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Comment count is 29
Accidie - 2013-08-22

I just heard one long fart noise.

Bort - 2013-08-22

If it weren't for Trayvon Martin, that nice George Zimmerman's life wouldn't have been turned upside down.

cognitivedissonance - 2013-08-22

He got in one little fight and his mom got scared.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

Normally, I wouldn't ask a question like this on the internet, because we all know the level of discourse one expects to find online. But PoE is a really smart community, and I respect all of your opinions (even twatwaffles like Change! j/k brohoof). We here tend to be brighter, more mature, or at the very least more amusing than your average internet-addicted sociopathic dorks. If anyone can help me sort this out, it's you guys. So... what, exactly, is wrong with Stand Your Ground?

I'm not sure of the precise wording of this law. But it's my understanding that Florida's Stand Your Ground law states, in effect, that people who use a gun in self-defense are presumed to have done so *in self-defense*, and the burden of proof in such cases is on the police to show that the suspects acted without proper cause. In other words, the police can't simply arrest and convict you for murder, unless they can show that you've actually committed a murder. It's not on you to prove your own innocence, it's on the authorities to prove your guilt. This law simply restates the principle of presumption of innocence.

Frankly, I don't even see why you'd need a law like that in the first place, presumption of innocence being the single most critical facet of our legal system. It's true that these days, certain legal cases (Zimmerman, OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, etc) receive a "trial by media" in which the defendant is considered guilty until proven innocent, and lynched in effigy by the mob because, well, because it's fun and it brings ratings and we ALL KNOW OJ DID IT. In this sense, I guess one could argue that presumption of innocence is already dead, an archaic reminder of a time before society became truly civilized, thanks to the efforts of our increasingly sophisticated security state. But media trials are not legally binding, and regardless of how convinced the rest of us are that a given celebrity convict is guilty, actual jurisprudence still comes down to the old, boring standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Is there something I'm missing here?

Now I agree with the majority decision that Zimmerman is a cunt. He's a petty martinet who should not have killed Trayvon, and the entire affair was a tragedy from start to finish. But the law, as I understand it, is perfectly reasonable.

Just as a thought experiment, consider: what if the situation had been reversed? What if Trayvon had managed to get the gun away from Zimmerman, and shot the bastard dead? Would we be still be happy throwing out the law? Should the police have declared Trayvon a murderer at the scene, and left it to his public defender to prove Trayvon's innocence (which we all know wouldn't have happened, not in our legal system, not with Trayvon being young and black)? Had Trayvon killed Zimmerman that night, should he have been sent to prison for life, because a paranoid society was beginning to make exceptions to the principle of presumption of innocence?

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

If it's just "we want to ban all guns", then the least we can do is say so directly.

Bort - 2013-08-22

In states where there is no "Stand Your Ground" law in effect, the expectation is that, if you can safely retreat from a conflict, you are obligated to do that rather than use deadly force. "Stand Your Ground" takes that duty away, so it grants license to the dumbest, most violent fuckers to take things to their most violent conclusions.

It also makes it tougher to prove murder: all you have to do is claim you were in fear for your life, and rather than disengage when you had the chance, you chose to kill the other guy.

This is about the circumstances under which lethal force is legally allowed. Not everything is about "we want to ban all guns"; in fact, almost nothing is about "we want to ban all guns". Your knee is jerking in exactly the least plausible direction with that.

Bort - 2013-08-22

About your thought experiment: it depends on the details. If Martin had grabbed Zimmerman's gun, backed away from him, and shot him to death while he was still on the ground, that would probably have been justified under Stand Your Ground, assuming Martin were white of course. But in states without Stand Your Ground, that would have been some flavor of murder / manslaughter, depending. In the sane states, the courts would recognize that Martin had a clear opportunity to flee without any fatalities, and it would have been Martin's duty to flee rather than fire. And as to what I'd think: if you have the opportunity to flee rather than take a life, that's what you should do. I wouldn't have wept much for George Zimmerman -- a would-be petty authority figure who got his ass handed to him by a kid who didn't want any trouble -- but killing is still wrong if it can be reasonably avoided.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

Bort - Right, but whether or not you can "safely disengage" from a given situation is pretty open to debate, especially in cases where there are no witnesses, such as the Zimmerman trial. Could George have "safely disengaged"? Could Trayvon? They were in public, not in their homes, so, maybe, yes, who knows? If the legal question we're hinging on is, "could you have disengaged when your life was in danger?", then you're either going to have to assume good faith in nearly all circumstances (rendering a non-SYG self-defense law functionally no different from a SYG one) or presume bad faith and shift the burden of proof to the defendant to the show why he's not a murderer. Furthermore, such a law places an unreasonable burden on people whose lives are in jeopardy; when one is faced with a life or death situation in which he is not the aggressor (the only situation in which, to my knowledge, SYG validates self-defense) is it really fair to ask regular citizens to take a minute to gather their thoughts and assess whether they could safely run away?

The only thing that should matter in a case like this, assuming that we're like Bort in supporting gun rights, is whether or not the defendant's life was in danger at the time he made the decision to use lethal force. (if your life is NOT in danger, then even under Stand Your Ground, it's not considered self-defense, it's considered murder) Now, if this makes it harder to prove murders, well, yes! Good. Murders *should* be hard to prove.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

(and I agree with you that fleeing rather than taking a life is what you SHOULD do. But what you should do, ethically speaking, is not necessarily the same thing as what you should be forced to do, legally speaking)

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

I'd also like to add that the gun control comment is not directed towards anyone here in particular. It is unarguably true that the Zimmerman case is being leveraged by gun control advocates; and why wouldn't it be? This is the way public discourse works - events happen, events get spun, maybe for a good cause, maybe for a bad. But if wanting to ban guns is not something that applies to you, then it's not something that applies to you.

Bort - 2013-08-22

Once in a while, what you should legally be forced to do coincides with what morality dictates, and I can't think of a more pressing circumstance than when another person will live or die.

The police are, more often than not, capable of looking at a crime scene and seeing if it matches the survivor's story. The survivor is also checked out as well, or at least is supposed to be, to determine whether there were drugs and alcohol in their system. The survivor can expect to be questioned at length, especially with stories that are implausible on the face of them, such as the old "I was following a black kid who got away from me, but then returned to pick a fight, so you see I'm the victim here". What I'm getting at is, murder is not as simple as taking the survivor's word for it; if the police are doing their job at all, they'll make a serious effort to distinguish self-defense from foul play.

So it's not really "assume good faith in nearly all circumstances" versus "presume bad faith and shift the burden of proof to the defendant to the show why he's not a murderer"; it's up to the police to investigate, and if a case can be built for murder, you prosecute.

SolRo - 2013-08-22

evilhomer found a way to sound even stupider than when he's discussing ponies.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

"I can't think of a more pressing circumstance than when another person will live or die."

But this is what the SYG law was set up to deal with in the first place - a situation in which a person will live or die. It's there to give protection to non-aggressive parties who are in a situation where their lives will be ended if they don't take immediate action. Stand Your Ground laws are not applicable in instances in which a person's life is not in danger. For example, Nick Bravo can't simply walk up to a person who made fun of him on the internet, and shoot them, saying, I'm standing my ground! In that case, the police would find it relatively easy to establish a solid murder case, and I'm fairly confident any jury would convict him. In order to get away with it, he'd have to be attacked by someone first, an irate feminist let's say, and even then he'd only be legally permitted to blow the feminist away with his shotgun if she was posing a clear and imminent threat to Nick's life - like if she was holding a stick of granola that Nick could reasonably mistake for a knife.

I agree with you that the police should make a serious effort to distinguish self-defense from foul play, of course they should, and the Stand Your Ground law requires them to do just that. The Stand Your Ground makes it *harder* for the police to establish a case for murder, because the police can't simply demonstrate that the shooter had an opportunity to run away. But so long as the shooter can be shown to have not acted in self-defense, the police can still "do their job" and charge the guy with murder.

Now, maybe the answer is better training for gun owners? After all, armed professionals, like the police or (to a lesser extent) the military, get a lot of training in when and whom to shoot, when and whom not to shoot. Part of the reason they need this training is because of the extraordinary power conferred upon them by the state - if you're in a position of authority, it's both necessary and right for you to have extra obligations and restrictions placed upon you. But we've discussed before how the most heavily armed country in the world, Switzerland, nonetheless manages to be one of the safest and least violence prone. A big part of that, I suspect, is the fact that every Swiss citizen has at least some formal military training, and takes their weaponry very seriously. Now, I'm not saying that a semi-formal citizen-militia would be practical, or even wise, for a country the size of the United States - for one thing, I'm adamantly opposed to the idea of mandatory conscription. It's also a discussion beyond the scope of this video. But the fact is, whatever the answer may be, (assuming society even NEEDS an answer in the first place) the question of, at what point can a citizen who is in danger for her life back off and decline to use lethal force, is one that can't be answered simply by attacking SYG and making murder charges even easier to prosecute than they already are.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

Oh yeah, and uh, don't forget: Applejack stood her ground against those Timber Wolves.

Should she be charged with murder, merely because she could have dropped her rocks and outrun them?

Bort - 2013-08-22

"It's there to give protection to non-aggressive parties who are in a situation where their lives will be ended if they don't take immediate action."

No, the previous laws already allowed for that. SYG simply offers latitude to people who would PREFER to take the lethal option. And it provides so much latitude that it makes killing the other person more appealing, in some ways, than leaving them alive ... good laws don't have that effect.

"Now, maybe the answer is better training for gun owners?"

I understand you have libertarian leanings and are loathe to endorse greater police / regulatory powers, but that's a non-answer. That's like saying "maybe the answer is to teach people not to steal". Some number of people are going to steal (and rape and murder and so forth), whether or not they're supposed to, and that's exactly why our criminal code exists.

"making murder charges even easier to prosecute than they already are"

Yeah, Lord knows our biggest problem is that it's TOO EASY to convict people for murder. Mean ol' prosecutors picking on people who choose to kill when they could have walked away!

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

*Both* laws allow for that, if you prefer. But I have to disagree with you on the idea that SYG offers "too much latitude", or that making murders too hard to convict is wrong.

For the first point, again, the only really relevant question is: was the shooter's life in danger? If it was, then both SYG and non-SYG laws recognize the act as self-defense. If it wasn't, then both SYG and non-SYG laws consider the act murder. The only real difference here is that SYG tidies things up and gives the defendant the benefit of the doubt by removing the requirement to flee, an option which may not always be recognized in the heat of the moment, and which, it can almost always be argued in hindsight, was available to the shooter. This is hardly perfect, and I don't think anyone would argue that every last person who gets off on an SYG defense was ethically in the right. But SYG also puts the odds back in the defendant's favor, which is far better than the alternative.

As for the second, I guess a big part of whether this matters to you or not depends on your attitude towards the modern legal system. A case can certainly be made that we're doing just fine right now, but I also know that many people - even, I'd suspect, Gommorrah (hey Goms!) - have serious concerns about the state of our prison-industrial system. We're living in a country that has the highest published rate of incarceration *in the world*, higher even than Russia, higher even than Capitalist China. Nearly 1 out of every 30 American citizens is in prison at any given time, and the number of American citizens who have been in the system at some point during their lives is something like 10%, with those rates much higher amongst minorities and the working poor. On top of that, there's the social aspect I mentioned before; since at least the 1930s, the mass media has literally inundated American society with messages glorifying the police state and accustoming us to viewing criminals AS criminals, rather than as mere suspects who are to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, to the point where just about every conversation I overheard at work during the Zimmerman trial was about how he should be hung, and how the jurors should be hung too if they let him off. These things worry me a hell of a lot more than some highly unlikely threat I might someday face from a trigger-happy Peruvian redneck.

Now, granted, a big part of the prison-industrial bloat is caused by our government's attitude towards drug, nonviolent sex, and other "petty" crimes. Murders *are* a serious issue, and I'd agree that they are something that the state has both the right, and the duty, to oppose. Rape, murder, robbery, fraud, all valid reasons to let the government throw somebody in prison. But that doesn't mean that letting the state secure murder prosecutions should be made any easier than it already is.

EvilHomer - 2013-08-22

^sorry, I should have said "... or that making murders hard to convict ..." 'Too hard' implies an unreasonable burden that prevents murder convictions from being successfully prosecuted at all. SYG is, subjectively, neither unreasonable, nor, objectively, does it completely prevent people from being charged with murders.

memedumpster - 2013-08-22

"Stand Your Ground laws are not applicable in instances in which a person's life is not in danger."

This isn't true in Kentucky, where you can legally murder thieves. This, to me, is beyond, far beyond, draconian. Killing thieves is the height of immoral. It's Biblically immoral.

That's all I have to add.

StanleyPain - 2013-08-22


Deadly force as self defense usually comes with the legal obligation that you had no other recourse. "Stand Your Ground" makes it so that even if you are in a position of safety and retreat from danger, you can still go out of your way to inflict lethal force on people provided they "scare you" which is tantamount to legalizing vigilantism, which si EXACTLY what Zimmerman did.

Right now, most courts do not look favorably on lethal force cases, despite what gun nuts and TV shows want you to think. If you bring a gun into a situation where the other person does not have a gun, legally YOU are considered to be the one who upped the ante and made the situation more volatile. This is unfortunate for a lot of people who use guns to defend themselves for legit reasons, but then still find themselves in jail. But it is a statistical fact that people who use guns in civil conflict cases almost always do not come out of it well, even when they were 100% in the right. (the exception to this is home invasion, which most courts grant wide latitude with..killing someone breaking into your home is usually not prosecuted very harshly and courts typically don't convict people in those cases)

There is sane and rational discussion to be had on whether or not current self-defense laws are adequate and evenly applied across the board. Stand Your Ground is NRA/Gun-nut bullshit and should not have any place in any state law. It effectively allows someone to retreat into safety, then arm themselves, then put themselves BACK INTO the conflict they escapes, enact revenge, and make a legal claim it was self defense whose legal standard is just some voodoo bullshit like "whether or not the person still felt threatened or that other people were threatened." Stand Your Ground almost makes that assumption FOR the court, rather than it being a detail of the case to be presented later.

Grandmaster Funk - 2013-08-22

EvilHomer, those are pretty long words for such stupid content.

SYG doesn't require your life to be in danger. It doesn't require you to be in danger of grave bodily harm. It doesn't require you to be harmed AT ALL. It just requires you to be scared of some of the above things.

SYG doesn't just allow you to kill an aggressor. It allows you to BE the aggressor, kill your victim, and get away with it if you felt scared at some point during the conflict you started.

Start a fight. If they fight back, you get to legally murder them. That is just one of the many reasons is why SYG is crazy bonkers and has no place in a civilized society with even the slightest regard for human life.

Here is the text of Florida's law to help clear up the many, many ignorant misconceptions that you are harboring:

A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the otherís imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) 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; or

(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

No requirement that the assailant was the primary aggressor, and no requirement that your life be in any actual danger.

Bort - 2013-08-22

"For the first point, again, the only really relevant question is: was the shooter's life in danger? If it was, then both SYG and non-SYG laws recognize the act as self-defense."

Wrong. In sane states, if one of your options for self-defense is to retreat / disengage / hide, you are obligated to do that.

I have to say, this is something that really pisses me off about you libertarian types: you're all about individual rights, but you don't give a damn about the other person's individual rights. In other words, you're all about what you are allowed to do, but you don't give very much thought to what position that puts the other guy in. You keep returning to the notion that you're justified in killing if you're in fear for your life (or at least think you are (or at least claim to think you are)), without allowing that, even then, there are limitations on what your rights are. That's because the other person is due some rights as well. And if you can't see how this is anything but tyranny: it also means that the other guy is limited in what he can do to you.

Two people in a fight can both claim they're engaged in self-defense. But if they keep self-defensing at each other, after not too long they're just plain fighting; that's why sane states put some sort of onus on them to retreat if they can, to stop it before there are fatalities or permanent injuries. Mean ol' gubmint again, I know. This is exactly what the Founding Fathers were trying to prevent.

Cena_mark - 2013-08-22

Applejack had to kill the Timberwolves. She ran, but the wolves pursued her.

My problem with the Zimmerman verdict is that it pretty much means any scrap can result in a legal shooting as long as you can convince the jury of how scared you were.

Binro the Heretic - 2013-08-22

What's wrong with "Stand Your Ground?"

Here you are:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/16/stand-your-ground-cas es_n_3606405.html

SolRo - 2013-08-22

you guys are using waaay too many words to say "shut up, stupid"

Shoebox Joe - 2013-08-24

@SolRo: Shut up, Stupid

I like the fact that, ignoring the abrasive bits here and there, that folks here are willing to give an observational viewpoint than just tell you to shut up.

If I were to give any reason why stand your ground laws are worthless, based on what everyone here has described, it would simply have to be how people are willing to take their own ideals and call them off is righteous and profile anyone as worthless, no matter how unwieldly they are with their perception, and just go for it.

I recently got conned pretty badly. Not badly in the tense that they got away with much, but just them getting away with it so well. "homeless" "single" mother using a recently adopted 2 year old as bait and surviellance. Used the bathroom. Stole my debit card and some thumb drives when she found an small opening. Didn't help that I was an emotional wreck. Socially slow. And them unintentionally hitting all of the right buttons. I only got lucky and lost a hundred dollars before I got my card blocked due to just general, not easily explained paranoia came into me.

Her "friend" wasn't so lucky to literally lose all of the money she was saving to get her kids out of another state.

It may not be the same since it's not immediate death, but I don't doubt for a second if you take "people die all the time" with any sincere earnesty that SYG becomes just another enabling scapegoat.

endlesschris - 2013-08-22

This ad is even stupider if you're one of the few people who actually paid attention to the court trial. Zimmerman didn't even attempt a "stand your ground" claim, he got off on regular self-defense law.

Bort - 2013-08-22

It's not like "Magic: The Gathering", where the SYG law doesn't apply unless Zimmerman floops his SYG card. It was still part of the jury's instructions:

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

And juror B-37 even says that was critical to the verdict they reached.

Monkey Napoleon - 2013-08-22

Really? That's about half a dozen items down on the list of things that generally pisses people off about libertarians.

Monkey Napoleon - 2013-08-22

Meant to be a reply to the big thread up there.

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