Have We Become a Nation Of Executioners?
Handguns are increasingly available to criminal and to law abiding citizens. So I suppose the law makers are attempting to make it an even playing field by passing laws which empower individuals to take the law into their own hand. But the systematic skewing of the justice system to favor violence is a major factor which requires some type of discourse to grasp its method.
Let’s take a look back in time for a moment when Rodney King was the focus of media attention. It is safe to say that the events leading up to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, were by and large contributed to the verdict handed down in the case involving the police excessive use of force after detaining Rodney King. Even with the undisputed tapes, the jury was able to return an outrages verdict in that case. Then, February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman; a wantta be police officer, in Sanford, Florida. The fatal shooting of the 17-year old African America by then 28 year old “neighborhood watch security guard caused pandemonium and unrest through the United states and abroad in the international community.
The proceedings are the latest in a series of murder cases with claims of self-defense that have roiled Florida and garnered national attention. George Zimmerman, who identifies as Latino, was acquitted of murdering an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, during a confrontation on Feb. 26, 2012. Another case, involving a former police captain accused of killing a man in a movie theater after a dispute over texting, is working its way through the courts. As in the Zimmerman case, race has been a subtext in the Dunn trial. Prosecutors maintained that Dunn repeatedly shot at the black teenagers because they were playing their hip-hop music too loudly.
Most recently a jury has found Michael Dunn, the Florida man accused of shooting an unarmed teenager to death during a dispute over loud music, guilty of four charges, but the jury was unable to reach a decision on the top count, first-degree murder. Dunn, who is white, fired 10 shots into an SUV, killing Jordan Davis, 17, who was black. The shooting in a convenience store parking lot in Jacksonville erupted after Dunn asked the teenagers in the vehicle to turn down their music. Dunn was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into a vehicle in the Nov. 23, 2012, shooting. The jury couldn’t reach a decision on the first-degree murder charge, but convicted on the other four. Dunn contended he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors suggested that Dunn, 47, was angry because he was being disrespected by a young black man.
As we continue to reflect on the not-guilty verdict in the Travyon Martin case, the controversial law has come to the forefront for discussion. Street Justice has taken the time to deb into the matter a little further. So why don’t you make yourself comfortable as we check out the controversial, “Stand Your Ground Law”. A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. It is law in certain jurisdictions within the United States. The basis may lie in either statutory law or common law precedents or both. One key distinction is whether the concept applies only to defending lawfully occupied locations. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations, and the stand-your-ground law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention, and arrest. A defense, including an affirmative defense, is a fact or set of facts that may avoid or mitigate the adverse legal consequences of the defendant’s otherwise unlawful conduct.
The common law recognized two kinds of self-defense. Justifiable homicide protected a defendant who was, without any fault of his own, attacked by another. The doctrine evolved from questions about the legal guilt of an executioner. After all, the hangman or the axman intentionally takes a life. But he was “justified,” medieval courts held, because the king ordered him to do it. What then of the innocent victim who fights back against an attacker and kills? Well, the fiction grew up that the victim was also the king’s executioner—a “true man” in the legal sense—meaning not a manly man but, in the words of theOxford English Dictionary, “an honest man (as distinguished from a thief or other criminal).”
But there was another offense at common law, called “chance-medley.” That offense occurred when two people got into an avoidable quarrel—in a pub, say—that graduated to violence. These quarrels could easily escalate. If one party to a chance-medley attacked the other, the person attacked might end up with the choice of killing or being killed. When the party attacked killed the attacker, he or she might claim self-defense—but only when the evidence showed that the eventual killer had tried to break off the encounter, or “retreat.” Even then, the killer was not justified but merely “excused.” Sir William Blackstone, writing in the 1770s, explained that “the law sets so high a value upon the life of a man that it always intends some misbehavior in the person who takes it away, unless by the command or express permission of the law.” Under that rule, a defendant who provoked and pursued a quarrel until it became violent couldn’t then claim “self-defense”—that was not being “true” in the legal sense.
Congress finally passed the law in 2005 and gun lobbyist flexed their prowess to show how much influence they have in the political process in this country. The Stand Your Ground Law sometimes referred to as the “Shoot First” law by detractors – singled handedly changed the definition of self-defense throughout the United States.
Before a person had to retreat from what they perceived to be a threat of deadly force. The Stand Your Ground Law removes that stipulation entirely. Which basically means a citizen no longer has to remove himself from a situation or flee for safety before he decides to retaliate. Which on the surface translates to, “You can’t get your ass beat in an altercation that you initiate and then pull out a gun once the other guy gets the upper hand.”
Just think of what would happen if individuals were extended the permission to take the law into their own hand, by virtue of making rash decisions in the heat of rage. I mean in my honest opinion, the streets wouldn’t be safe. Is this what the United States has become, “A Nation of Executioner’s?”
Article Written by Maestro March 5, 2014
Stand Your Ground Law definition taken from: Wikipedia
Oxford English Dictionary