"Stand Your Ground" Laws Create More Problems Than They Solve & Encourage Vigilantism
Debate Rounds (4)
This is the question that I'm posing:
Are "Stand Your Ground" Laws in the U.S. effective at establishing law and order or do they condone violence & vigilantism (sometimes against innocent people) and create more problems than they solve?
This is the resolution that I will be defending as Pro: "Stand Your Ground" Laws create more problems than they solve & encourage vigilantism.
I will be defending this position using actual court cases and reported examples where "Stand Your Ground" Laws were used against an alleged law-breaking perpetrator. I will show that these Laws frequently infringe on the legal rights of the accused and make a mess of standing common & civil laws.
I will effectively show that "Stand Your Ground" Laws invite more problems than they solve, by legally permitting people to bypass the police and take matters into their own hands. Rather than urging people to seek out immediate safety during a possible criminal act, these laws condone citizen vigilantism and increase the likelihood of gratuitous injury and death, for both the victim and the alleged criminal.
Important Distinction: "Stand Your Ground" Laws should not be confused with "U.S. Castle Doctrine", which states a person has no duty to retreat when his home is under attack. "Stand Your Ground" Laws go futher, by stating that a person has no duty or requirement to abandon any location he has a right to be, to give up ground to an assailant .
In other words, such laws do not place responsibility and priority to get to safety on a potential victim, but permits him to stand his ground and fight during a possible criminal act; they also provide the victim with immunity from prosecution if the alleged criminal should be injured or killed during an act of self-defense .
"Stand Your Ground" Laws are therefore opposed to "Duty to Retreat" Laws, which state "a person must retreat from a situation if he feels threatened; the use of deadly force against a perpetrator is only justified as a last resort option" .
My opponent will oppose the resolution and show that "Stand Your Ground" Laws are primarily beneficial.
In ROUND 1 my opponent will accept the debate and briefly explain what his goals are in defending his position.
List of important terms:
"Stand Your Ground" Laws
"Duty to Retreat" Laws
I thank my gracious opponent for beginning this debate, and I have no doubt it will be engaging and interesting.
My resolution states: Stand Your Ground Laws as applied in states like Florida, while not flawless, are far superior to any alternatives, including Duty to Retreat.
I will argue that the requirement of non-engagmenet of the SYG laws invalidates the claim that the laws encourage vigilante. I will further intone that "Duty to Retreat" asks the defendant in a trial not only to prove their own innocence, violating the most sacred tenant of the legal system, but demands they do so by proving a negative; namely, that there was no path by which to escape.
To more specifically define SYG, here are the contentions of the system and what they imply for its justice or lack thereof.
1. Defendant must not begin the engagement
As I alluded to above, to properly use the SYG law, the shooter must for one, not initiated the conflict, but also must not have been searching for the deceased or "looking for trouble". This is why the law does not in an way condone vigilante justice, as to do so would be to violate the requirements of the law, and render the defense untenable.
2. Defendant's life must be facing an immediate threat
In order to justify shooting an attacker, the shooter must be facing an imminent threat, or show that they believed they were facing death or extreme bodily harm. This further challenges the idea of vigilante justice, because a vigilante does not face harm, but instead threatens it, and such a person would most likely be convicted of the crime accused.
3. Excessive Force Cannot Be Administered
Should a threat be neutralized, such as a non-fatal shot, a defendant may absolutely not cause further injury or execute the wounded person. It the prosecution in a case can prove that the accused did utilize excessive response, then the defense will not stand.
The only substantial difference between SYG and Duty to Retreat is that someone whose life is threatened need not worry about whether they have sufficiently retreated to satisfy the needs of a jury who was not there, and whose lives were not in danger. SYG saves lives of good people, Duty to Retreat puts them at risk, then punishes them should they survive,
This will be my gambit. Best of luck to my opponent.
First of all, I want to thank my courageous opponent Ameliamk1 for accepting this debate. As with other debates I've argued on debate.org, I intend this to be an eye-opening experience for the two of us and the readers, about what "Stand Your Ground" Laws mean and their implementation in real life cases, and their impact on our communities, on homicide rates, and on crime.
When can "Stand Your Ground" Defense be used inside the Courtroom or for immunity from prosecution?
In ROUND 1 my opponent provides 3 specifications that must be met in order for someone to successfully invoke "Stand Your Ground" defense in the courtroom or immunity from prosecution after using deadly/excessive force on a victim (the alleged criminal).
Let's go over his list of specifications:
"1. Defendant must not begin the engagement...the shooter must for one, not [have] initiated the conflict, but also must not have been searching for the deceased or 'looking for trouble'."
The first condition my opponent offers in specification 1--"the shooter must...not [have] initiated the conflict"--does appear to apply to almost all valid legal interpretations of "Stand Your Ground" defense and immunity in states that have implemented these laws. However, in many cases who instigated the conflict cannot be verified, because the only witness of the altercation was killed. Additionally, exceptions to this specification do exist.
For example, in March of 2012, Ralph Wald, a 70-year old Florida man, walked into his home and saw his wife having sex with a young man. Ralph Wald, who suffers from erecticle dysfunction and who prosecutors claim was driven into a jealous rage, then shot and killed the man with his .38-caliber revolver. He was successfully acquited of murder charges after he invoked Florida's stand-your-ground Law and claimed he thought the man was an intruder who was raping his wife . The man that was killed, Walter Conley, had not instigated a fight with Wald; his wife claimed she was drunk during her moment of infidelity .
In 2008, in West Palm Beach, Florida, 19-year-old Tony Hayward was delivering newspapers with his father and drove into a grocery store parking lot. That's when Tony Hayward pulled out a gun a shot and killed a pedestrian who he claimed was reaching for a gun. Investigators found no gun on or near the victim's body. Hayward, who had previously been in jail on suspicion of a shooting, invoked stand-your-ground defense and claimed he feared for his life . The jury acquited Hayward, despite the fact that there was no physical altercation before the shooting .
So clearly there are exceptions to the first specification my opponent states. There are numerous other cases such as these where the shooter was the person who instigated the attack out of "reasonable fear" and then invoked stand-your-ground defense. In fact, gang members and drug dealers are successfully invoking stand-your-ground defense to be acquited in court or to obtain immunity from prosecution . This is because "Stand Your Ground" Laws, like the one in Florida, place the burden on the prosecution to first disprove a claim of reasonable self-defense before they can file charges, rather than disproving the claim during the trial, like in other states . The Florida state attorney who led the prosecution in the George Zimmerman case, in which the defendant killed an unarmed teenager, explains that stand-your-ground cases are far more burdensome, "more difficult than a normal criminal case" just to bring charges forward .
Says Florida assistant state attorney Pete Margrino: "Before this ridiculous law, fact-driven circumstances were presented in court and a jury decided. Now, it doesn't even get to that point" .
In 2008, for example, a Florida judge granted immunity to reputed gang member Jeffrey Brown, 23, in the killing of a 15-year-old boy during a gang shootout in Tallahassee, after Brown invoked stand-your-ground defense on the basis of reasonable fear .
Eugene Volokh, professor at UCLA School of Law, explains "'stand your ground' simply means that, if you reasonably believe that you face imminent death, serious bodily injury, rape, kidnapping, or (in most states) robbery, you can use deadly force against the assailant, even if you have a perfectly safe avenue of retreat" .
My opponents list of three specifications for "Stand Your Ground" laws are his--they're not requirements the legal system uses to determine when "Stand Your Ground" defense or immunity can be used. The only real condition that must be met to invoke "Stand Your Ground" law is "reasonable fear", as we shall see .
Now lets look at that other condition in specification 1 my opponent claims must be satisfied:
"1. ...the shooter must for one, not [have] initiated the conflict, but also must not have been searching for the deceased or 'looking for trouble'."
Nope. This definitely isn't true. In many cases those that have invoked "Stand Your Ground" Law have intentionally searched out those who provoked reasonable fear in them, because the Law permits them to go wherever they choose and doesn't require them to retreat.
In January of 2012, for example, Greyston Garcia, 26, was inside his apartment in Miami when he saw Pedro Roteta stealing the stereo in his truck. Garcia grabbed a kitchen knife and chased after Roteta on foot for about a block. When he caught up, surveillance cameras show Roteta swinging a bag of stolen stereos at him . Garcia fatally stabbed Roteta in the chest, left him dying in the street, grabbed the bag of stereos, went home, hid the knife and fell to sleep; he then sold two of the stereos .
Garcia was arrested and charged with second degree murder, but he claimed his actions were taken in self-defense as defined by Florida's stand-your-ground law . In March of that year, a judge ruled that Garcia acted within the law, because he could have been killed or seriously injured when Roteta swung the bag of stereos at him; he was set free . Later, state prosecutors tried to appeal that decision, but were unsuccessful .
Now, let's look at my opponent's second requirement for valid use of "Stand Your Ground" Law.
"2. Defendant's life must be facing an immediate threat. In order to justify shooting an attacker, the shooter must be facing an imminent threat, or show that they believed they were facing death or extreme bodily harm."
Well, this is kind of true. But again, the nature of the threat can be quite broad and open to interpretation. Yes, in order for "Stand Your Ground" to be successfully invoked the defendant needs to provide an explanation that he reasonably feared for his life [or his property], but it turns out the threat only has to exist in the defendant's head.
For example, in June of 2009, Florida state attorney Pete Magrino was forced into not filing charges against Oscar Delbono, 53, after the man shot and killed Shane Huse over a dog dispute, while Huse's two children were waiting for him in a car nearby . Delbono invoked stand-your-ground immunity and claimed he feared for life, believing that Huse was walking away to retrieve a gun . Forensics showed that Huse was shot from the back . But because Delbono claimed reasonable fear and invoked stand-your-ground immunity, Magrino was forced to abandon charges .
"It is a tragic, unfortunate set of circumstances that occurred, but given the state of the law there's no...prosecution," wrote Pete Magrino in his legal decision .
Now, let's look at my opponent's third and final requirement for the valid use of "Stand Your Ground" Law.
"3. Excessive Force Cannot Be Administered. Should a threat be neutralized, such as a non-fatal shot, a defendant may absolutely not cause further injury or execute the wounded person."
This is completely false. The truth is "Stand Your Ground" cases are full of incidences where excessive and disproportionate force has been used, such as in some of the examples I just cited.
Here's another example of excessive/disproportionate use of force.
In Texas in 2007, a man named Joe Horn corraled two burglars outside his home and killed them on his front lawn . Texas had enacted its own "Stand Your Ground" Law earlier that year, which Horn had a clear understanding of and which he discussed with a dispatcher just before he went outside and shot the men .
A Texas grand jury refused to bring charges against Horn .
In Florida in 2006, two neighbors had a verbal argument over filled trash bags which one of them placed on the sidewalk curb. One of the neighbors claimed that during the dispute the other entered his home so he shot him; the wounded neighbor survived and disputes this allegation but was unable to file charges when the shooter invoked "Stand-Your-Ground" immunity !
Says Mr. Rosenbloom, the wounded neighbor: "I was no threat. I had no weapon. He had a gun. He didn’t even say a word . . . he fired once into my stomach. I bent over, and he shot me in the chest." .
Now, there is little doubt that all components of the legal system system has been and is being abused, or at the very least causing very morally ambiguous situations, and Pro points out several of these. It seems to me however, that examples forming such anecdotal evidence does not make the case; for example, here is an abuse and wrongful convictions resulting from Duty to Retreat. (1) No, I will be focusing instead on the philosophical and legal prerogatives and ramifications of both systems, and work to show conclusively that the SYG self-defense law is superior to its alternatives.
Additionally, before I begin, all my tenants listed in the acceptance round is what the law states. My opponent claims, for example, that the law does not hold that a defendant must not have started the confrontation, nor perpetuated it. This is not true, and here is a link to the Florida statue for reference. (2) Just because there have been exceptions, or false acquittals, does not invalidate the terminology within the law.
Part 1: Duty to Retreat
C1: An Unreasonable Expectation
May I emphasize, as I did in the opening round, that SYG and DTT are very similar in concept, in that they have all the same requirements and expectations. Except, of course, for the expectation that him whose life is wrongly threatened must fall back, and cannot shoot until there is no escape left, and this is where the law fails.
By forcing a defendant to have no reasonable method of escape, the justice system is placing an incredible burden on the accused; they are expected to prove their own innocence, and do so by proving a negative, which is inherently impossible. All a prosecutor need do is show that the defendant could have, by some strange contrivance, escaped. There is simply no limit to the abuse this invites on the part of the prosecution. To commit a "justifiable homicide" under DTT, one must literally have their back against the wall, lest they have a single path of escape, in which case they are legally guilty of murder.
C2: The Charge of Murder
I would further question whether a murder charge is fair given the circumstances of self-defense cases. Imagine this scenario: your life is under great threat, and you are alone in, say, a parking garage and it is dark. As your potential attacker emerges from the darkness, you shoot him. Let's say here that you may have acted too brashly, and shot too early. I must ask: is the person in this situation guilty of murder "Second-degree murder is an intentional murder with malice aforethought." (3). Almost every case brought to trial under DTT involves someone who shot prematurely, who perhaps was especially frightened or in a particularly bad position. No malice is involved in this, and yet murder would be the charge, which could carry a life sentence or worse. I would submit that every time a self-defense shooter would be charged with murder under DTT, it would be an injustice far greater than that which resulted in the dead or wounded criminal.
C3: Qui Bono?
From Caesar's famous defense of Roscius of Amerino, "qui bono" is the question that must be asked in every legal matter. Who benefits. And the bankrupt philosophy of DTT takes the advantage away from the innocent, and places protection onto the criminal trying to commit murder or a brutal assault or rape. By requiring a retreat in the face of a death threat, a potential victims is forced to give ground, and not shoot for fear of being a murderer. Meanwhile, the would-be murderer is under no such constraint. They may move as they please, and will act upon their premeditated malice while the victim is much less likely to. Under SYG, all precedence is given to the innocent whose life is under a very real, reasonable threat. And if this means more dead criminals, so be it. (4) As stated in the comments, I would rather see 10 potential murderers killed because of SYG then see one innocent person killed as a result of DTT. Simply put, SYG acts to discourage criminals from committing crimes, while DTT discourages civilians from defending themselves. "The bad people are armed. They stand their ground. Good people must be able to do so as well."
Part 2: Vigilanteism
A vigilante is defined as "a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority". Hence, someone who wishes to take justice into their own hands by hunting down criminals. MY opponent, while not really mentioning this part of the resolution in his own round, does claim that SYG encourages this practice. However, almost every tenant of the law serves to debase this slightly fatuous idea.
As cited above, SYG is considered unusable should the shooter have begun a lethal conflict or greatly increased the tension. (5) By the very definition of a vigilante, one who seeks out what they consider to be a threat to the community, SYG would not be an acceptable nor successful claim. "The justifications for use of force will also not apply where the evidence establishes that the defendant initially provoked violence against him- or herself." (6)
C2: Shooter Must Act Reasonably
Among the limitations on SYG is that the defendant must have acted objectively and subjectively reasonable, as well as have confined themselves to an acceptable level of force; if a jury determines otherwise, the verdict will be guilty in most cases. A vigilante would rarely fit this definition, or adhere to this requirement, and thus render the SYG defense useless. Similarly, applying what is seen as "excessive force" will additionally disqualify the defense.
C3: Shooter Must Be Facing Imminent Threat
"Death or extreme bodily harm" is danger that a one is expected to face before using lethal force, and again, the threat must be objectively and subjectively serious. One who seeks out a criminal for a bizarre act of justice or pursues someone is not facing peril, and thus does not conform to this standard.
In conclusion, SYG does not support, encourage, or condone civilian reprisal, and this part of the resolution is utterly void.
P3: Abuses of SYG
My opponent lists and tells the story of very controversial and often simply obscene uses of SYG, which does bring up some ambiguous circumstances. However, exceptions are not rules. For example, the Insanity Plea is abused to hell and back, and yet it is still a very important component of our justice system. (7) In comparison, the ability to stand one's ground to defend their life or the life of someone nearby is unimaginably sacred, and cannot and should not be stripped by any state.
Pro seems to be under the impression that people wish to shoot at their attackers. "you can use deadly force against the assailant, even if you have a perfectly safe avenue of retreat." Believe me, if someone has a secure method of exit, they will take it. DTT wrongly assumes that people don't want to escape. Simply because they choose to fight rather than try to run at their own risk doesn't make them murderers, and the idea that it does is puerile.
To conclude, were the resolution "SYG is perfect:", then Pro would have a strong case, but he does't just have to prove that SYG causes evil, but that it does more harm than good, which it seems to me he is yet to even address, as well as the other section of his contention, vigilanteism. With that said, I look forward to my opponent's next entry.
Refuting my Opponent's ROUND 2 Arguments
However, he mistakenly argues that the 3 requisites for the justifiable use of deadly force he layed out in ROUND 1 are true, and he provides a link to the 2013 Florida Statutes and Constitution webpage, which goes over the justifiable use of force & deadly force a person is permitted to use inside one's home to protect himself and his property--but this is the state's Castle Doctrine (titled Chapter 776: statute 776.013)--not all of the state's "Stand Your Ground" Law .
But here it explains that deadly force is justified so long as the homeowner or resident has "reasonable fear" of being killed or of sustaining great bodily harm by an unlawful (forceful, unwelcomed) intruder . There is no stipulation that the homeowner/resident can't chase after the intruder even outside his home; there is no stipulation that the homeowner/resident can't use excessive force (including deadly force) when he's gripped by the fear that he might sustain injury or be killed by the intruder.
In fact, the only condition that has to be met for the justifiable use of deadly force in this statue is that the homeowner/resident has to be gripped by "reasonable fear" that he may be injured or killed by the intruder . This is Castle Doctrine.
Advantageously this website also has the complete statute on Florida's SYG Law. I'm posting an expanded viewing of Florida's Chapter 776 so that you can browse through it:
Browsing through this Law, we find that there is a condition that generally upholds the first part of of my opponent's first requirement: "1. Defendant must not begin the engagement."
776.041: The use of force and deadly force is not justified by a person who "(1) is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; (2) initially provokes the use of force against himself, unless..." . The Florida Law then list exceptions.
So from these conditions it becomes clear that the first part of my opponent's requirement seems true: a person who provokes the use of force against himself is not justified in returning force, including deadly force; neither are those that have commited or are in the act of committing a felony . Well, it makes sense that a person commiting a felony shouldn't have the legal authority to use force and deadly force. But the Florida Law on provocation gets really complex by providing exceptions:
776.041: The use of force and deadly force is not justified by a person who "(2) initially provokes the use of force against himself, unless (a) such force [inflicted by the other person] 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 reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force...; (b) in good faith, the [provoker] withdrawals from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force" .
Did you just read what I read?! In other words, the person who provokes the conflict can use force, including deadly force, if he feels he will sustain bodily injury or be killed by the other person (the person he provoked) during the fight . So as you can see, the person who provoked the conflict can use deadly force under Florida Law, so long as he believes he will sustain bodily injury or be killed during the fight .
So who's in the legal right in these types of cases? Well this is precisely why judges and lawyers say that it's difficult to distinguish the victim from the criminal in "Stand Your Ground" cases. Statute 776.012 in the Law clearly states: "a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat 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" .
Well, as you can plainly see, SYG Laws, like the one in Florida, legally justify dueling it out on the street to the point of death so long as someone feels their life is in danger or that they'll sustain bodily harm by the other person . THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT A BAD LAW LOOKS LIKE. There's very little clarity, the level of civil liability is reduced with these laws, they fail to protect people's individual rights, and they condone violent killing on the streets. Life-affirming legal order goes out the window.
As for the second part of my opponent's first point--"1. ...the shooter [or victim] . . . must not [go] searching for the [person he injures/kills]"--Florida Law has this to say in statute 776.031: a "person is justified in the use of deadly force...if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be" . In other words a person has the right to use deadly force to prevent the successful execution of a forcible felony, and what is a forcible felony?
Statute 776.08: "'Forcible felony' means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual" . In other words, a person has the right to chase after a person and use deadly force when the person has commited a crime that will usually result in at least a one-year prison sentence and that is carried out forcibly .
Here we find that, beside the "reasonable fear" of bodily harm and death, there are other reasons why deadly force can be used. Many of these reasons make sense, such as firing upon someone that's commiting murder, sexual battery, home-invasion, robbery, arson, kidnapping, but we find that many states without SYG Laws already permit the use of deadly force during the commission of these crimes, so SYG Laws clearly aren't needed . For example, in the states of New York and California, which don't have SYG Laws and require a person to retreat in public when his life's in danger--if at all possible--don't require a person to retreat inside his home and permit him to use deadly force against an unlawful intruder; these states also permit people to use deadly force against persons who are commiting a kidnapping, rape, robbery, burglary, or arson (an exception exist for California, that does not allow deadly force for simple burglary) .
So SYG Laws simply aren't needed for someone to stop these crimes while they're happening.
In ROUND 2, I pointed out that my opponent's 2nd requirement--2. Defendant's life must be facing an immediate threat--is generally true, but known exceptions do exist. Furthermore, the "immediate threat" only has to exist in the aggressor's/defendant's head, such as in the example of 53-year-old Oscar Delbono, who shot and killed Shane Huse while his back was turned and while his children were waiting in a car a few yards away . Shane Huse hadn't trespassed, but Delbono believed he was going to his home to retrieve a gun after they got in a vocal argument outside of Delbono's yard .
Because Delbono claimed reasonable fear and invoked stand-your-ground immunity, FL state attorney Pete Magrino was forced to abandon charges ; the FL Law places the burden on the prosecution to first disprove a claim of reasonable self-defense before they can file charges and before the trial even begins, unlike in other states that don't have "Stand Your Ground" immunity .
This law creates a significant headache and an additional, often-insurmountable burden for prosecutors like Magrino and others that are trying to successfully bring criminals, gang-bangers, & drug dealers to justice .
My opponent's 3rd requirement--3. Excessive Force Cannot Be Administered--is absolute nonsense, as I demonstrated in ROUND 2. As I have also shown in this ROUND, excessive force, as in deadly force, is permitted and written into SYG Law, so long as as the aggressor/defendant is gripped by a subjective "reasonable fear" that he will be killed or injured .
We don't need SYG Laws so that people can reasonably defend themselves.
SYG Laws Effect on Homicide Rates & Crime
SYG Laws remove civil liability and increase acts of citizen vigilantism; this is driving homicide rates up in state's that have passed SYG Laws.
A 2012 study conducted by Texas A&M University showed that SYG Laws have actually increased the nation's homicide rate and that they do nothing to deter crime. The study found that states that have implemented SYG Laws have seen a 7 to 9 percent increase in the homicide rate (on average, an additional 600 homicides per year across these states) .
"Our study finds that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn't pass the laws over the same time period," says researcher Mark Hoestra, one of the study coordinators ."
The researchers concluded that, even though these laws were passed with the intention of stopping a violent act, they actually increase them, because they remove civil liability and reduce the legal consequences of using lethal force .
"The imperfect but growing evidence...suggest that the consequences of adopting stand your ground laws are pernicious, in that they may lead to a greater number of homicides--thus going against the notion that they are serving some sort of protective function for society," Hoekstra said .
The study also found that SYG Laws provide no deterrence against crime .
(SYG = "Stand Your Ground")
Ameliamk1 forfeited this round.
In ROUND 2, my opponent makes the argument that we cannot expect laws to be perfect, and so it is wrong to judge "Stand Your Ground" Laws on the presumption that they must be perfect. I actually agree with this conclusion. Few laws in our nation--or in any nation for that matter--are perfect. For example, the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the defendant a speedy and public trial, to be held before an impartial jury, which shall return a final verdict(s) at the conclusion of the trial . It's unmistakeable that juries have returned faulty verdicts in the past, based on falacious or unsound reasoning, but this is a critical component of U.S. judicial system, and it was enacted to make trials fair and effective at getting at the truth, all while maintaining the presumed innocence of the accused . Even more, this amendment was ratified into the U.S. Constitution because the Founding Fathers realized that it was better than the judicial methods that had preceded it, where alleged criminals were incarcerated for long periods of time without first being tried in the courts and where court costs prevented some trials from even taking place ; it had a net positive impact on American life.
And, in fact, this is the criteria that we should be using when we judge a law as citizens: Does the law have a net positive impact on American life? Is it better than what preceded it?
For Bob Jarvis, a Florida law professor at Nova Southeastern University, this is a question that seriously has to be asked of SYG Laws, like the one in his state. "There will be mistakes made in the interpretation of this and any other law, and that's why we have appeals courts. The question is, are so many cases coming up with questionable results that the law has to be scrapped? That's a very legitimate question to ask: whether the law is so imperfect that you've got to get rid of it" .
Undoubtedly, some of the complaints that can be leveled at SYG Laws can be chalked up to human error and poor jury decisions, or on human resistance/stubborness on part of grand juries. But when laws are passed in the states, they have an obligation to coordinate with federal laws already on the books and with any human element that the law states must be part of the process, such as juries, which are guaranteed by 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendements .
I've already demonstrated that Florida's SYG Law is written so that it allows the use of deadly force, either by the agitator or agitated, so long as a "reasonable fear" is present in a person's mind that his life will be taken from him or that he will endure great bodily injury. Is it asking too much of juries to place the burden on them to clarify this daunting ambiguity in the law and determine who's in the right? And what of judges, who can provide SYG immunity?
I think the answer to both of these questions is an emphatic "yes". I think the problem with SYG Laws is that they permit people to stand their ground and do not place a priority on retreating, if possible, when they feel their life is in danger. When the law tells people they can stand their ground in a public place, some people will, and the sense of civil liability and the clarity between victim and assailant in these incidences will go out the window.
In the previous ROUNDS, I have cited specific cases to demonstrate the senselessness found in SYG Laws. Now we'll review alternative reasons why SYG Laws should be repealed.
Criminals are exploiting SYG immunity to avoid prosecution
In SYG states like Florida, where the burden is on prosecutors to first disprove a claim of reasonable self-defense--SYG immunity--before they can file charges and hold a criminal trial, criminals are avoiding justice and getting away with murder . In fact, some people who are legally permitted to carry a gun and who claimed to have used it in self-defence--and who's story was corroborated by witnesses--have gone to prison even while killers with more outrageous, uncorroborated self-defense claims have walked free. The key difference: those that are avoiding prison time (and in many cases, who are not even seeing the inside of a courtroom) have invoked stand-your-ground immunity or defense .
Take Bryan Sellers who was 23 when he shot his drunken stepfather to prevent him from physically attacking his mother. Sellers even pressed a towel against the injured man's neck while they waited for the paramedics to show up at their Orlando home . He had no criminal record and was legally permitted to carry a concealed handgun . His mother even later swore she was afraid her husband was going to kill her .
Yet because he never invoked the state's stand-your-ground law at trial, he was convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm and given a 20-year prison sentence , even while killers with more outrageous self-defense claims and who have invoked the state's SYG Law have walked free--in many instances, even managing to avoid a criminal trial . The list of people that have avoided prosecution includes serial criminals, drug dealers, and feuding gang members, many with a well-established record of gun violence .
This the headache that prosecutors like Pete Magrino gripe about .
White-on-black homicides are 354 times more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white homicides
Look at the subtitle of this section. Read it carefully. "White-on-black homicides are 354 times more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white homicides." I'll rephrase it in case you missed it: When the killer is white and the victim is black, it's 354 times more likely to be ruled justified than when the killer and victim are both white . Now you see it!
And it's true according to a study conducted by the Urban Institute . Racial bias is clearly at play when juries and judges consider stand-your-ground defenses . Looking at it from different angles, in cases involving either a black or hispanic victim, the killings were found justified by SYG Law 78% of the time; in cases involving a white victim, the killings were found justified by SYG Law 56% of the time .
In a related study conducted by the Congressional Research Service not looking specifically at SYG Laws, a huge disparity was found in successful conviction rates between different categories of inter-racial shootings; the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is now evaluating the role that race plays in SYG Laws .
SYG Immunity/Defense are triumphantly being used in the legal system for the most flimsiest self-defense reasons
In Arizona earlier this year, police officers opted not to charge a man who shot dead a fellow customer at Walmart, after the armed man and the shopper got into a heated argument at the service counter . The shooter, Cyle Quadlin, invoked Arizona's stand-your-ground immunity, which factored into the decision made by police; surveillance videos show Quadlin and the now dead man, Belinte Chee, duking it out at the service counter immediately after the argument . Quandlin was losing the fight and that's when he shot dead Chee, claiming self-defense .
This is just additional evidence that SYG Laws are negatively impacting the country and reducing the sense of civil liability, which is fostering an environment conducive to vigilantism.
In 2008, a Florida man shot and killed two 24-year-olds after he got into an argument with them at South Florida's Chillis restaurant. According to witnesses, the man, Gabriel Mobley, went back to his car to retrieve a gun and returned to shoot Rolando Carranza and Jason Gonzalez, who he believed were carrying guns . Police found no guns or weapons on either man .
Mobley was charged with second-degree murder and his trial judge felt he wasn't protected by the state's SYG Law, since he returned to his car to retrieve a gun, but a 2-1 appellate court decision overturned that ruling, granting Mobley the state's SYG immunity .
Other studies shows that SYG Laws are driving homicide rates up
Besides a Texas A&M University study I cited in the previous ROUND showing homicide rates going up across SYG states, additional studies show a replicated trend. An analysis of death certificates before and after SYG Laws were passed in different states, conducted by Georgia State University, found that states that passed the Law ended up with higher homicide rates . That study's analysis found that the additional deaths were concentrated among white men .
Independent analysis performed by Standford Law Professor John Donahue, who has been studying crime and violence for several decades, matches the results found in the Texas A&M University study .
(SYG = "Stand Your Ground")
(R = Round, S = Source)
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ROUND 3 Sources:
6 (R 2, S 7)
7 (R 2, S 3)
8 (R 2, S 5)
Ameliamk1 forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Despite an interesting debate, the two forfeits sink Con's case, especially as Pro uses those two rounds extensively. Without them, Pro easily takes the debate.
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