WaPo Misrepresents Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. Again. Still.

The Washington Post recently reported on the first meeting of the legislative task force reviewing Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, and the unchallenged lies start out in the first paragraph: “The parents of a 17-year-old teen killed by a neighborhood watch captain asked a task force reviewing Florida’s ‘stand your ground law’ Tuesday to recommend changing it so that defendants who initiate a confrontation can’t use it as part of their self-defense argument.” Traditionally one of the tasks of journalists is to check facts and verify information before presenting it to the public. They really aren’t supposed to act as a zero head loss bullshit pipe, passing falsehoods effortlessly from source to audience. But in this case . . .

Lie number 1: Florida statute already says that defendants who initiate a confrontation cannot argue justifiable use of force:

776.041 Use of force by aggressor — The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(1) … or

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant;

So what this is saying is, if you provoke a fight you can’t use deadly force unless your opponent uses it first, and even then you have a duty to retreat (i.e. you can’t Stand Your Ground). Which is exactly what Trayvon’s parents say they are after.

Lie number 2: SYG had nothing to do with Section 776.041; in fact 1997 was the last time the Use of force by aggressor statute was changed.

The Post continues:

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton asked the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection to support a “Trayvon Martin amendment” to the law,

I have searched for the text of this amendment, but all I can find (besides a national version being bandied about in the House) is a verbal description from the parents’ lawyer:

[“T]he Trayvon Martin amendment to the Stand Your Ground law, and that is, you cannot be the pursuer, you cannot initiate the confrontation and then say that you were standing your ground,” Crump said.

In other words what they are asking for is a law to state:

The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself

Hmm, haven’t I seen that verbiage somewhere before? Oh, yeah, back in 776.041. But after this passing request for redundancy, the lies then continue:

support a “Trayvon Martin amendment” to the law, which currently gives defendants wide latitude in claiming self-defense. The 2005 legislation allows individuals to use deadly force provided they are doing nothing illegal

In fact the 2005 legislation, SB436, the bill which created SYG, changed nothing in the standards for the use of deadly force. Before SYG passed, someone was only allowed to use deadly force if 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.

And the ‘wide latitude’ in effect after SYG passed? Someone is only allowed to use 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. What an earth-shattering change; no wonder they want to fix it.

But there actually was a definite change with the passage of SYG, as WaPo points out:

The 2005 legislation allows individuals to use deadly force provided they are doing nothing illegal and relieves them of a duty to retreat if they believe their lives are in jeopardy.

In other words, the law no longer demands detached reflection … in the presence of an uplifted knife[1]. Justice Holmes continued:

Therefore in this Court, at least, it is not a condition of immunity that one in that situation should pause to consider whether a reasonable man might not think it possible to fly with safety or to disable his assailant rather than to kill him.

Ah those stodgy, outdated Supreme Court judges with their antiquated rulings. How silly and outmoded they are when compared to modern progressive thinking. When victims have a duty to retreat before they can defend themselves it makes things so much easier for police and prosecutors. No longer are they hampered by that whole “presumption of innocence” thing – it’s up to the defendant to prove that he acted within the law.

This also provides the opportunity for anti-gun and anti-self-defense prosecutors to punish law-abiding citizens who have the temerity to defend themselves (as Sean McClanahan details in Stand Your Ground, Lose Everything) instead of being raped and strangled/beaten and robbed or what have you.

The Post then gives a précis of the Martin/Zimmerman case, finishing with:

Zimmerman claims he lost sight of Martin and was returning to his vehicle when he was attacked. Martin’s family blames Zimmerman for initiating the confrontation.

So let me get this straight; if I try to follow someone but lose them and they jump me as I am returning to my car, I initiated the confrontation? No, what we have here are grieving parents in denial, seeking to blame anyone other than their son.

“We need to review this law,” [Trayvon’s mother] told task force members. “I’m not saying take it away. Just review and amend it. I had to bury my son at 17. He was committing no crime. He was doing no wrong.”

And from a certain point of view I must agree that Trayvon wasn’t doing anything wrong; he just went to the Stop-n-Rob for some treats and was walking home. But that is where his “doing no wrong” ended. It ended when he went looking for Zimmerman, punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground, pounced on him and proceeded to bash his head on the sidewalk “MMA style”, making George believe that his life was in danger.

And it is true, if George hadn’t called the cops and followed Trayvon your son would still be alive. Likewise if Trayvon hadn’t had a chip on his shoulder leading him to seek out George, your son would still be alive.

But the review panel is looking beyond George and Trayvon:

Gov. Rick Scott appointed the task force to review the law following Martin’s death. But the group’s chairwoman, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, said the review wasn’t going to be limited to the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman. The task force will hold five more hearings around the state before presenting its recommendations to the Florida Legislature next year.

“This is not about the Zimmerman case, and we don’t want to make it that because we want to stay unbiased and unfettered from any other case,” Carroll said.

This gives the opportunity for the WaPo to provide some “balance”. After nine paragraphs and almost 400 words bashing SYG, we see:

Frank Darden, 63, told task force members that without the law he wouldn’t have been able to draw his gun during a confrontation last year with a tenant he was trying to evict. The tenant threatened him with a fillet knife but then backed down when Darden drew his gun.

“Without that law, I would have been stabbed to death,” said Darden, a firearms instructor. “I believe I wouldn’t be here without that law.”

WaPo provides a whopping two paragraphs and 74 words before finishing up with:

But Barbara Standard said the law allowed the killer of her 46-year-old son to avoid charges.

“This law is a license to kill,” Standard said.

Unmentioned by the WaPo is the fact that Scott Standard had a long-running dispute with a neighbor, James Conner over property lines and easements. According to Conner’s lawyer, the evening of the shooting:

Conner went to check on a privacy fence he had built earlier that day between he and Standard’s property. As Conner was leaving to go home, Grantham said Standard jumped in front of Conner’s truck and threw a large rock into Conner’s windshield, landing right in front of where Conner’s wife, Traci, was seated.

Grantham said Standard then charged the truck and Conner fired a warning shot and verbally warned Standard he had a gun.

“Standard ignored this warning and continued his charge. Ignoring another shot, Standard continued his charge, getting near the open window, forcing the third shot, which was fatal,” Grantham’s letter stated.

After a five month investigation, the state attorney’s office concluded, based on forensic evidence and witness statements, that the shooting was justified. A couple of other things the WaPo fails to mention; 14 months before the shooting, Conner got a protection order against Standard and second, Standard was in Conner’s driveway when he was shot.

Someone needs to tell the guys at the WaPo that there is something called journalistic ethics which most certainly does not include opinions stated as facts, lies presented as truths, nor using your bully pulpit to press your political agenda and suppress those who disagree with you.



[1] Brown v. United States, 256 US 335 (1921), Justice Holmes writing for the court.