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Column: “Stand your ground” laws justify crime

In My Opinion

Published: Friday, August 23, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

Emily Crochet

The Maroon


“If you shoot someone on the street, drag them into your house and call the police,” states the widespread satirical advice in states such as Louisiana, Florida and the 22 others with Castle Doctrine’s modern self-defense laws. These assure homeowners’ permission to defend themselves and their properties by necessary force. Furthermore, by the derivative sweeping self-defense or “stand your ground” laws, this right extends to any public space. So why are we surprised and appalled when the law prevents a murder conviction?
According to the majority of media conversations, the much talked-about George Zimmerman trial seems to have been about whether he killed Trayvon Martin. It is not. Rather, it was a trial, a decision as to whether Zimmerman broke the law — and under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, there was no conclusive reason to convict him of the provided charges. So, for a moment, forget this individual circumstance, or popular politics that surround it. The truth is that Zimmerman was not the first to act on Castle Doctrine laws, their mentality, nor will he be the last benefit by their protection.

These laws are a threat not only because they can justify unjust crimes but also because they can inspire them. This was precisely the case two years ago in Shreveport, La., when Donald Aaron saw a strange car in his driveway and followed it down the street before shooting the driver on the side of the road. Aaron claimed self-defense. He had rightfully followed the stranger under the belief he was a robber — defense of property — and, provoked by violent speech and a reach for what turned out to be a bottle on the car floor, rightfully shot the man in self-defense. In this instance, the laws did not fully protect Aaron because he was convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide. The problem is that it seems to have been the law and his perceived right to protect home and property that provoked the inevitably violent pursuit.

In a recent news case, a shooting in the Marigny placed a 14-year-old boy in critical condition after a shot to the head. A resident shot a criminal intruder. He is, therefore, within the grounds of Louisiana’s “rightful defense of self and property” laws. He is being tried for attempted second degree murder, similar to Zimmerman, but his case is as of now relatively unknown. It is possible, likely and legally justified that he be declared not guilty of the legal charge.

Not guilty and innocent are not the same. It is not the jury, verdicts or even individuals that are cause for concern, but rather the initial charges and laws. Aaron was convicted of negligent action but was acting under his perceived rights. Zimmerman was acquitted because, though charges regarding negligence — as in the Aaron case — may have allowed a different outcome, by Florida law there was no evidence of murder.

Yes, all three aforementioned victims were black, their shooters otherwise, and racism does play a part, but this is more than racism. To truly reduce these violent situations, the individual trial cannot be the predominant interest. Each case is only an example, a diversion, of the larger problem. The solution has to be in the recognition of legitimate crimes and the laws that permit or further their occurrence.

Emily Crochet can be reached at

In My Opinion is a regular column open to all Loyola students. Those interested can contact 

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8 comments Log in to Comment

Thu Aug 29 2013 11:20
Regardless of what the law says, every human being has a right to self-defense. This means that if one believes that his life or property is threatened, he has a natural right to defend himself. The liberal media and people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Marc Morial, Benjamin Jealous, to name four of many who use race a a way to enrich themselves and keep racial strife alive and well, are critical of a white person defending himself from blacks, but ignore the fact that there are far more attacks on whites by blacks, like the recent school bus incident in Clearwater, Florida. I have not heard one of the people mentioned above say one thing about the crime committed by three black boys on a white boy. But when a white attacks a black, they talk about it continuously and about the need to reform laws such as the Castle Doctrine or the right to possess guns and other weapons to defend oneself. And they are assisted in their perverse efforts by a liberal media, including major newspapers and MSNBC, which is a sad excuse for a news operation. The media is helping pundits like those mentioned do their dirty work.
Sun Aug 25 2013 23:34
Protection for the vast majority from the statist liberal anti-self-defense machine far outweighs any abberations in a minority of cases.
Sun Aug 25 2013 08:32
Zimmerman stated the stand your ground law on the night of the shooting, then stopped claiming that because he obviously accosted the kid. Zimmerman was not getting horribly beaten as some say, we all saw the pics of the 2 small cuts on his head. Similar situation happened in Ny state- guy saw intruders in his car, break ins were rampant, he went out and shot one that charged him. They put him in jail till he was found innocent. Difference? Shooter was black, robbers were white. And the shooter was remorseful, that is the biggest difference of all.
Sun Aug 25 2013 02:32
So called stand your ground laws had nothing to do with the Zimmerman case. It was simple self defense. Don't be a parrot. If after an investigation as in the Zimmerman case the D.A. decides it was clear cut self defense or not enough evidence to take to trial, then so be it. Castle doctrine and stand your ground help to shield the victim of crime from further damage of malicious prosecution as in the politically motivated prosecution of Zimmerman. If the facts are otherwise then prosecution is justified. If the laws are misapplied or abused, that is not the fault of the law but human error. Happens every day.
Sat Aug 24 2013 21:58
There are going to be possible evasions like this for both the presence of SYG/CD and the absence thereof.

That's why we have the courts, to serve as the final check on ridiculous situations like dragging someone you shot into your home to claim Castle Doctrine. The forensic evidence in that case would blow that claim out of the water.

Just as it did with Zimmerman.

Sat Aug 24 2013 14:31
Educate yourselves. The Zimmerman defense never once appealed to Stand Your Ground. While the media certainly sensationalized the law, it had absolutely zero bearing on the actual court proceedings. None. If the law had never existed, the outcome would have been exactly the same since Zimmerman's defense didn't introduce it. This is the problem with uninformed people having opinions. So sad.
Sat Aug 24 2013 13:19
Ms. Crochet deserves credit for a well written article and reasonably lays our her opinions. Now, I think that she is very wrong on her opinions.
I live in Texas, so that is my observation base. The old saying ""If you shoot someone on the street, drag them into your house and call the police" has certainly been stated and probably used here. I have on several occasions heard it out of the mouths of on-duty police as a recommendation. Texas law only allows use of deadly force to protect property in a very narrow condition, many think too narrow. So, if you are being robbed and by the time you are prepared to "exercise force" the robber is in your window leaving with your money, can you shoot him? Well probably not legally, however, a short time earlier when he was actively in the confrontation you could. So, the real question on these events is "when does the threat start and when does the threat end" and is the "threat something that a reasonable person would believe is sever enough for deadly force". There are a variety of "rules of thumb" but in reality all cases are different and all juries are different. The basic principals have not changed since man started to live together.
The part of SYG law that is important is that the criminals family is prevented from using a civil suit to get revenge on the victim after a justifiable self defense event. Why should we let a gang members family ruin an honest person that was merely attempting to live thru the event. Even if the civil case is dismissed, the cost of defending your self in court will take everything you own, usually including your job and friends.
Just yesterday I read an article by a former Texas Assistant AG, that claimed her study of the cases since Texas Castle/SYG law was passed that the criminal verdict was affected in either direction by the law. So, at lease here, the Castle/SYG law has not made a change in who goes to jail. I have heard claims from others that make that representation in other states. So, my opinion is the SYG opposition is one more case of a political group creating an issue to fire up their base.
Fri Aug 23 2013 21:51
Ms. Crochet, if you are somewhere that you have a legal right to be and you are forced to defend yourself, why would you drag someone into your house? The question would be whether you REASONABLY believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. If you shoot someone other than in self defense and drag them into your house, it would still be murder. There is nothing in the Florida statutes that gives anyone permission to commit murder.

Why would folks, who are somewhere that they have a legal right to be, not have the same right to defend themselves that they would have in their home? The question really isn't about where you are. The question is whether your fear was REASONABLE.

The Zimmerman case was very strange. A lot of the national media seemed determined that Zimmerman would be convicted of murder no matter what the actual evidence showed.. Folks at NBC edited Zimmerman's call to the police to make Zimmerman appear to be a racist. Most of the media repeatedly showed a picture of Martin as a young teenager rather than a more recent picture of him as a 17 year old.. There was almost no mention of the fact that Martin was around 5' 11" and weighed around 158 pounds. No mention of the fact that Martin had the physique of a grown man. Or that in one year, he would have reached the age of maturity Florida law.

Martin was portrayed as a child who was murdered for no reason. If someone punches you in the nose knocking you to the ground and proceeds to beat the daylights out of you, that's assault and battery. If someone has you on the ground and is pounding on your head, that's deadly force. Apparently the jury concluded that Zimmerman's fear of being seriously hurt or killed was reasonable. That being the case, he was justified in using deadly force to defend himself. Should he have let a hoodlum beat him to death? The let himself to be beaten to death by a hoodlum? Actually the only illegal act that night was assault and battery committed by Martin.

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