "Too often trans and queer women of color survive violence in their homes and on the streets only to have the police, courts and prison-industrial complex come after them for having the audacity to survive in a world where, as Audre Lorde said in her poem 'A Litany For Survival,' they 'were never meant to survive.'"

Police, prosecutors, judges, and juries: they all know the unwritten rules. Some people have rights. Others don't. That's the society we live in. People like us like to tell one another consoling stories about the arc of justice and gradual social progress, but you know something, for a lot of people in this world, it's just the same old bullshit every day. The law is for the white guys with guns.

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 06:13 PM:

(Tangentially, I like an off-thread friend's suggestion that so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws be renamed "Scared Non-Black Man Protection Laws." Which better describes how they seem to operate--and what they're for.)

#113 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 06:20 PM:

Patrick, if it's all mythology, then mythology matters, and I'm going to subscribe to the version in which law is good, progress is worth pursuing, and we're all citizens of the republic.

#114 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 06:27 PM:

So why the holy reticulated heck would SYG laws exempt domestic violence situations? Seriously, what is the reasoning there?

#115 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 06:31 PM:

I didn't say the consoling stories are untrue; only that many, many citizens of the republic live in a world in which they absolutely cannot count on any presumption of fair treatment. And that the way these laws are interpreted and enforced does not exactly add up to an argument that they can expect anything better.

I'm all for trying to make the world better. But I do also think we need to think clearly about the extent to which injustice like this happens because the majority likes it just fine.

#116 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 06:42 PM:

Elise (#114): "So why the holy reticulated heck would SYG laws exempt domestic violence situations? Seriously, what is the reasoning there?"

Because women in a household don't have a "their ground" to stand. The Castle belongs to the Man. Women should be grateful we don't quite regard them as part of the household property any more.

#117 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 07:26 PM:

Teresa:

It would be nice, however, if facing prosecution when you were pretty clearly innocent did not, in practice, mean you and your family would have no savings, you would be out of a job, and you would have an ulcer and a divorce two or three years later when the whole matter was resolved. That's the thing I suspect is hard to fix.

Jim's proposal that anytime a person kills another person, he should stand trial, is another example (if you made it into a law) of pre-empting local decisionmakers because you don't think they make good decisions. I don't doubt that prosecutors often make lousy judgments for bad reasons, but I don't know that an inverse SYG law (you shall always automatically be indicted for murder after a claimed self defense killing) is obviously right, either.

Before I could say whether either is a good idea, I would need to know how big a problem either prosecuting clear self-defense cases or not prosecuting very problematic self-defense cases was. My impression is that many such laws are driven by media coverage of man bites dog stories. (For example, Zimmerman shooting Martin is a godawful tragedy, but I don't have great confidence that the media explosion around it is likely to lead to better laws or policies as a result. How does that usually work out?).

#118 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 07:31 PM:

re 110: That article is misrepresenting the actual text of the law, which has exactly the opposite domestic violence exception. The law says that SYG does not apply if the attacker also has the right to be in the place, and "there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person." Which, when you turn all the negatives around, means that if there IS such an order or injunction, then SYG does apply.
They may be misapplying the law in some case or other, but that's what the law actually says.

#119 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 07:34 PM:

TNH @105: I'm not saying it's a good situation or the way it ought to be, but that SYG laws are a (flawed) response to to people's very real feelings of fear, anger and frustration about a major problem with society, and IMO, any conversation about SYG laws really needs to acknowledge the reality of those feelings (whether or not they're based on statistical probability) so that we can offer other (hopefully more effective) solutions to people's perceptions that to be law-abiding citizens they're effectively required to be easy prey for the criminal element and hope that the crooks will pass them over and prey on someone else.

I have a feeling that it's tied at some level with the endemic bullying problem in our culture (not just in our schools, but in workplaces and other significant parts of people's lives), and probably with other ills. But I'm not strong enough on the social sciences to tease it apart, just going on my own long, ugly experience of being treated as prey by various malefactors and having authority being more interested in drawing the boundaries between who was fair game and who wasn't than in enforcing the basic principle that everybody has the fundamental right to live their life without being crapped on for existing while "wrong."

#120 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 07:37 PM:

Okay, Albatross, how about this? Every shooting goes to a Grand Jury. They figure out whether a crime has been committed, and, if so, whether it should be tried.

Heck, when a cop shoots someone, that officer gets put on desk duty while an internal review takes place. Why not the same for civilians?

Meanwhile, back to the Zimmerman/Martin case in Florida, George Zimmerman's old MySpace page has turned up: Old George Zimmerman MySpace page surfaces with apparent disparaging ethnic comments

#121 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 08:00 PM:

re 117: I would note that the Zimmerman case is not much like the situations which drove the federal rulings.

re 101: The problem I'm having with your formula, Teresa, is that you've essentially empowered the burglar to drive the residents from the house or even temporarily imprison them through use of threats of force, because given that force is the generally the only proximate way to resist such threats (calling the police is not proximate; they take time to respond), you've mandated that the response to "leave or I'll hurt you" is to leave. That is an indefensibly high standard, to my mind; or rather, it represents a moral standard that I would not grant most people would accept. It also leaps right over to the police being equally impotent to use force, because it is an absolute moral standard.

I don't see the Martin/Zimmerman case as a good model for how SYG might legitimately work; as I said, it's not much like the defining federal cases, which both involved pre-existing threats to the defendants which were followed up by actual facts. I'm not coming up with an interpretation of the M/Z case in which Zimmerman didn't essentially pick a fight, even if Martin did attack him.

Also, the Gray case smells of jury nullification; after all, she was cornered in a locked garage! Her only other options were to actually try to kill him, or let him have his way with her. The loophole in her situation was the lack of a restraining order, and in that sense the only way a lack of an SYG statute would have helped her was to have led her directly to a self-defense legal appeal.

#122 ::: Lyanna ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 08:01 PM:

@87: the punishment for the crime has exactly nothing to do with what you may do to prevent the crime.

New York State has no capital punishment at all, but you can still kill in self-defense.

Capital punishment for rape is unconstitutional in the U.S., but you can still kill to avoid being raped.

As for the intruder breaking and entering into one's home: it's not just the possibility that he may murder you that's the issue. It's also the fact your home is your space, almost (legal and psychologically) an extension of your body; a violation of that space is a greater threat and allows greater self-defense than an attack on the street. It's also more likely to be personally directed at you than an attack on the street.

This means a lot of things. It means you don't legally have to run (where would you run to, anyway? Your home is the safe space that you run to. You're allowed to keep it as the safe space--you don't need to run to your neighbors' house and then try to make THAT the safe space.)It also means that the mere entry into the house is a threat, and you don't necessarily have to wait for a further threat.

The 'Castle Doctrine' (which is a bit like Stand Your Ground but applied only to your own home, and only when you are in it) is entirely appropriate. Stand Your Ground is inappropriate precisely because it applies the rule of the home to any place where you have a legal right to be.

#123 ::: Lyanna ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 08:13 PM:

Theresa@107: the violent mugging probably did entitle you to kill in self-defense. The home invasion may have, as well, especially if you were half-dressed. That's what the law of many states would say, and I see nothing wrong with that at all.

I do see something wrong with requiring you to give the person who has broken into your home time to physically harm you before you defend yourself. I think it's perfectly fair to say that, by entering, he has assumed the risk of being harmed, and you are entitled to assume that he will harm you if you don't defend yourself.

And no, this rule doesn't leave the whole transaction in your head--the fact of a violent mugging and of a home invasion are objective threats.

Jim@120: the cop doesn't face jail time for the killing in case of an internal review, nor does he incur expensive legal fees. Why should we burden a scared untrained civilian who protects herself, after being thrust into a situation she didn't want (note: NOT talking about would-be vigilantes like Zimmerman, who created his own situation), more than we burden a cop?

#124 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 08:35 PM:

I was under the impression that Grand Jury proceedings were at no cost to the potentially-accused.

#125 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 08:52 PM:

Followup on 119: As I was doing some errands, I realized that by talking about needing to acknowledge that people are afraid, I was trying to say that we need to be very careful how we tell someone "your fears are not reality-based" because there is a serious possibility that the other person will instead hear "you are silly for feeling that way and therefore I don't respect you," thus putting them on the defensive about their right to be respected and treated with dignity, which gets in the way of getting them to re-examine their fears and determine the real risk of what they're afraid of. Sometimes a person's articulating their fear poorly, and sometimes the surface fear-object is in fact a symbol for some meta-fear at a deeper level -- but you can't get them to the point of realizing it if they feel they're in a fight for their right to be treated with respect.

Case in point from personal experience: years ago, I was feeling quite apprehensive about an upcoming interaction with a bureaucracy, and I expressed it to some family members as, "I'm afraid they'll treat me like a little kid." To which I got, "No, you'll be treated the age that's on your ID," said in a very dismissive manner. So instead of getting reassured that I would be treated with respect and dignity by the civil servants I'd be interacting with, I heard fresh evidence that I could count on authority to treat me with contempt and condescension.

#126 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:08 PM:

I'm not totally sure about castle doctrine, because I don't know everything it entails. You get into some fuzzy edge cases. What if an intruder didn't think anyone was home and was only intent on stealing property, with no intention of harming anyone? What if he was unarmed? But would it be reasonable to think that a burglar might be a threat to you when you surprise him in the act? I think the answer to that last question is yes … but I'm cautious.

I maintain that most people do not need to keep guns in their homes for self-defense. And that it is an actively bad idea to own a gun if you think of it as a magical amulet of protection and control. But those are matters of practicality rather than law.

I vote for Jim's grand jury review idea @ 120. When someone gets killed -- it's a good idea to check out what happened, whether it happened in someone's home or on the street. That's what was so bad about the Martin case. Nobody appeared to give a crap about doing the most cursory investigation of Zimmerman's account.

#127 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:35 PM:

Jim:

It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to require some kind of formal hearing, grand jury or whatever, in a case where someone is dead. I'd hate to see some rule that said there had to be an actual prosecution. And even requiring an indictment is an example of overriding the local decisionmakers because you don't trust them not to be lenient to the wrong people. I wonder whether such a rule would do more harm than good, but I really don't know enough to have an opinion one way or another. Most of the other examples of that kind of rule I can think of (mandatory minimum, mandatory sex-offender lists for a large set of crimes) don't seem like they work out so well.

I suppose the lady who shot at her abusive boyfriend in alleged self defense and went to jail for it might have a somewhat different take on whether being sent to trial in this situation was a good way to make sure an innocent person wasn't jailed for acting in legitimate self defense. (However, while I saw the TV news piece on her case last week, I don't have unlimited faith that the reporters got all the details straight.)

Leigh:

I keep thinking a lot of the discussion wrt SYG laws and the Zimmerman/Martin case has to do with which fear more grips you--the fear that you will act in legitimate self defense and get crucified, or the fear that some trigger happy loon will blow you away while playing out an action movie fantasy in his mind.

As best I can tell, neither is at all likely, but both are easy fears to imagine actually happening to you.

#128 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:35 PM:

Caroline @126: Yes, a burglar who gets surprised by the homeowner (either because he didn't realize there was anyone at home, or because the homeowner returns unexpectedly) can be a very serious danger. A lot of such situations escalate very quickly to attempted or actual murder. I don't know the statistics of how it compares to deliberate home invasions in which the perpetrators knew the house was occupied and wanted a confrontation, but I expect that the simple fact that the perpetrator is now off his planned script makes him much more likely to do desperate, crazy things.

Also, home invasions (whether intended as such or starting as burglaries but then went wrong) almost always include the rape of any women present. It seems unlikely that these criminals are all sex-starved, so it's probably intended as a way of grinding the male householder's face in his powerlessness and symbolically unmanning him. (Frex, in the horrific Cheshire home invasion murders, the perpetrators then tried to portray the husband as an accomplice on the grounds that his so-called cowardice in failing to successfully defend his wife and daughters constituted enabling their deaths).

#129 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:43 PM:

albatross @127: Exactly -- and it's part of a larger set of fears growing from a feeling that the rules that are supposed to reward pro-social behavior and punish antisocial behavior are systematically broken and having the opposite effect.

#130 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 09:52 PM:

I think the old-fashioned concept of an "inquest" makes a lot of sense. When anyone dies, there's a judicial inquiry prior to the decision about charging anyone (if it's not absolutely clear what happened, of course).

#131 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:11 PM:

Albatross @127

"And even requiring an indictment is an example of overriding the local decisionmakers because you don't trust them not to be lenient to the wrong people."

Well, actually, no. Requiring an indictment is an example of dictating which set of local decisionmakers get to make this particular decision. Likewise, for some offenses we give police more latitude to let you off with a warning, and for other offenses they have less room. That's not a precise analogy, of course: if you were speeding or littering, it's certainly possible and legal for a DA to haul the case into court even after the officer in question decided to let you off with a warning. But it more-or-less never happens, and it's likewise very rare for the police to sit on a murder charge without at least tacit approval from the DA.

Furthermore, if the DA really doesn't want to see you convicted, she can take you to trial and present the facts as she is aware of them. She's not required to present them in any particular light, she may be as unbiased or even pro-defendant as she wishes. If she's correct in her assessment that your actions were justified, there's little chance that a jury will convict.

So in the end, the DA can still make sure you walk. She just has to do so in a much more public fashion.

#132 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:19 PM:

C. Wingate, #118: "re 110: That article is misrepresenting the actual text of the law, which has exactly the opposite domestic violence exception. The law says that SYG does not apply if the attacker also has the right to be in the place, and 'there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person.' Which, when you turn all the negatives around, means that if there IS such an order or injunction, then SYG does apply. They may be misapplying the law in some case or other, but that's what the law actually says."

You are a lying sack of shit. What the actual text of the Florida law -- 776.013 (2) (a) -- says is that "Stand Your Ground" is not an admissable defense if the person you shoot "has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder". Which is to say: if your husband attacks you and you shoot him, sucks to be you.

Supplementary to that, C. Wingate, you are an ongoing source of falsehood and bad faith, with whom I want nothing further to do. Goodbye.

#133 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:21 PM:

C. Wingate @118:

Which, when you turn all the negatives around, means that if there IS such an order or injunction, then SYG does apply.

Let's look at what that really means. First, here's what it says:


2011 Florida Statutes CHAPTER 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE

776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person;

What does that boil down to? If your spouse or partner or live-in sweetheart is coming after you with a baseball bat yelling that they are going to fix you for good and all, you explicitly have no standing with SYG unless you have filed an injunction for protection against domestic violence or obtained an order of no contact. It specifically makes it harder if it's a domestic situation. In no other circumstance do you need to go get a piece of paper from the court system to defend yourself against somebody trying to kill you in order for SYG to apply.

That's why I think it's written to exclude most domestic violence situations. The process of getting a restraining order is not as easy as some people think. (How do I know about this stuff? A stalker from three decades ago recently resurfaced, making it clear that he reads Making Light and anything else by/about me online he can find. I have consulted local law enforcement about this, and other resources, and I won't say anything more about that just now than "There is a plan in place." But it's not easy to deal with this stuff, believe me.) Also, if you've looked at what actually happens after many people get restraining orders...

Y'know what? I am too close to this issue to write about it clearly tonight. So I'll just say this: If you think that law is written to make it fair to a battered spouse, rather than to effectively exclude most of them from protection, you have not been paying attention to many women's (and some men's) lives.

I may try to write up an explanation of that in the morning, but if anybody else would like to, please play through with my blessing.

#134 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:29 PM:

Elise, #133: "If you think that law is written to make it fair to a battered spouse, rather than to effectively exclude most of them from protection, you have not been paying attention to many women's (and some men's) lives."

Like I said.

I am really, really no longer interested in educating the C. Wingates of this world about what actually is. Or in hearing their opinion about, come to think of it, anything at all.

#135 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 12:09 AM:

Patrick, I figured most of that out on the way home from the office. I may be unteachable, but I can work things out.

#136 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 12:18 AM:

...and while we're at it, words cut clear to the heart.

#137 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 12:24 AM:

Laertes @ 71

Mississippi law already allowed had a stand your ground law (without immunity) and likewise allowed for justified homicide if the shooter didn't know the victim was a police officer. Still didn't help Mr. Maye. That the deceased was the son of the police chief of a town located in Jefferson Davis County somehow makes a conviction look inevitable to me no matter what.

Jim MacDonald @ 124:

No defense is presented at a grand jury hearing, and since no one aside from the jurors, the prosecutor and the testifying witness are allowed inside there isn't much for the subject of an investigation to spend money on. Indeed, since testimony is sealed the subject may not even know they're being targeted until they get an indictment.

C. Wingate @ 121:

I agree that law's restraining order exemption to the exemption looks like it's intended to allow battered spouses to defend themselves. It also makes me think that it may not be any more fair to judge other jurisdictions' SYG laws based on the Florida one than it would be to judge their election recount laws based on Florida's. It's Florida, there's a reason Dave Berry lives there.

Lyanna @ 122:

That's exactly right. If you're in your home there's no duty to retreat because there's nowhere else to retreat to. I'd add that this is the same basis for the battered woman defense. Since the batterer lives under the same roof there's no place for the victim of domestic violence to go.

#138 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 12:32 AM:

Reading the law that Elise just quoted, what I understand is this:

If your sweetie is coming at you with a baseball bat and yelling that they're going to fix you for good and all, you can defend yourself with deadly force under section 776.012 sub-paragraph (1). "He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony...." Assault with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to kill are both forcible felonies.

Section 776.013, a separate section, tells us that we can use deadly force to prevent someone from entering our home but that we can't use deadly force against a person who lives there merely for walking through the front door, unless there's an injunction for protection from domestic violence or written pretrial supervision order of no contact.

#139 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 12:53 AM:

Albatross @117, I think you're thinking of civil proceedings, which can indeed stretch out for years, and beggar even an innocent party. Patrick, Jim, Mac Stone, Lisa Spangenberg (Digital Medievalist), and I, plus various other parties, went through all that not terribly long ago. Criminal proceedings, on the other hand, don't generally take that long or cost that much, if they cost anything at all.

C. Wingate @118: Patrick, who's read that law more closely than I have, assures me that you've got it backward.

Strive to be embarrassed.

Leigh @119, what I think the fear is tied to is the great right-wing noise machine, which has been pumping out lies about how law, the courts, and the government don't work since before I learned how to read. If you want hard evidence, I can cite studies that show that people who are chronically afraid of the world around them tend to vote Republican. Do you think there's any chance that the people who operate the noise machine don't know that? I don't.

C. Wingate @121:

The problem I'm having with your formula, Teresa, is that you've essentially empowered the burglar to drive the residents from the house
Yes, that is what I'm saying, even if he or she really is a burglar with bad, bad intentions. You leave the house. The police come. The intruder comes to grief. You go back into your house. No one gets killed. And by the way, statistics say you're a lot likelier to shoot someone who isn't a burglar, and whom you'll deeply regret shooting.

Are you really so terrified that you'd rather kill someone than run outside and call the police? Is being obliged to do that so horrible that it's worth taking someone else's life?

This makes me want to write the missing gospel verses about the conversation between Jesus and the Teabagger.

or even temporarily imprison them through use of threats of force,
Stop right there. I specifically excluded situations where you're trapped and can't get away. Since we're on the subject, I'll also exclude situations where I'd otherwise wind up in a car driven by bad guys, and all other situations of imprisonment and control. I'd have thought they were implicit when I stipulated that you shouldn't shoot someone if you can get away instead, but if I have to spell it out, fine; I'll do it.
because given that force is the generally the only proximate way to resist such threats (calling the police is not proximate; they take time to respond), you've mandated that the response to "leave or I'll hurt you" is to leave.
No, I haven't, and you aren't being careful or thoughtful in your reading or your responses. As a result, you have gravely upset several participants in this thread, and those are just the ones I've heard from. I expect there are more. I don't take that lightly. The conversations I most prize on Making Light only work if we assume good faith on the part of the other participants. Reading carefully is part of operating in good faith.

There is something seriously screwed up about the way you're pursuing whatever good you have in mind here.

That is an indefensibly high standard, to my mind; or rather, it represents a moral standard that I would not grant most people would accept.
Personally, I wouldn't get on my high horse if I'd been as sloppy as you have.
It also leaps right over to the police being equally impotent to use force, because it is an absolute moral standard.
Ossa upon Pelion!

Why do you bother to participate if you're not going to read what's actually being said?

Lyanna @123:

I do see something wrong with requiring you to give the person who has broken into your home time to physically harm you before you defend yourself.
I'm going to ignore the rest of what you say. This thread is getting very stressful. If you can't read well enough to figure out that that's not what I was saying, I don't have the time or energy or to sort out all the many errors that follow from your misreading. Except this one:
I think it's perfectly fair to say that, by entering, he has assumed the risk of being harmed, and you are entitled to assume that he will harm you if you don't defend yourself.
It's never happened to you, right? It's all imaginary: one metric standard home intruder, represented by a picto of a man wearing a soft cloth cap, a shirt with broad black-and-white horizontal stripes, and a domino mask. He tries to get in, you have the right to shoot him.

But you don't automatically have that right. There are nuances. There are particularities. This is real life. These are human beings, all individual. The people who rummaged through my belongings and vandalized various items were relatives of the new owner of the house where I rented an apartment. What they did was illegal and very upsetting, and the local police offered to come back me up in any future dealings with them. The guy who was in my living room when I walked out wrapped in a towel backed off and left when I hit him with my best Elizabeth Tudor imitation. (I was was only scared afterward.) The guys who mugged me were kids, in their early to mid teens. The genuinely scary time we were trapped in a NYC apartment, the guys at the door were employees of the very evil new landlords. (Different set of evil new landlords. We've had bad luck with buildings we lived in being sold.) The prize for gormless intrusion goes to the two college-age guys from New Jersey who were trying to buy drugs. One kept knocking; the other kept saying "Man, we have to get out of here, this is the worst neighborhood in the city!" If I'd done what I was tempted to do -- fling the door open and bark "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, GO HOME TO NEW JERSEY, AND NEXT TIME BUY YOUR DRUGS IN YOUR OWN DAMNED NEIGHBORHOOD!" -- they'd probably both have had heart attacks on the spot.

Which out of all of these could I legally have shot? None of them.

You think I could have shot the kids who mugged me. I couldn't. It wouldn't have been self-defense. By the time I was aware of what was happening, they'd already hit me in the head and taken my purse. If I had magically had a gun in my hand at that moment, and had the extremely poor sense to fire on them, it would have been because I was angry. I don't have the right to kill people because I'm angry.

They were shits. I entertain no benevolent feelings toward them. But I didn't have the right to kill them.

As for that guy that wandered into my living room? I have no idea what was up with him. Maybe he'd have behaved worse if I hadn't reacted like a porcupine with my quills on end. Maybe he was just confused. I think he was stoned.

I don't know more than that because he left. What I do know is that if he's left the planet since then, it was none of my doing.

Here is a true thing: one of the people present at the canonization of Maria Goretti was Alessandro Serenelli, a Franciscan tertiary. He was the man who had murdered her. Six years into his thirty-year sentence, he began to change, profoundly and fundamentally. You can Google up the rest of the story. Disregard the cloying language in which you'll probably find it told.

If I go on like this long enough, I'll probably wind up forgiving those kids who mugged me. They can't have had easy lives, but you know, some of them may have turned into decent human beings. I hope they did. I hope they have people they love, and who love them. I hope they do good work. And I'm glad that whatever ill has befallen them in the meantime hasn't been my doing.

#140 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:14 AM:

Jim, Lyanna:

If you're in your home there's no duty to retreat because there's nowhere else to retreat to.
If you think that, you both had nicer childhoods than I did.

There's at least one other person in this thread who I know can speak to the same issue, but it's not my place to speak for them.

#141 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:17 AM:

Teresa, I didn't say a word about "duty to retreat" or speculate on why a retreat may or may not be possible, in home or out of home.

#142 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:26 AM:

Jim: Okay. You're right. I'm sorry. I got that wrong.

I'm going to bed now, and I encourage everyone on this continent to do the same.

#143 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:28 AM:

I think, trying to read the Florida law, that the SYG stuff is the sort of complexity that comes from trying to turn Common Law into a statute.

Look at Jim MacDonald @138: two overlapping clauses to express something pretty obvious about what would be a legally reasonable fear, and it is a difficult situation to cover. Common Law or statute, the Court has to decide how it works out.

The trouble with Common Law is that it develops out of the views of the community, even when there is a system of the King's Judges going around the country and trying to keep the courts consistent. And you get things such as lynchings and vigilanteism, snarled up with jury nullification. The jury isn't making law, not in the way a judicial precedent does, but they can use the ambiguities to condone crime.

And this is where Stand Your Ground starts getting ugly. It's how a racist thug starts to think he can get away with murder.

I am, incidentally, wondering just what this "neighborhood watch" business is. From the US mentions I'm seeing, it seems to be less a system of organised, crime-reporting, self-help, and more to be outright vigilanteism.

#144 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:30 AM:

It's supposedly the former and all too often seems to be the latter.

#145 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 03:15 AM:

Teresa@139: Are you really so terrified that you'd rather kill someone than run outside and call the police?

In my hometown, we have a Nazi on the police force. A real honest-to-goodness Nazi. He got suspended for a couple weeks after he admitted to honoring dead SS soldiers by putting up plaques of their names in a city park, but he's still on the force. In fact, he's providing leadership training to his colleagues.

Unless you are very, very white, I can't necessarily tell you that calling the police in this town will improve the situation you find yourself in. You might get Capt. Kruger, delivering an entirely different sort of help than you wanted.

#146 ::: FaultyMemory has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 03:18 AM:

More likely ran afoul of Godwin's Law, come to think of it.

I have homemade double chocolate chip cookies, in case the gnomes can be bribed.

#147 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 09:17 AM:

What struck me about the Atlanta case was that the two doofuses (doofi?) with the AK-whatevers knew the house next door was empty. They were ready to kill over stuff.

The people who've broken into the two different houses I've lived in on two separate occasions in the last three years weren't, so far as I know, ready to kill me.

#148 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 09:17 AM:

I've been mugged once and burgled once. Unfortunately for the muggers (two very impoverished youths armed with a knife and a revolver, who did put me in fear of my life), all I had on me at the time was a disposable cigarette lighter. I rather shocked them when one was reaching into my shirt pocket to grab it and I said sharply "Don't do that!" and instead reached in and gave it to him. I was afraid he'd tear my shirt. At the time I was all of 24.

The burglar was some years later, in, if I recall correctly 1987, when I was living in New York (on Academy Street in Inwood, right across from PS 52). Because my infant son was still asleep, so was I, and I didn't hear the criminal break in. In fact I didn't hear him until he was at the foot of my bed. He didn't, it seems, recognise that the pile of bedclothes was actually a large human being until the sound of him rummaging about at the foot of the bed woke me and I sat up in alarm. Whereupon he screamed and fled, with me in hot pursuit (I was worried about the potential threat to my 18-month-old son in the next room). As a result he got away with nothing, but I had a broken lock on the front door.

In neither case did I have a weapon to hand. I did have reason to fear. I'm not sure, in either case, what a firearm, or standing my ground, would have done to my advantage. As far as I can see, nothing. In the first case, I was confronted by two very poor youths. Both of them wearing clothing made from flour sacks, not because it was fashionable but because it was all they could afford. I was more afraid of the knife than of the gun because the latter was rusty and old.

In the case of the burglar. He was more afraid of me, I suspect, than I of him. He was the one who screamed at the sight of me (and not, I think, because of my bedhead). He probably feared that I might inflict some serious injury on him.

What I think most likely, in both cases, is that the criminals are long dead. Poverty in a place like Kingston, where I was mugged, does not lead to long life. The chap who attempted to burgle me in New York was likely doing so to feed a drug habit.

#149 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 10:59 AM:

Patrick wrote @110 about the curious case of SYG laws somehow not applying to women and domestic violence.

I'm sure everybody else here already knows they don't apply if you're black.

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/11/when_stand_your_ground_fails/

To the original post... It's Stand Your Ground if you have a thirteen year old on their knees, you've beat them up with your shotgun, and then you shoot them in the back. WHAT THE EFF?

I mean, I knew that. I knew that the law was rife for mis-application, for racist application, for abuse. I KNEW THAT. But... but...

WHAT THE EFF?

#150 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 11:52 AM:

re: whether Teresa had the right to kill any of those people

There's something just as critical to remember here, and that's the aftermath.

An officer who was the epitome of strong/brave/intelligent/good talked to our professional group about self-defense, and related how a guy broke into his home (when his family was present), yelling that he was going to blow them away.

He was warned through the door. He kept coming.
He was warned as he broke through. He kept coming.

You bring a loaded weapon into play only when you intend to use it, and you don't screw around.

The policeman fatally shot the guy.

It had been six or seven years before, and he still woke up in cold sweats over it.

As hard as it is when empathizing with Teresa's (or others') recounting of these events, my feeling is that killing any of them would have saddled her with much harder memories.

#151 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 11:53 AM:

If the guy hadn't been shooting, Good Cop would have used pepper spray. He said that you could Mace your mother and she would not be happy about it, but she'd be alive the next day to discuss it with you.

#152 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 01:54 PM:

@139: I've read that piece three or four times now and I love it. I can see why you're glad you didn't hurt any of those people, and I'm glad too that you didn't. And yet I still feel like if you'd shot Towel Guy, or maybe one of the muggers, and they charged you with murder and hauled you before a jury, and I was seated on that jury, I'd be reluctant to convict.

I don't know if that means I'm not reading carefully enough, or not thinking carefully enough, or if I'm some kind of monster, or if we're just thinking about different questions like "what should I do" versus "what should the law require."

#153 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 02:35 PM:

I have hesitated to post on this thread, seeing as I am British living in Britain. But I feel a perusal of our laws on self defence may be of interest to people.
A very nice (to my laymans eye) summary of it all can be found on the CPS website.

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/self_defence/#Guidance

Some quotes:

"A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of:

self-defence; or
defence of another; or
defence of property; or
prevention of crime; or
lawful arrest.
In assessing the reasonableness of the force used, prosecutors should ask two questions:

was the use of force necessary in the circumstances, i.e. Was there a need for any force at all? and
was the force used reasonable in the circumstances?
The courts have indicated that both questions are to answered on the basis of the facts as the accused honestly believed them to be (R v Williams (G) 78 Cr App R 276), (R. v Oatbridge, 94 Cr App R 367).

To that extent it is a subjective test. There is, however, an objective element to the test. The jury must then go on to ask themselves whether, on the basis of the facts as the accused believed them to be, a reasonable person would regard the force used as reasonable or excessive."

"Pre-emptive strikes
There is no rule in law to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they may defend themselves, (see R v Deana, 2 Cr App R 75).


Retreating
Failure to retreat when attacked and when it is possible and safe to do so, is not conclusive evidence that a person was not acting in self defence. It is simply a factor to be taken into account. It is not necessary that the defendant demonstrates by walking away that he does not want to engage in physical violence: (R v Bird 81 Cr App R 110)."

-- -- --

Now, the thing is that what this means is that it may sometimes be necessary for a case to end up in court before it is all sorted out. I am not an expert etc, and I am typing this from memory, but several cases in which someone has died have ended up in court, and the jury did not convict. E.g. a blind man was in his house and some local thug started battering the door down to get inside. The blind man ended up stabbing the attacked by waving a knife about in an attempt to put the thug off, and the attacker bled out. The jury did not find him guilty of anything.

On the other hand juries have convicted people who ran after their attacker, such as one man who was assaulted, ran inside his house to get a knife and chased the original assaulter down the street before stabbing him to death. That was clearly not a case of defending himself.

The infamous Tony Martin case was beloved of the gutter press (which unfortunately makes up about 90% of British newspapers these days), but the important thing to note is that he shot the burglar in the back. My reading of the law is that if he'd shot him in the front he would have had some defence in law, to wit, was in fear of his life especially if the burglar got at his guns.

So to summarise - In the UK, you have the right to defend yourself. You do not have the right to actually kill someone else, but if you are judged to have done so by accident, a plea of self defence will be acceptable. If it seems you did so deliberately, you'll get prosecuted for it.
Frankly, it all makes more sense to me than your laws in the USA.

#154 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 03:24 PM:

It occured to me, as I was walking down to the polling station to vote, that the key difference between many of these laws in the USA and our system in the UK is:

"However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013."

From Florida, according to Wikipedia. Thus in some parts of the USA, it is entirely legal to kill someone. In the UK, it is not legal at all, but it is a defence in court to do it accidentally in self defence.

#155 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Teresa 139: I support everything you're saying in this post, FWIW. The only thing I have to add is that even if you're completely legally justified in shooting someone, that doesn't mean you'll feel OK about it. I know that's been mentioned in this thread, but I think it bears repeating.

This bit struck me more lightly:

my best Elizabeth Tudor imitation.

OK, now I really really want to see that. If it requires you being scared by an intruder in your house to evoke it, however, it's definitely not worth it.

Carol 149 & 150: Yeah, there we go.

guthrie 153: Thus in some parts of the USA, it is entirely legal to kill someone.

I understand that in Texas (whose name is a byword for barbarism in law*) it's actually legal to shoot someone in the back if they've stolen something from you and you reasonably believe that the only way to get your property back is to shoot them.

Hallmarks of barbarism #127: valuing property over human life.

*not that most of America is non-barbaric (you won't hear that from me as long as we have for-profit prisons); it's just that Texas is the very core of US legal barbarism.

#156 ::: Lyanna ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Theresa@139:

Yes, that is what I'm saying, even if he or she really is a burglar with bad, bad intentions. You leave the house. The police come. The intruder comes to grief. You go back into your house. No one gets killed.

Really? What makes you think it'll happen that way?

How about this: You leave the house and the burglar (who you reasonably believe will use deadly force--that's generally a requirement for the Castle Doctrine) follows you. Are you supposed to just keep running till the police arrive? Why is it more justifiable to stop running and fight back on the street, than it is in your house? The law designates your house as the place where you can stop running. I think that's sensible.

Or: you leave the house but can't get your coat because the burglar is in that part of the house, and it's literally freezing outside, and the nearest neighbor isn't all that near.

Or: you try to leave the house, but are hampered by bringing your children or elderly relatives with you, and you make a noise, and the burglar follows the noise, and then you can't run because your kids/relatives can't keep up, and then you and your family are confronted with the burglar (who, again, you reasonably believe will use deadly force).

Or: you leave the house, call the cops, and the cops don't come. And meanwhile, you're on the street and it's dark and cold out, and the burglar who will use deadly force is going to come out onto the street at some point, and your neighborhood isn't the best.

Yes, there are indeed nuances, and it's not black and white. That's not an argument for imprisoning more people who get into this situation, though. The reason why we have the Castle Doctrine and similar rules is precisely because there are so many nuances. Whether or not using lethal force is a better option than running away from a threat of lethal force within one's own home depends on too many nuanced factors, which have to be assessed in a fear-stricken split-second, for a jury or a prosecutor to have any real basis for passing judgment. Particularly when that judgment results in prison time. That's why New York State doesn't require you to retreat in the face of deadly force even outside your home unless you can do so with "complete personal safety," and doesn't require you to retreat if you're in your home and threatened with deadly force at all (Article 35.15 in the link).

In your further description of your examples, you didn't seem to have a belief (and if you did, it might not have been reasonable) that the intruder was using or would use deadly force. So no, you wouldn't have had a right to use deadly force, though you could have used non-deadly force (Article 35-20 in the link above).

And yes, legally, your house is supposed to be the place where you are on safe ground. Abuse victims often don't have that safety. But the answer to that isn't to make the home even less safe by imposing a duty to retreat from aggressors there, or to assume that everyone has easily-accessible safe spaces outside their home.

Jim@120: I'd be okay with some sort of automatic review after a fatality. But, like albatross, I wouldn't want there to be an automatic prosecution--that's overkill.

Keep in mind, too, that nothing I said above refers to Stand Your Ground. SYG says you never have to retreat from a place you're allowed to be (even if you're the aggressor in the fight) to avoid using deadly force, and lets you use deadly force to prevent any forcible felony. That's an expansion that I think is (1) a really bad idea, and (2) poorly drafted even if it were a good idea.

#157 ::: Lyanna ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 05:35 PM:

And yes, everyone who said whether or not lethal force is legal doesn't make it morally correct, let alone easy to live with after the fact, is 100% correct. The converse is true, too: even if the use of lethal force wasn't morally right, doesn't mean it should always result in prison time.

I think the way to reduce unnecessary killings in the name of self-defense has little to do with these self-defense laws, or with imprisoning people who would go free under these laws. In America we have a lot of people carrying around deadly force with them. You are much more likely to use excessive force, including deadly force, if you (1) have it, and (2) have an ideology that tells you that this is THE way of protecting yourself against criminals, thugs, barbarian hordes, etc. You'll be tempted to use it, as many people have pointed out.

George Zimmerman didn't kill Trayvon Martin because of SYG. He killed Trayvon Martin for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that he carries around a gun routinely. IMO, that's the problem here. Why the gun fixation? And how do we get rid of it?

#158 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 05:57 PM:

Lyanna, you are coming up with a bunch of very specific situations where a person might be left with no reasonable escape option. They don't, to me, seem to meet the prerequisites for "in a situation where you can retreat, you should."

It strikes me that you are much harsher and more judgmental of people who end up cornered by a criminal than I would be. To think you would say the reasonable standard of being able to get away requires freezing to death in the snow is mind-boggling for me.

#159 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 05:59 PM:

George Zimmerman didn't kill Trayvon Martin because of SYG.

I'm not sure you're right about that. I find it entirely plausible that SYG popped Zimmerman over the edge into going out to stalk young black men. I think he may very well have wanted to shoot a black guy, and gone out looking for one; strikes me as pretty likely that he premeditated his excuse along with everything else.

I'm also glad that any potential jurors will not have the above beliefs in advance of the trial. I really want GZ to be tried fairly. I think I know what the just outcome would be, though.

#160 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 06:04 PM:

Though I must add, I'm not sure what a reasonable person could do in this situation: "Or: you leave the house, call the cops, and the cops don't come. And meanwhile, you're on the street and it's dark and cold out, and the burglar who will use deadly force is going to come out onto the street at some point, and your neighborhood isn't the best."

Are you saying you'd go back into the house with guns blazing? You're out of the house, so give it some shoe leather and get away from the house, go find a neighbor who will let you use their phone to make another call to the police. Go down the street, hide in the woods, whatever. Don't hang around outside a house waiting for the criminal to come get you unless you desperately want to be collateral damage.

#161 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 06:25 PM:

Lyanna @ 155: While you are pondering your hypothetical situations, I'll point to the actual examples of homeowners and burglars actually meeting up, posted by both Teresa (note the lack of "h") and Fragano. In addition, my parents met a burglar in the apartment when I was a baby; my grandmother and I watched a young man run across her lawn to get away from the home that he had illegally entered. These are not hypothetical but real situations in which the burglars ran away.

Rapists and home invaders are a small subset of criminals; there are enough studies showing that the fear of these crimes is far greater than the true percentage of crimes that they represent. The Castle Doctrine can be mis-used (and there are plenty of examples from Louisiana as well as Texas); the SYG laws are inherently flawed as well as being -- as Patrick noted -- "Protecting the White Guys With Guns" laws.

If I am inside my house with a burglar (unlikely as I have two loud dogs and live at the intersection of busy neighborhood roads, but let us suppose), I have the choice of retreating to a room that he or she cannot enter after me, or grabbing one of the many non-gun weapons available to me.

I have some martial arts training; I have taken down an adolescent male with a knife. I expect that I would chase any potential burglar right out the door, without necessarily resorting to weaponry.

I am not sure why you feel so certain that a burglar would chase any reasonable person out of their own house. It seems to me that the majority of real reported burglaries and attempted burglaries show the exact opposite.

#162 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 06:49 PM:

This just in.

Be sure to read through the second update.

#163 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 07:22 PM:

Xopher, #158: Even more likely IMO is that in the absence of SYG, Zimmerman might have thought twice about pulling the trigger, no matter what the circumstances. But having that defense available to him, he saw no reason to hesitate.

I've heard it said that the truest measure of character is this: what would you do if you knew for certain that you would never be caught? Substitute "convicted" for "caught", and Zimmerman has answered that question: he will kill any black person he can provoke into a fight.

#164 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 08:28 PM:

It's all imaginary: one metric standard home intruder, represented by a picto of a man wearing a soft cloth cap, a shirt with broad black-and-white horizontal stripes, and a domino mask. He tries to get in, you have the right to shoot him.

This and the rest of Teresa's comment led me to see the situation in another way. Some of the people who lobbied for SYG laws see them as justification for an elaborate form of cosplay. They hope for the chance to act out the role of hero.

Now there are many fine cosplayers here and elsewhere who know that the roles they are playing are fictional. Buit apparently a few of the gun-toters don't realize that their favorite scenarios are unlikely and unnuanced (as several have pointed out above).

Hostile armed strangers in my home? I've had that. Besides guns, they had uniforms and badges. Not a SYG situation at all.

#165 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 08:36 PM:

Lee, #162: I think you're probably right about that.

I grew up with guys like Zimmerman--young, dumb, racist gun enthusiasts. All of them agreed that it was "better to be judged by twelve than carried by six" and delighted in repeating that phrase every chance they got. Their favorite topic of conversation was the law concerning when they could or couldn't shoot someone. (As far as I'm aware, only one of them ever did, and he got 75 years for it.)

I expect that Zimmerman was intimately familiar with the local gun-nut interpretation of Florida's self-defense statutes, and I'm sure it was very much on his mind as he pursued and murdered that young man.

#166 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 08:38 PM:

When I was in high school, we lived on a block in an upper middle-class neighborhood that was robbed fairly often. The neighbors to one side of us were robbed three times; once the robbers came in while the family was at home, and tied everyone up before doing the robbing. That was generally agreed to be the scariest event. One of the thieves from a theft that happened at the house at the other side ran through our yard, reportedly--there were high walls between each house, so this is rather impressive--but I wasn't there at the time.

No one bothered our house until our dog was poisoned. They broke in while we were on vacation; another family--mother and three small children--was house-sitting while we were away, and apparently the thieves didn't know that. In the night, the mother woke up on hearing something, and standing at the top of the stairs, called out to what she thought was her child making noise in the kitchen. The thieves ran immediately; they even left our television still sitting on the curb.

No one died in any of these incidents. To the best of my knowledge, no one was ever injured either, though the family that was tied up was certainly very upset. I never once heard of any guns being used on any side, until the street got together and hired a street guard who had a gun. He--the hired guard with the gun--was held up by someone else with a gun so that a car could be stolen.

I still don't think any of these situations would have been improved by people being shot. Even if the people who got shot were the thieves.

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 09:35 PM:

The cases of burglary of houses that I've heard of first or second-hand happened during the day when people were assumed to be at work. In one case, they showed up with a truck and took everything. The neighbor who saw it thought the guy next door was moving. Another was the house next to mine - the burglar was surprised by the adult resident coming home for lunch, and he ran. Not completely stupid: he was wearing socks over his hands. (And he was probably a resident of the neighborhood, to know which house had stuff in it.)

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Well, if we're talking about burglaries, I came home once to find the back door jimmied open and a bunch of stuff taken. The thieves had abandoned the microwave on the back patio; that place happened to be on the approach route for a hospital, and my best guess is that an ambulance siren scared them off. Fortunately, both of the cats had hidden in the house instead of running outside.

I've lived in some moderately run-down areas, where my parents were absolutely freaking out about the crime rate, and never had a problem. I find it darkly amusing that the only time I ever had a break-in was in the condo they had hand-picked for me. Someone else in the same building unit got robbed several years later; the police came around to ask if I had seen anything, and although I'd been home all afternoon, I hadn't -- my friends and I were playing rail-games and weren't paying attention to anything outside.

#169 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 10:39 PM:

I just want to say that TNH's #139 reminds me of why she is the person I have committed my life to. Love you, bear.

#170 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 10:46 PM:

Patrick @ 169... :-)

#171 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 11:29 PM:

I've had to face up to having to think about shooting someone in cold blood. I was 19, we were home alone in a very rural area (45 minutes min. for an emergency response) and I was home alone with my sister. Let big dog out back of the house (they were trying to break into front), locked up, found gun and ammo and prepared to do it.

Dad asked me later if I'd have shot anyone, and i said, 'hellz yes, there is no chance any help was coming until after anyone robbed/hurt/etc. us."

It was scary. And there was no chance of help. I live in urbia now, with a community policing officer likely 1 minute away, even in the middle of the night. I 'd call 911 now. it was not an option then. And there was a rash of nasty crimes (rape, assault, etc ) happening in the county when it happened.

Big dog did the trick, and I'm glad for it.

#172 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 12:26 AM:

Allan Beatty @164: I figure it's cosplay if their scenarios don't mention that after the shooting, they'll spend the next hour or more throwing up and crying and having their knees buckle under them. I've neither done that nor witnessed it firsthand, but I'm given to understand that it's the common first reaction.

#173 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 01:57 AM:

There was a case in Portland in 2006, when a woman in her fifties arrived home from work and was attacked inside her house by a man with a hammer. In the course of the fight, she ended up strangling him. The police investigation promptly determined that her soon-to-be-ex husband had hired him to kill her. He gave the man the code to the burglar alarm, so he could be waiting inside.

Happy ending, right? Husband goes to jail for conspiracy to murder (good for the divorce settlement!), and bad guy is dead. However, the paper had a follow-up article some years after it happened. She's struggled with emotional issues. I suspect that if she'd been able run right back out the door, she'd be happier today.

#174 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 02:05 AM:

Oh, and in my #173, I hope I was clear enough in saying "if she'd been able to run". I'm not judging her at all. She walked into her house after a shift working as a nurse in an ER, probably tired and glad to be home in her quiet house -- and had someone jump out and hit her in the head with a hammer. I can't imagine that she could do anything much in the way of thinking, but was reacting and struggling as best she could.

#175 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 08:27 AM:

Janetl, I can vouch for that. You're not at your most brilliant right after being hit in the head, especially if you were tired to start with.

=====

Joanna Russ once told me about someone she knew who'd worked in a hospital, who had at one point been grabbed by some guy, dragged into an empty patient room, and thrown on the bed. While she was struggling to fight the guy off, she said one of those odd truths you sometimes come up with at moments of stress: This is not a movie!

The guy's jaw dropped. He stopped dead, said "Oh my god" and "I am so sorry," and rushed out of the room.

I don't know whether that was pure chance and good luck, or whether she somehow figured out that he was enacting an imagined episode, and hit upon a way to get him to wake up. I like to think it was the latter. That would fit with something I've observed firsthand, which is that sometimes people who are behaving very badly are running through a non-interactive script, doing their best to forcibly impose it on the situation.

It's not all that common. Mostly, people behaving badly are just behaving badly. But on those odd occasions, if you can get them to break out of that mindset and that script, everything changes.

#176 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 10:44 AM:

janetl, #173: I imagine that the emotional reaction would be even worse for anyone in the medical professions. Julia Ecklar wrote a song about a similar situation; while it was about a fictional character, it always struck me as being dead-on for what a healer who has killed in the heat of the moment would feel.

Hands of a Healer, after centuries of care.
You can't betray me so! You cannot dare
Treat a life like a lamp flame and so cruelly put it out
In a moment. But in a moment, your Healer's oath's in doubt.

Hands that have worked so, do you not Death abhor?
You're trained to lessen Death, not to deal more!
It's not one life that matters, it's the heritage betrayed
For a moment. But in that moment, a life lost to my blade.

Oh hands without callus, you have not known Death like this.
You've led men back from Death, but you've never dealt its kiss!
But for once the pain is lovely as the foe slumps to the ground.
And for a moment, shining moment, you forget to what you're bound.

Hands of a Healer, can you heal this wrong you've done?
Ah, yes, you've scored a kill! And the battle's just begun!
And they'll all be proud come morning of the killing by these hands.
Of the moment, the damned moment, that no other understands.

Of the hated, horrid moment
That sprayed blood on Healer's Hands.

#177 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 10:54 AM:

Further, on the idea that we need Stand Your Ground laws because otherwise you go to jail if you kill a man in self defense for mugging you...

Rubbish. Utter baloney. Gun-nut rationale.

A man approaches me to mug me. I pull a gun and shoot him. I go to trial. What do I say to the jury?

"He looked dangerous, young, fast, and he was black. You know they have superpowers, right?"*

I walk, scot-free. Duh.

Because duty to retreat ends the minute you think you can't safely retreat. THAT'S ALREADY IN THE LAW.

What problem does Stand Your Ground fix? The law already says once I feel I can't retreat I don't have to, right? THE LAW ALREADY SAYS THAT.

...I have less to say about Castle doctrine. For one thing, it's so settled in this country it would take an act of God to change. For another, Teresa is sooo right.

We should retreat if we can.

If I am in my house and shoot somebody the assumption of the law is simply that I had no safe way to retreat.

Is that unreasonable? Hmph. In my house, I have a pretty safe retreat from my bedroom. If they come in the front door, I'd take it.

Except... the person dearest to me in this world has a bedroom elsewhere in the house. And has no effective retreat.

If somebody comes in and I think they're dangerous? Well, damn it, I'm a pacifist. I'm a gentle and nice person.

I will come down with all the wrath of hell if I think you might hurt my loved one.

If they're not home, I would retreat, because I don't necessarily want to kill somebody for a cheap TV and a cheaper computer.

Those are my most expensive possessions. I am not going to kill for them. If I can safely run away, then I'd rather run.

Castle doctrine says if they're in my house, I must have been scared for my life, and it's okay to shoot them.

We shoot more friends and family every year than actual intruders.

Does Castle doctrine encourage us to shoot before we're convinced we can't get away? Does it encourage us to shoot first and ask questions later?

I mean, if I thought I couldn't run, or I knew that my loved one couldn't escape, THE DUTY TO RETREAT ALREADY EVAPORATED. What the hell do I need Castle doctrine for?

* This sounds like a joke as I say it, but I mean it as a searing indictment of the racism around me. Honest.

#178 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 11:53 AM:

I've talked my way out of trouble a couple of times. This doesn't mean I think violent self-defense is always a bad idea.

Still, I wonder how many of the pro-violent self-defense folks put some thought and practice into defusing potentially violent situations.

And I wish situations like getting someone who would otherwise be a rapist to stop by saying "This isn't is a movie!" would show up in the movies now and then.

#179 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 12:06 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @178: If it did show up in a movie it would eventually suck all the power out of itself. But then, I think you know that....

#180 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 01:04 PM:

If it's in a movie, you can say "This isn't a TV show!"

#181 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 02:18 PM:

Howard, #177: Allow me to refer you back to what I said earlier about retreat when you're in your home; I don't believe you were in the conversation yet at that point. I am at more risk, and a different kind of risk, from a home invasion than you are.

#182 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 03:15 PM:

@181

I don't think I'm disagreeing with you. I think if you heard an intruder entering and whipped out an Uzi and blew them to kingdom come that the law says you're totally justified.

And I think it says that even if there's no Castle doctrine.

As I said, the quickest way to make this pacifist into a bloodthirsty killer is to the enter the house while I have somebody I love there. You have to work overtime to make me fear for my life. You don't have to work very hard to make me afraid for them. (although in actual fact they are probably more capable of self-defense than I am... but that doesn't even begin to factor into my mindset in that situation)

The question isn't whether there is a right to self-defense or whether that extends to your family. The question is why we insist on adding laws with further immunity when the basic immunity is more than enough to cover the situation.

From the original article; the poster child for this bill did not go to jail.

Because under standard self defense statute, they were perfectly justified to shoot and kill a man they had (a not very justified) belief was a danger to them.

Standard Statute.

#183 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 03:32 PM:

This report (pdf) gives statistics for home invasion burglaries (really, for burglaries where someone was home or came home while the burglary happenes.

About 27% of all burglaries involved someone home ar the time, much more than I would have expected. 7% of all burglaries involved a violent crime against a resident--most often assault (5%), more rarely rape/sexual assault (2.2%). A very small fraction (.004%) ended up with the victim dead.

For 2003-2007, about 266,000 people were victims of violent felonies when their homes were burglarized. That breaks out to about 65,000 per year. By contrast, about 200 justifiable homicides by citizens per year happened in those years. (That's striking because a home invasion burglary is the sort of defining situation, to my mind, of a justifiable shooting of a criminal by a citizen.)

Once again, IANACriminologist, but this does paint a picture of home invasion kinds of burglaries being somewhat dangerous--7% of all burglaries involve some kind of violent felony against a person in rhe house, and about 2% involve a rape or sexual assault.

At a moral level, I'm torn in a way that suggests two different moral evaluation systems at work. At one level, I admire Teresa's compassion, and recognize that even people who do really awful things deserve and need the opportunity to be forgiven, and may turn away from their evil ways and become decent people at some point. At another level, people who break into houses, and especially people who rape or beat up/rob the people they find inside, are predators who threaten decent people, and some non-rational part of me thinks it might be a better world if such peoples' heads were used to decorate pikes outside decent peoples' homes, to encourage the others to choose another line of work.

In the end, what we are left with is the data. I suspect that SYG laws have little effect on this sort of crime (there just aren't enough justifiable homicides by civilians to have much of an impact). I don't know what would help--it seems crazy to demand longer prison sentences, given how full the prisons already are.

Crime and the fear of crime drive some of the worst parts of our society--overful, brutal prisons, sometimes corrupt and brutal cops, "white flight" (really, flight of everyone who can leave when a neighborhood starts having big crime problems), the associated suburban sprawl, bad laws like mandatory minimum laws driven by fear of crime, etc.

#184 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 03:39 PM:

Lee 163:

Maybe, but my guess is that if there was an effect of SYG in that case, it was in his decision to carry a gun. Once he was in that situation and in a conflict with Martin, he probably was not thinking too clearly or carefully.

#185 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 03:54 PM:

"You have to work overtime to make me fear for my life."

Um. Rereading that, it makes me sound a bit Rambo-ish. Just to clarify, I am not a very dangerous person. I just lack a proper amount of self-preservation instincts.

#186 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 04:30 PM:

From the homicide report I linked to earler, plus some back of the envelope calculations: The total number of justifiable homicides of blacks by whites per year is around 43 on average, for the whole country. There are something like 7000 blacks murdered per year. So the risk that a black person is going to be murdered and the murderer get away with it based on some variant of SYG looks to me to be extraordinarily small. I just don't see that this is a common event if the numbers reported here are at all accurate. (Note: I'm assuming all such events are reported in the statistics somehow, that the numbers aren't being cooked, etc.).

My strong suspicion is that SYG laws get both their support and their opposition from fears that aren't really too well grounded in reality.

#187 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 05:16 PM:

I'm curious. For those of you in the "I'll blow that mofo away" camp, do you carry a gun around the house with you? What would do you if the criminal were between you and your gun? Where do you put a gun when you do things like changing the kitty litter or scrubbing the kitchen floor?

I'm a kind of clumsy person, so I don't carry dangerous weapons or tools with me when I don't have to. And sometimes a gun is impractical or can't go along with you. I think it would really stink to get out of the shower, realize somebody was in the house, and have not considered any other options besides using the gun safely tucked away in the upstairs gun safe.

And just in case you think I'm being sarcastic or whatever, I'm really curious. I can't imagine sitting in the TV room knitting and watching a movie with a dog on one side and a gun on the other, but that seems to me to be what a gun-based emergency plan requires.

#188 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 05:20 PM:

albatross, #183: some non-rational part of me thinks it might be a better world if such peoples' heads were used to decorate pikes outside decent peoples' homes, to encourage the others to choose another line of work

I am not at all sanguine about the deterrent properties of the death penalty (whether officially or unofficially inflicted), except insofar as it will certainly deter that criminal from ever doing such a thing again. OTOH, since many of the criminals who do these things do them repeatedly, that is itself of some benefit to the public at large.

The problem, as previously noted, is making sure that you are facing a criminal, and not your brother-in-law, or a stranded motorist looking for help, or a couple of kids on their way to a Halloween party, or the neighbor's kid's drunk friend who's got the wrong house. And that's why SYG laws which interfere with the process of determining whether or not there was reasonable cause to think you were in danger are a Bad Thing.

#189 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 11:48 PM:

Ayse 187: For those of you in the "I'll blow that mofo away" camp, do you carry a gun around the house with you?

I don't think anyone here is in that camp. Who do you think will answer you? Or is this a rhetorical question?

#190 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 11:59 PM:

Lee # 188: ...or the neighbor's kid sleepwalking into your house.

That kid was me, in a small town in an era when front doors were left unlocked.

#191 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 12:01 AM:

Now that I think about it, I was also the person who unlocked your hotel room door and walked in late at night after you'd gone to sleep. No knocking. No calling "housekeeping".

The front desk goofed, and gave me the key to a room that was already occupied. I'm not sure which of us was more alarmed!

#192 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 08:11 AM:

Any recommendations for best methods of defusing potentially violent situations?

#193 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 08:25 AM:

janetll @ 191:

Now that I think about it, I was also the person who unlocked your hotel room door and walked in late at night after you'd gone to sleep. No knocking. No calling "housekeeping".

I've had that happen, on both sides.

The front desk goofed, and gave me the key to a room that was already occupied. I'm not sure which of us was more alarmed!

When I was the one in the room, I was terribly alarmed. When I was the one entering the room, I was mostly puzzled. All things considered, being the one entering was the more dangerous of the two.

#194 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 10:29 AM:

@187: Even the nuttiest gun nuts I've known weren't strapped 24/7. Out of the house they'd carry anywhere they were legally entitled to. (Being armed is an important part of their self-conception.) At home, they'd usually keep the gun in or near the master bedroom--that is, the place they're most likely to be when they become aware of an invader's presence.

Some would keep a gun in a quick-opening safe (keypad & short combination. These days, they'd probably use the fancy fingerprint locks.) One kept a pistol hidden in an ordinary object in his home. Generally, they did what they could, short of carrying in the shower, to ensure that in the case of a break-in they'd be able to get to their gun. But the overriding priority was making sure that they didn't supply a weapon to the invader.

#195 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 11:18 AM:

Once upon a time, when I was married, we kept a revolver in the house. It was stowed under my side of the bed -- because my ex was often out late at night gaming.

I usually got to practice with it once a month when we went to visit his parents. They lived out in the country and had a range with a backstop.

While the neighborhood we lived in wasn't bad, it was close enough to a bad area that there was some cause for concern. I had resolved that if anyone broke in they could have the TV, stereo, whatever -- I wasn't going to shoot someone to stop a robbery.

The bedroom was at the back of the house, but shared a wall with the front entry. Late one night I awake to the sound of someone in the living room. I rolled over, pulled the gun out from under the bed, rolled back so I was facing the door and propped myself on my elbows with the revolver pointed at the door.

All the time, I'm thinking, "just take the stuff and leave -- if you come back here I'll have to assume you're after ME and shoot you." And the footsteps keep coming. By the time they reached the back hall, I realized whoever it was wasn't stopping so I cocked the gun -- and a familiar voice yelled "Don't shoot! It's me!"

So I came within about 30 seconds of ventilating my ex. Both of us were happy I hadn't pulled the trigger...

#196 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 12:40 PM:

If I'm ever in a strange house and hear a gun getting cocked, I'll be sure and say, "Don't shoot! It's me!" I'm pretty sure it wouldn't make things worse, at the very least.

I still wish I had that chain saw, because I kind of think a burglar in the house hearing me start it up would simply leave by the most direct route.

#197 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Laertes, #194: some years back, in an argument on this topic elseNet, I pointed out that having a gun in the bedroom was of little use if someone breaks in while you're cooking dinner in the kitchen, or watching TV in the den. The primary arguer on the other side proceeded to agree with me, and then explain that he kept his gun within arm's reach at all times, even in the house -- with the corollary that anyone who didn't do so was a starry-eyed liberal idiot.

I mentally marked him as "dangerously insane" and "glad he lives six states away from me" and didn't try to argue any further. He is the only person I've ever heard say anything like that, so I'm prepared to believe that it's an outlier position, but it does exist.

#198 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 04:10 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @192: The biggest rule for defusing potentially violent situations that I know is: Don't Escalate! Start by doing a little less than matching the other person. Generally, don't go to "entirely calm in the face of irrationality" as the first step: people will tend to feel unheard. What feels like an exact match to you is likely to feel like an escalation to the person you're talking with. Slowly calming the situation down will help a lot.

There's a lot more, but that's where I start.

#199 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2012, 06:01 PM:

Laertes 194: The people you describe don't strike me as terribly nutty. Making sure they don't supply a weapon to the invader also doubles as not supplying a weapon to a toddler or irate teen.

The crazy gets deeper, as Lee points out in 197.

#200 ::: Lyanna ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Ayse @ 158 and 160: I think you've really misinterpreted what I said, if you think I am being harsh and judgmental to those cornered by a criminal. I am emphatically not saying that the only time you're allowed to fight rather than retreat is when the alternative is freezing to death in the snow. I picked that example as an extreme case, to illustrate how a legal "duty to retreat" is problematic in situations where you're caught by a violent intruder in your own home. Which is precisely why the law in most US states (and, if I'm not mistaken, in most Western jurisdictions) doesn't exact such a duty.

As for what I would do, in your scenario in 160: I don't know why you guess that I would come back into the house "guns blazing." I'm saying, in that situation, it wouldn't be out of line for someone to refuse to run out of the house in the first place.

Xopher @ 159: yeah, maybe the SYG publicity added to Zimmerman's vigilante mindset. I suppose we don't actually know that it had nothing to do with it.

But the thinking behind SYG is, IMO, the thinking that carrying guns around with you all the time promotes safety. I think that's the real problem here.

Ginger @ 161: I'm glad you have rooms in your house where a burglar can't get in, and training in martial arts, and the ability to use non-gun weapons. A lot of us aren't so lucky.

I would also point out that using a knife is deadly force. So if you scared away a burglar with that, you would have used deadly force. "Deadly force" doesn't have to mean a gun.

And yes, most burglaries are not violent and don't scare the homeowner enough to either flee or shoot--I was specifically talking about those that would scare a reasonable person in that fashion.

#201 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2012, 09:09 PM:

So if you scared away a burglar with that, you would have used deadly force.

No, that's the threat of force. If you "used deadly force," someone died.

#202 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2012, 02:21 AM:

Tom Whitmore @198:

What feels like an exact match to you is likely to feel like an escalation to the person you're talking with.
This strikes me as a pretty good general principle -- it matches my experience of online disputes, as well as face-to-face ones.

#203 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2012, 11:55 AM:

Xopher @189 "I don't think anyone here is in that camp. Who do you think will answer you? Or is this a rhetorical question?"

Well, several people here have indicated that they would (try to) kill anybody who cornered them in their home (some only under certain circumstances). I was thinking of them.

As for who will answer me, so far it looks like the answer is what I expected. It all comes down to the gun as a talisman of safety. I don't have a lot of faith in my own response to extreme danger, so it would never occur to me to rely on a gun in such a situation. I just wonder how the people who do think they could shoot a gun with adrenaline pumping through them see the situation working.


Lyanna @200: I don't think I misinterpreted you. I think you decided that the duty to retreat should be something other than what I think it is, which is a duty not to escalate the situation from burglary to murder, and not a duty to endanger yourself. When you set up a straw man so loosely tied on such a rickety post, it's easy to knock it down. I find that sort of discussion style does not lead to good discussions, but that may not be what you want.

Also, I'm not sure how you solve the problem of having run out of the house into the cold by refusing to run out of the house. Unless I'm terribly mistaken, once you have run out of the house you are out of the house and must deal with the situation as it is with that precondition. Or at least, that is always how that sort of situation has always worked for me.

That's where I wonder what you would do. You've run out of the house, and now the burglar has not left in the usual 10-15 minutes, and the police have mysteriously not showed up at all to your call about a home-invasion robbery. What does the home-defending gun owner do? Run back in? That doesn't seem to make sense to me. If it were me I'd be about a mile away by that point, but we've already established that I'm a runner not a fighter.

#204 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2012, 10:38 PM:

Lyanna @ 200: You misunderstand me. Everyone has options. Teresa and Fragano both chased off intruders without weapons; I have dealt with many species of aggressive behavior.

You know, it's pointless to argue about whether a gun is useful for protection. It's a tool with a singular purpose. If you (generic) have a gun of any type in your house, you need to know how to use it appropriately, or else forget about it and use other means to defend yourself.

SYG is a flawed regulation. It tries to fix something that wasn't broken, and is now being used to defend broken behaviors. Trayvon Martin had even more right to defend himself under SYG, and look where it got him. Why are we arguing about self-defense? We should be arguing for justice.

#205 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 08:59 AM:

"SYG is a flawed regulation. It tries to fix something that wasn't broken, and is now being used to defend broken behaviors. Trayvon Martin had even more right to defend himself under SYG, and look where it got him. Why are we arguing about self-defense? We should be arguing for justice."

Just quoting that particular bit; because that's the thread between Castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground that TNH was teasing at earlier.

Why do we need a Castle doctrine, when a reasonable person reading the self defense statute without it would conclude if you felt that you were in danger, it was justifiable to shoot?

Why do we need Stand Your Ground when if you feel you cannot safely retreat it is justifiable to shoot?

What is the fear these laws are reacting to?

Why do so many people seem to think that Zimmerman was in the right? That he was in danger from a boy half his age, even though he was the one in the car with a gun following Trayvon?

That only makes sense if Trayvon was some kind of super-dangerous thug. If his skin color magically granted him super-strength, super-speed, super-criminality.

And if "black super-predators" are out there, then of course we need a Stand Your Ground law to empower the poor scared (white) (male) people who must share the world with these very scary people.

"It tries to fix something that wasn't broken,"

These laws don't exist to protect black men. A black man could be defending his family from a knife-wielding man with a history of violence on his own front step, and he'd still go to jail in a Stand Your Ground state.

We know because it's already happened. (see my post at 149)

These laws don't exist to protect women. (see PNH's comments earlier)

So, what problem are these laws addressing?

#206 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 10:34 AM:

What is the fear these laws are reacting to?

The fear is that some NRA member somewhere might actually be arrested for killing someone, no matter how unjustified the killing might be. After all, the thought that they might go to jail could cause someone to hesitate before pulling the trigger.

#207 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 11:16 AM:

> Any recommendations for best methods of defusing potentially violent situations?

Non-defensive verbal and non-verbal communications techniques, followed by cooperative threat reduction. When those fail, you're only left with preventative nuclear first-strike.

#208 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 11:26 AM:

Howard @205, asks: "So, what problem are these laws addressing?"

I would direct you to my posts above where I argue that the problem these laws are intended to address is one faced mainly by firearms manufacturers: a large fraction of the true cost of ownership is in the risk of personal liability for the consequences of accidental or negligent misuse of the product.

Have you tried to buy private insurance of the kind these laws provide? I shudder to think what such insurance would cost in my home state of California, where we do not have any Stand Your Ground law.

#209 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 01:25 PM:

re 206/208: The only concrete historical explanation I could find for these laws is that they originated in reaction to Katrina and the perceived inability of the police to, well, police effectively. The "solution" therefore was to give castle-defending homeowners and businessmen more explicit leeway. Whether or not this explanation is entirely or even partially true, whether or not the NRA was involved, it strikes me as a monumentally idiotic basis for legislation applicable even when the mobs aren't banging on the gates.

#210 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Tom #198 is right--that's a very useful rule to keep in mind. If you match the other guy's hostility level *as you perceive it*, and he does too, it's probably very easy to spiral into a fight. It's like you're trying to avoid a positive feedback loop.

#211 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 02:45 PM:

Howard #205:

I think the stated goal of both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws is to avoid having someone who used deadly force in self defense have to justify not having, say, run away from his house to avoid the confrontation. Basically, the concern is that people engaged in legitimate self-defense will be prosecuted and possibly sent to prison, for failing to figure out a way to escape in the heat of the moment. This doesn't look like a great solution to the problem to me (and I don't really know whether there is a problem), but the goal doesn't seem crazy or evil to me.

The racial side of this doesn't clarify matters much, right? I mean, any law which is enforced or applied differently for blacks than for whites will have some bad effects; I don't see that this tells us anything about whether those laws themselves are a problem.

More to the point, a clearer rule (like "if you're in your house and someone breaks in, you are allowed to shoot them") seems much *less* likely to be applied in a racially biased manner than a reasonable person standard, to me. I mean, the clearer the rule, the less you can rationalize your way into treating people you don't like very differently than people you do like, and the more likely an appeals court can look at what happened and decide the law was incorrectly applied.

Are there any numbers or statistics that show the racial breakdown of effects of this kind of law? I linked to a BJS report above that showed that 42% of reported justifiable homicides were done by blacks, which doesn't look too much like a world in which blacks can't ever claim self-defense successfully. I don't know what fraction of those cases involved any form of SYG or castle doctrine--I think the castle doctrine has been around for a long time in many states, whereas SYG is relatively new and may not have been at all widespread for most of the span of years of the report (1980-2008). However, it's also worth remembering that there just aren't that many of these per year--something like 250 or so per year.

#212 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 03:06 PM:

The best threat reduction method, long term, is to avoid threats as much as possible. If your life as you are living it now makes carrying a loaded gun around all the time seem like a real necessity, that might be a sign you need to rethink how you're living your life, or rethink what risks you actually face.

It's easy to overestimate the risk of violent crime of certain kinds--strangers lurking in the shadows or armed thugs bashing down your door, the sort of thing that shows up in TV shows and books and movies a lot. It's probably also easy to underestimate the risk of violent crime by acquaintences and relatives--something like 78% of murders were done by them, according to that report I linked to above. (Spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends alone cover 16% of murderers.)

It seems to me that people are generally lousy at thinking about risk. I wonder what fraction of people who keep loaded guns around the house also make sure to check their smoke detectors regularly and wear their seat belts. My sense is that a huge amount of the national conversation about violent crime (and even more about terrorism, as Bruce Schneier often points out) is affected by this screwed-up inability to think about risk, along with a screwed up mental picture of what risks actually exist fed by the skewed picture of the world you get from news media and TV shows and movies.

#213 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 03:20 PM:

albatross @211 -- a much more interesting set of numbers than the number of blacks who managed to get a "justifiable homicide" decision on their actions would be to see how frequently those homicides were done to blacks and how frequently to whites.

I don't think there's a prejudice against blacks (or other POC) killing blacks (or other POC). I do think there's a prejudice against blacks (or other POC) killing whites. That's an impression rather than a serious opinion based on solid information, and I'd like to see information that would help me know better.

#214 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 05:10 PM:

albatross, #212: If your life as you are living it now makes carrying a loaded gun around all the time seem like a real necessity, that might be a sign you need to rethink how you're living your life, or rethink what risks you actually face.

That's pretty much my thinking about many of the people who argue for concealed public carry on the grounds of "safety". It's all about the possibility of events which are sufficiently unlikely that the public carry itself presents more of a risk to themselves and others.

(Note: most of the people I encounter who make that argument are in fact reasonably well-to-do, white, and not working in a neighborhood or profession which would seem to require being publicly armed. Some people have less flexibility about changing how they live their lives than others.)

#215 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 09:08 PM:

Howard @ 205

What is the fear these laws are reacting to?

This question, I can guess at an answer, from my involvement in the whole shall-issue permit debate. (By the time SYG was being debated, I'd pretty much decided that if I was personally committed to non-resistance, it wasn't a set of debates I should participate in.)

It's important to note that the people who read Guns & Ammo, and people who read Radley Balko, overlap; a lot. So it's important to remember that you are looking at a group of people who really do not trust law enforcement, or the prosecutor/court system, much at all. (I'm very much in this category. SO, inn most of the gun-related controversies that I've followed, the goal of the pro-gun groups has been to take discretion away from law enforcement, courts, and prosecutors. The less discretion they have, the fewer opportunities they have for using discretion in a discriminatory fashion.

Both Stand-Your-Ground and the Castle Doctrine do not change traditional self-defense law. They make explicit, in particular cases, how the "reasonable man" standard should be applied.

#216 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 09:13 AM:

Tom: 

The report gives a racial breakdown of both murderer and victim, for both justifiable and other homicide.  Most homicides of both kind are within races, probably because the people inclined to murder you are mostly people you know, and most people associate more with members of their own race than members of other races.  (There's also residential segregation and regional racial breakdowns there.) 

The relevant numbers are:

Blacks are about 6 times more likely to be murdered and 7 times more likely to commit murder than whites.

84% of white victims were murdered by whites, 93% of black victims were murdered by blacks.

For justifiable homicides, you get:

whites killing whites: 37% of all justifiable
whites killing blacks: 17%
blacks killing whites:  3%
blacks killing blacks: 39%

My guess is that this reflects some racial bias in self-defense cases, but I am not sure.  My limited understanding of the subject and the limited data I could quickly find means I can't really say a lot with confidence about this. 

What is interesting to note:  Suppose we assume that justifiable homicides are overwhelmingly murder cases that just happened to go the other way--the would-be victim shot the would-be murderer and saved his own life. 

About 50% of murder victims are white, and 47% are black.  About 55% of justifiable homicides are done by whites, and about 42% by blacks.  Those numbers aren't a perfect match, but they don't look wildly far off. 

Consider a black would-be victim shooting his would-be murderer.  Among all black murder victims, the murderer is black 93% of the time, and that's a really close match for the justifiable homicide statistics. It looks like the racial breakdown of people justifiably killed by blacks is the same as the racial breakdown of people who kill blacks.

Consider a white would-be victim shooting his would-be murderer. About 31% of people justifiably murdered by whites are black, compared to something between 14% and 16% of people who murder blacks. That might reflect racial bias in the finding of justifiable homicide, but it could also reflect some social differences between blacks and whites, or different racial distributions in different regions, or some other thing.

What seems clear to me is that these numbers don't agree with the rhetoric that says laws protecting killing in self-defense don't apply to blacks, only to whites. There may be racial bias in some of those numbers; I think you would need much better data and much more knowledge of the subject to find out. But blacks do actually seem to be able to kill both blacks and whites in self defense and have this recognized by the law, from rhe numbers in this report.

#217 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 02:26 PM:

albatross @216:

Without knowing enough about plea bargaining rates within that data population, I'm not sure how reliably the crimes for which people were convicted reflect the true nature of the crimes they committed. If plea bargains are offered in a racially uneven distribution, or if different pleas tend to be offered to different groups, that will affect the rates.

Also, looking at the last section of the report (under "Methodology"), I see this paragraph:

To adjust for homicides with no offender information, a method for offender imputation was devised that uses available information about murder victims for which corresponding offender information was provided as well as those with missing offender information. Through this imputation algorithm, the demographic characteristics of unidentified offenders were inferred on the basis of similar homicide cases—similar in terms of the victim’s demographic profile, circumstances of the homicide such as felony or argument, location of the homicide (region and urban), gun involvement, and year of the offense— for which offender data were provided. In other words, unknown offender profiles were estimated based on the offender profiles in offender-known cases, matched on victim age, sex, and race; circumstances of the homicide; location of the homicide; gun involvement; and year. Offender-based estimates in this report were imputed using this procedure. Other estimates in this report were based on homicides with known attributes, unless otherwise indicated.

The thing is, if there are racial disparities of any sort in the data, that kind of methodology blows them up hugely. To take an extreme instance, if police are keener to arrest whites than blacks for killing blacks, then the unsolved murders of blacks (such as the ones where police are turning a blind eye to white suspects) will be disproportionately attributed to black killers.

Do either of the factors I've just listed have an effect on the rate of justifiable homicide by the different groups? I don't know. You don't know. The DoJ doesn't either. And furthermore, they (the DoJ) don't even acknowledge the risks inherent in their statistical approach—something that does not inspire my confidence.

#218 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 09:23 AM:

abi:

That seems plausble, but I just don't know enough to know whether the BJS estimates are accurate. I can kind of imagine how you would try to determine that, given access to the raw data, but really working on the problem would require understanding a lot about the way the data was collected and stuff. Intuitively, you'd think plea bargains by innocent people in murder cases would be really rare, since you are looking at a really long prison term. And you'd like to think the whole justice department would be super careful in murder cases, but the disturbingly common DNA exhonerations don't really fit with that idea, so who knows?

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the racial breakdown in crime rates from official crime reports tracks very well with surveys of crime victims where the race (sex, age, relationship) of the criminal was asked. (It's kinda hard to do that with murder victims, though.) And intuitively, the racial breakdown of crime victims is going to be pretty solid--presumably the coroner can tell a black corpse from a white one. But I am far outside my expertise here. That's always the danger of looking at the raw data, or something like this report which is at least pretty close to the raw data.

However, as far as I recall, in this discussion, the only other facts brought into play were media-reported anecdotes (presumably cherry picked to tell whatever story they were trying to tell), and personal anecdotes. To put it mildly, there may be some small problems inferring the shape of the world with those, too.

The data I quoted are not consistent with a world in which laws protecting killing someone in self-defense are only for white men. That kind of world would not have 42% of justifiable homicides by blacks. I don't know how SYG is applied, but I am pretty sure I would learn more about that looking at official data, if any exists, than by watching what set of cases NBC or CNN or Fox news chooses to highlight.

Similarly, a world in which laws (at least through 2008) had been passed that were leading to trigger-happy loons blowing away random passers by in any great numbers and getting away with it would show up in these numbers--instead, the numbers seem to my eye to track with the murder rate, and also with the rate of justifiable homicides by police, who are not really affected by SYG laws. This similarly makes it seem kind of unlikely that a lot of crime is actually being stopped by homeowners with guns, because you'd think more of it would be ending up with the criminals dead. But I don't really know that--there may be better data on that somewhere else.

#219 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 01:23 PM:

albatross @218:
Intuitively, you'd think plea bargains by innocent people in murder cases would be really rare, since you are looking at a really long prison term. And you'd like to think the whole justice department would be super careful in murder cases, but the disturbingly common DNA exhonerations don't really fit with that idea, so who knows?

I suspect the rate of innocent people who can be convinced to cut a deal rather than face what they are assured to be a slam-dunk conviction varies by both socioeconomic class and race. And I suspect that goes equally well for didn't-kill-him innocents and killed-him-in-self-defense innocents.

Basically, the problem is that there is a plausible argument that the data is substantially corrupt from the point of collection onward.

Anecdote has its own failings as well, of course.

I'd agree that SYG laws don't appear to have materially affected reported murder rates, and ceteris paribus, that's a notable fact. But I, personally, am at least as concerned by the way that the perception that Zimmerman could blow away Martin affects the lives of people of color.

It's much the same as the way that rape statistics don't always track fear of rape—but telling women to live fearfully is still considered a sound tactic in our culture.

What are black parents telling their teenaged sons, when these laws exist? What does that do to those young men?

#220 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2012, 12:49 PM:

"What are black parents telling their teenaged sons, when these laws exist? What does that do to those young men?"

This bothers me a lot. I have some very good friends who happen to be black boys, and I worry about their future and whether somebody will decide that zero tolerance and an automatic death penalty is what they deserve for just being black. They're just kids, and they do stupid things because they're kids. I want them to be free to make mistakes and learn and grow, but I worry that they will end up in a cycle of law enforcement that gets nobody anywhere.

#221 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2012, 04:20 PM:

albatross -- despite the (very real) statistical problems abi points out, I for one am very glad to see the information you post. Yes, it's clear that there may be problems with the information; on the whole, though, the problems are likely to cause relatively small actual number difficulties, and the problem is probably not out in "egregious" territory. It's a place where more research can clearly be done, but the quick-and-dirty test says there may be less fire than smoke.

Still worth working to prevent the problem from being worse!

#222 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2012, 04:44 PM:

Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin paper targets are available for sale.

#223 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2012, 05:21 PM:

Jim, as I said when I posted about this on FB, "anyone who buys one of these is certainly a racist monster who has discarded his (or her, but probably his) own humanity, and should be encouraged to throw himself under a bus."

I got come criticism for this. People reproved me for putting the bus driver in such distress, and for messing up buses. I then modified my position to "jump into a mulcher."

#224 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2012, 05:39 PM:

This is the one-image disproof for those who say that "armed citizens are good citizens."

#225 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2012, 05:58 PM:

One of my daughter's friends is a young black man raised by white adoptive parents. On a recent visit to his grandparents, he was blocked from approaching their house by a construction worker because he "didn't look like the people who lived there." Fortunately, his cousin came out to vouch for him, so the situation didn't escalate. I can only hope the construction worker wasn't armed, but I can't imagine what it's like to live with that kind of threat hanging over your head.

#226 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 11:24 PM:

@206, Jim Macdonald: Just so, sir. Just so.
@208, j h woodyatt: That's... a bit more intellectual than I'm prepared to be in my current cold-and-cold-remedies-addled state. I will blink; I will think through the idea of society some more. I will curse Ayn Rand. And then, finally, I will nod knowingly as if I understood that all perfectly, rather than just a glimpse at the idea, and wonder if it's too late to go back to school.

@211, albatross.
Yes, that's the stated intention.

But why should it matter if you justify such a thing?

Let me tell you a story. An ex-cop was in a store shopping. A person he knew came up on his flank and greeted him. There were dozens of witnesses.
But this was a person he knew from the old days, and they were not friends.

There was no weapon seen on the man who greeted him. The man didn't attack him. He just greeted him. (yes, there were witnesses) He turned, drew the concealed weapon he carried with him at all times, and blew the man away.

His defense was short and sweet. "I was in fear for my life."

He walked. Self defense is your right, after all.
(can't have hurt to be an ex-cop, though)
The goal may not seem crazy or evil, but I don't think it's actually making anybody safer. And the original post that started us down this route--in all these cases the law is looking less like a clearer rule than a DUMBER rule. You take away the discretion of law enforcement.
@215, SamChevre
Yes. These are people who want the law in their hands, want to live by Old West rules.
They want to be Wyatt Earp.

Which just reminds me of when I found out that the whole Gunfight at the OK Corrall was more like a mob-style hit than anything I ever saw on TV.
@albatross in general;

Many of your theories seem to contain perfectly spherically shapes people who don't understand that they live in a racist system. ...most the people I know live very much aware of their level of privilege.

#228 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Howard:

So, if I quote anecdotes that go the other way (like the lady who apparently is going to spend a decade in prison for shooting a warning shot at her abusive boyfriend to keep from having the crap beaten out of her), does that change anything?

The fact is, we probably can't understand the effect of these laws as they are applied without looking at broad statistics. And those statistics I was able to find do not support the notion that blacks can't claim self defense successfully, for example. Nor do they support the notion of a vast number of trigger happy loons blowing people away for walking while black and hoodied. Nor do they support the notion that there are vast numbers of killings in self defense having a big effect on the crime rate--it's like one justifiable homicide per million civilains per year, a negligible fraction of the total murders per year. So if your model of the world tells you that those notions are true, your model is wrong, or the data is wrong.

None of that says SYG. or the Castle Doctrine is good law or bad law. I don't know enough to have a worthwhile opinion on either question. The way to have a worthwhile opinion does not flow from your political or social beliefs, for the most part, but rather from finding out what effects these laws are having (positive and negative) and what effects their absense has. (Your political and social beliefs can help inform what tradeoffs are acceptable, but until you know the facts, you don't know what tradeoffs you're making.)

In any legal system we can design, with any set of laws and rules we can come up with, there will be miscarriages of justice--innocent people sent to prison, guilty people let free. There will be biased enforcement of rules, so long as the rules are enforced and interpreted by biased humans, which is to say forever. It may be that claiming self defense after killing or shooting at aomeone is a particularly biased part of how laws are enforced (I'd guess the big bias is that being a cop makes you a whole lot more likely to get away with killing someone), but I don't know that, and probably neither do you.

#229 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2012, 08:43 AM:

@albatross

My understanding of the case that went the other way is that it supports my thesis; that the law is to protect the privileged, not the under-privileged.

Digby has a post about Stand Your Ground. Worth a read.

None of that says SYG. or the Castle Doctrine is good law or bad law.

No... no it doesn't. Which is why, again, I focused on the roots of a law like this.

If self-defense laws already allow you to stand your ground, except if you feel like you can flee, then why do we need to allow people to stand their ground when they think they can safely flee?

Let me repeat that; when they think they can safely flee.

If Stand Your Ground laws don't mean that, they don't mean anything.

#230 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2012, 01:27 PM:

And again yesterday.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/loving-nra-how-everyone-stopped.html

This one gets to the root of what I was ranting and raving about earlier. Why was the test case for this one where nobody went to jail? Because it was an excuse. Because this was ALEC/NRA legislation. Because they WANTED this, even though the existing law had no need for this.

I'll say it again. The test case was proof that they DIDN'T NEED SYG legislation.

#231 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 11:08 AM:

Thanks to a link from the always-worth-reading Ta-Nehisi Coates; a round-up of all the victims and killers in fatal Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, with brief summaries and trial results for the accused.

#232 ::: Fragano Ledgister notes spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 02:44 PM:

What on earth is going on?

#233 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 02:59 PM:

It looks like multiples, and if the pattern I saw earlier is followed, the payload is soon to arrive.

#234 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2012, 03:03 PM:

A new study on Stand Your Ground laws.

“At least some of the people getting killed are bystanders, which is more than enough to raise serious concerns about these laws.”

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