Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The New Wild West

The twisted logic of the Iraq War is now coming home to roost. Yesterday, the Florida legislature passed a bill allowing people to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief that they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. The so-called "stand your ground" bill is on its way to Governor Jeb Bush who is expected to sign it. (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/06/1421202)

It is one thing to kill an intruder who comes into your home. It is quite another to murder someone out on the streets.

While this law may have superficial appeal, the long-term consequences cannot be understated. Can this law serve as a defense to a murder charge? Will a white man walking down the street be permitted to kill a black man on the ground that he reasonably believed the black man to appear menacing? What happens to the innocent bystanders? Do they have recourse against the person who uses his or her fear as a justification for lawlessness?

This isn't about gun rights. This is about peace and order in society.

7 Comments:

At 11:37 AM, April 06, 2005 , Anonymous Rich said...

This is so crazy! The trouble with the law is what standard will they use to judge who is in danger of death? The reasonable person standard is a joke. One person's working middle class neighborhood is another person's GHETTO.

This is a bad proposal and will lead to much needless bloodshed because there are those who will be more likely to use violence if thye know of this law. I hope it's defeated.

 
At 3:47 PM, April 06, 2005 , Anonymous sctrojan95 said...

Have they defined the elements constituting "reasonable belief"? If they are substantially the same standard as that used when someone intrudes your home, is this necessarily bad legislation? Why should you not be entitled to the same ability to protect yourself with lethal force if you are walking on the street than as if you are sitting in your La-Z-Boy recliner at home? To me, the intent of this legislation is similar to the concealed weapons legislation ... i.e. in theory, it's supposed to be a deterrent to violence, but in practice, well, unfortunately, you have idiots "exercising" their new right. I think this legislation is unnecessary ... would any jury really convict someone if he/she killed someone while defending him/herself from deadly force?

Then again, we had a case here in MA last year (or the year before) where Alexander Pring-Wilson, a Harvard grad student alleging he was defending himself in a fight with two men on a Cambridge street when he stabbed and killed one of his attackers, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 6-8. There were allegations that Pring-Wilson had been the aggressor, however, the only other witnesses to the fight were friends and the girlfriend of the victim. The second attacker was out on parole from a prior conviction on assault charges. So, was Pring-Wilson rightly or wrongly convicted? Would this legislation have prevented Pring-Wilson from being convicted?

 
At 4:17 PM, April 06, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Self-defense is already recognized as a defense to many criminal charges, so this bill is unnecessary. And, that's not what it is about.

I don't know if there is a definition of "reasonable belief", but as any lawyer knows, that is an impossible phrase to pin down.

 
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