‘Stand your ground’ fails to bring justice
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 15:05
In recent months, Florida’s “stand your ground” law has come under much scrutiny. Because of the more-publicized Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, and the lesser-known Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville, there have been many different interpretations of the law and whether the “stand your ground” law could be used as a viable defense in certain cases. Those who have heard about Alexander’s case are wondering what differences are present that allow one defendant to utilize the benefit of this law while another one cannot.
In reading the Florida statutes of Chapter 776 regarding justifiable use of force, there are clear instances when the use of deadly force can be used and when it does not apply. I believe that the law can be useful, but it does need to be applied carefully in an effort not to set a precedent that could cause unforeseen consequences down the road. The difficulty, however, may lie in whether or not a judge decides to allow the “stand your ground” defense to be used in the first place.
Whether or not the law can be used to acquit someone of charges may depend on the charges filed against the person arrested. Alexander was charged with aggravated assault for firing a warning shot into the air to scare away her abusive spouse. Aggravated assault is considered a felony.
According to CNN, under Florida’s 10-20-life law, there are increased penalties for some felonies, including aggravated assault, in which a gun is carried or used. The reason for the aggravated assault charge, CNN states, is because she fired in the direction of the room where her children were. Alexander had an active injunction against her spouse which, to me, is proof that she had a reasonable fear of harm. Florida statute 776.012 states that a person is justified in using force if that person reasonably believes that it is necessary to defend himself or someone else. Perhaps if the prosecutor had decided not to charge her with aggravated assault, Alexander may have been able to use the self-defense law.
Before being charged with second-degree murder, George Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense was believed with hardly a second thought. However, that defense is now in question. The authors of Florida’s “stand your ground” law suggest that Zimmerman is not covered under this particular law either. I see one major difference between Alexander and Zimmerman: Alexander did not kill anyone. I don’t understand why her penalty was so harsh.
There appears to be something wrong with the way the law is being applied.
The law is useful if common sense is used when applying it to different cases. It seems as if prosecutors and judges are picking and choosing which parts of the “stand your ground” law they want to focus on, while disregarding other aspects that are also pertinent to the cases they are trying and presiding over.
I’m all for careful interpretations of the law, but I think it is a miscarriage of justice when an abused woman with an active injunction against her spouse gets 20 years in prison for trying to scare him off.