Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stand your Ground... Affluenza... Really?

In the past decade several laws and defenses have come into existence.  The first is the now called Stand Your Ground laws.  While this is not the case in all states, where it is in use, there have been some problems.  So everyone is on the same page, Stand Your Ground laws remove the duty of an individual to flee a situation, they have the right to use whatever force is required to end the threat.  The problem is, Stand Your Ground does not include using deadly force after you have left or have a good chance to leave the situation.  If someone were to break into my home, and I were to shoot them, I could attempt to invoke stand your ground, but if I ran past the front door to grab a gun, I cannot attempt to invoke stand your ground.  While the concept has been around since the late 1870's, it has recently become something of a trend.  Basically when it was initially recreated in the Indiana Court system, it was more or less a belief that a duty to retreat from a threat to self or property was inherently wrong (thanks Manifest Destiny).  This decision was reaffirmed in 1921 after a few notable cases.  Its not really a new trend, but its not something that we have seen a great deal of until recently.  The problem is people seem to forget that this law is pretty specific, if you cannot retreat you can use deadly force, if you forgo an opportunity to retreat, you are sunk trying to use it. 

In the past couple of years we have seen several instances where people attempted to invoke stand your ground.  First was Zimmerman, and while the court found the way it did, I do not feel the court was entirely correct.  He had ample opportunity to flee the area, before he was attacked.  This is where the problem began, the opportunity was present before he was attacked, he could have simply walked away.  However, once he was attacked, down on the ground according to the findings, he was well within his right to use deadly force, even if it was excessive.  In another case, the court did get it right.  I do feel for the young woman who is involved.  No person should allow themselves to be battered.  The problem was she exited the home to the garage where she took a gun from a car, and shot in the general direction of her abuser.  Another few feet and she would have been outside, but she turned and shot into the air, which endangered children and others.  Remember, it is not a shoot first ask later law, it means that if you find yourself in a very specific set of circumstances you can use deadly force to protect yourself, your family, your things.

Now, Larry Dixon pointed out to me that stand your ground has been used by a drug dealer.  Not having heard this, I went looking.  Sure enough, a drug dealer has used this type of self defense twice in the last five years.  Now, part of this law is that the person invoking it cannot be doing something illegal (like selling drugs).  Zimmerman's case, is a little foul in those regards.  Ms. Alexander had an opportunity to flee, and the truth is I hope that the case resolves itself in her favor, give the wife beaters something to think about.  But back to this drug dealer using this law.  In the first instance, stand your ground should have never been allowed, the victim by many reports was not armed, and the dealer was in the process of violating the law.  The second instance, it was somewhat correct, in that the dealer was not given immunity, but again it should have never been invoked. 

Stand your ground needs to be reworked if it is going to stay with us.  As it stands now, it is extremely biased.  As someone who appears white, I can have a better chance invoking it than someone who is Latino or African American.  Someone who is white would have a better chance of invoking it if they shot me as a Jewish man, a Latino, or African American.  It is inconsistently applied, with it being a crap shoot.  It needs to be better defined, as most laws need to be, spelled out in such a way that investigators and prosecutors cannot wiggle around and apply it however they see fit.  Law needs to be uniform, across the board, if it applies to me it applies to you, and everyone else equally.  I am thankful of one thing, we do not have the German version of the stand your ground law.  While there version is more extensive, it does not matter what weapon you use for self defense or where you are located (as it stands here, it generally applies to the home setting). 

This next one really boggles my mind.  It has been termed Affluenza.  Yeah this is a new one for me, it wasn't discussed much.  So basically Affluenza is "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more".  So how is this a legal defense.  Well we have Texas to thank for this gem.  Apparently a drunk teenager killed 4 people, and his attorneys managed to convince a judge that because of his affluenza he was unable to see that his actions would have consequences.  And what did he get for ending the lives of four people?  Ten years probation and entry into rehab.  The husband and father of two of the victims said it best, but I would have said more, and been in a cell next to the little snot for contempt), money won the day, if this had been some working slob, we'd have been tossed under the nearest prison with only faint memories of what daylight looked like.

Yeah the system is broken, and we need to get a handle on it.  Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, and impartial.  But she sees money, and the more money you can put forward, the more partial she becomes.  Back to the Zimmerman and Alexander cases.  Zimmerman had hundreds of thousands of dollars given to him, he had a killer team to represent him.  Alexander did not.  The outcome, Zimmerman walked and we will let history decide if the court was right or wrong.  Alexander did not, and might not (but given what happened to her she should).  A rich spoiled kid murders four people while drunk and on Valium and gets a slap on the wrist, and rehab.  But the guy smoking a joint, to control his PTSD (or any other use) gets a decade.  Yeah Lady Justice can see.  She sees Green and White just fine.