Lloyd Constantine is horrified horrified! by stand your ground laws and won’t let anything silly like facts or reality stand in the way of expressing his outrage. Now Lloyd’s displayed problems with judgement in the past…aside from his role advising Client Number 9. So that may explain some of his problems exhibiting much restraint or even-handedness when talking about Florida’s SYG law . . .
Because of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, the authorities initially declined to arrest or press any charges against Zimmerman. He told them that when he killed Trayvon he had feared for his own life. Zimmerman’s “state of mind” satisfied the standards of Florida’s law, setting up not only his defense but complete immunity from being prosecuted or even sued civilly for the killing.
Is Lloyd saying that if the cops had found Trayvon face-down with four bullet-holes in his back and George standing over him with a smoking gun, as long as George uttered the magic words “I was in fear for my life” they would have let him go? If that is what’s he’s saying then Lloyd doesn’t have an issue with SYG, he has an issue with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because Florida’s stand your ground statute explicitly states:
776.012 Use of force in defense of person: … 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
See that bit that I highlighted there? This is referred to in jurisprudence as the reasonable person standard and means what an average person with average knowledge taking average care would believe or do in similar circumstances. And Florida’s stand your ground statute also explicitly states
776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force … but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
And third, SB436, the bill which created SYG, changed nothing in the standards for the lawful use of deadly force. Before SYG, 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
After SYG passed, someone was 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 SYG did do was explicitly remove the any “duty to retreat”:
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 etc.
Now everyone knows that I would never impugn the intelligence of a columnist, nor would I ever imply that Lloyd negligently failed to properly research SYG before writing about the topic, so I guess he must just be a damned liar.
But he doesn’t stop with misrepresenting SYG:
The disturbing, heartbreaking nature of the events and the extraordinary campaign that brought it to wide public scrutiny eventually led to a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry, a review of SYG and its application by Florida criminal justice authorities and Zimmerman’s belated arrest and indictment for second-degree murder.
Now IANAL, but I can Google like one, and my Google-fu reveals that an indictment actually comes from a grand jury, specifically:
A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.
In this case there was no indictment of George Zimmerman. The prosecutor filed an affidavit of probable cause filed; a document categorized by Alan Dershowitz as “so thin that it won’t make it past a judge on a second degree murder charge” and “irresponsible and unethical in not including material that favors the defendant.” But heck, what does an ivory tower Harvard Law Professor like Dershowitz know about criminal law, right?
Regrettably, many people already have a strong opinion about what happened — that Zimmerman is a murderer or that he was justifiably defending himself – — before a single piece of evidence has been presented in court.
Because evidence like Trayvon’s bruised knuckles, George’s bleeding head, broken nose, black eyes, grass stains on his back and a witness statement putting him on his back with the 6’3” 150 pound Martin bashing his head against the concrete “MMA style” are meaningless until they’ve been presented in court, right?
Certainly, I don’t know what actually happened … But even without that knowledge … A killer needs to be taken off the streets.
The menace is Florida’s SYG law and the similar statutes enacted in 20 other states. … According to an analysis compiled by the Miami Herald, Florida’s SYG law has been invoked at least 130 times since it was enacted in 2005.
Yes, that’s what happens when you pass a law – people use it. In the case of this law, good people who were forced to use deadly force in self-defense situations “used it” to maintain their presumption of innocence. They “used it” to require the FDLE to actually have probable cause to believe a crime was committed before arresting them. They “used it” to keep from having to bankrupt themselves and their friends and family to stay out of prison.
And you know what? I’m sure there are a few scumbuckets and dirtbags who “used it” too, but by Lloyd’s way of thinking, good law-abiding citizens who fought being victimized by scumbuckets and dirtbags should go to prison for that, simply because some criminals may get away with murder by claiming self-defense.
In more than half of these cases, the people standing their ground killed someone whom they claimed caused them to fear bodily harm. Also, in more than half of these cases the people invoking SYG were not charged with a crime, were granted immunity from prosecution or had the charges dismissed because of the SYG shield.
Well, actually, no these people were not granted immunity or shielded from prosecution by SYG, they were shielded by a judge or a jury. They were shielded because it was determined by our legal system that they were reasonably in fear of death or great bodily harm.
Lloyd can’t avoid betraying his hatred of people being able to defend themselves:
SYG laws are an extension and gross distortion of an important, long-standing principle of Anglo-American common law, that one can use deadly force to protect oneself and other inhabitants of your home when it is forcefully invaded. By extending the zone for permissible use of deadly force to an entire state, Florida has converted itself into a Dodge City theme park. Florida’s SYG has been successfully invoked by drug dealers, gang members and those firing guns in the midst of “road rage” incidents.
So according to Lloyd, if you are an accused drug dealer who has to use self-defense (outside of your “business” that is, since SYG does not protect a person engaged in an unlawful activity) you should go to prison. Lloyd believes that if you are an accused gang member and you shoot someone trying to rape your sister, you should go to prison. He even feels that if someone rear-ends you at a traffic light, gets out carrying a gun threatening to shoot you and you pull out your gun and stop him, you should go to prison.
Florida’s SYG extends well beyond protecting oneself from “great bodily harm” and immunizes the use of deadly force if the shooter “reasonably believes that such force is necessary” to prevent harm to any other person “or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” including unlawful and forcible entry of another person’s “dwelling” “tent” or “occupied vehicle.” Images of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Death Wish and other shoot-em-up movies come to mind.
First, Florida’s SYG does not permit you to use deadly force to prevent harm to any other person but only to prevent death or great bodily harm. As for forcible entry into a dwelling, didn’t you just say one paragraph before that being able to defend yourself from this is an important, long-standing principle of Anglo-American common law? So which is it? Good or bad?
Finally, while self-defense may conjure shoot-em-up images in Lloyd’s mind, in my mind they conjure up images of men, women and children living more safely and unafraid. But maybe that’s just me.