As the trial of Michael Dunn gets underway on February 3, Lucia Mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, is making the rounds of network interviews, preparing for Dunn’s trial and telling the story of her fight to change or end stand your ground laws to anyone who’ll listen.
Yet, Mcbath and Jordan’s father Ron Davis have been tirelessly and emotionally sharing their story across the country since the tragedy, to gain support and awareness in the struggle for gun control and against stand your ground laws.
[UPDATE: This hearing was postponed due to weather conditions in Atlanta, and will now be held at 3:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 5, 2014]
Georgia will hold a hearing before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill to repeal the state’s stand your ground law on Wednesday, January 29, and advocates are calling on supporters to “pack the house”.
The bill, SB 280, introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), seeks to repeal the statute relating to “no duty to retreat” in Georgia’s self-defense laws. The hearing will take place at 3:00 p.m. (EST) in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, located at 18 Capitol Square in Atlanta.
Senator Fort said in a statement that he is calling for “a full and fair hearing” on SB 280, something he claims was not done with a related bill last session. He said this bill, “seeks to end the morally wrong practice of allowing individuals to shoot first and ask questions later, a startling fact that is simply unacceptable for the citizens of this state.”
In November, Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition filed a lawsuit against Georgia challenging the state’s stand your ground law, as a result of two cases.
In one case, James Christopher Johnson III, a 25 year-old African-American, was killed at a nightclub in March of last year after an argument with a white man who was harassing his girlfriend. His killer later claimed stand your ground and was acquitted.
After coming from a George Jones Tribute concert on a Friday night in Nashville last year, ‘outlaw country’ music performer Wayne Mills headed over to the Pit & Barrel, a popular downtown Nashville music spot run by his friend Chris Ferrell, who shot him in the back of the head, and is claiming self-defense.
For over fifteen years, Mills, 44, had toured with his band and performed in the Nashville area as one of the hottest bands in the college circuit.
During Mills’ career, country music’s Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton, 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and country singer Jamey Johnson each opened for him as they were seeking stardom. Mills had just finished a tour with Johnson within his last couple of weeks.
At the Pit & Barrel in the early morning hours of November 23, Mills had posed with the bar owner Ferrell, also 44, and other folks for a photo. Less than an hour later, just before 5:00 a.m., Mills was shot in the back of the head by Ferrell, who is charged with second-degree murder. Mills died at a hospital over 12 hours later.
An autopsy report released at a discovery hearing last week confirmed the gunshot wound as well as scrapes, bruises, and broken ribs.
Ferrell, a sinister-looking character with a concealed-carry permit, claims he shot Mills in self-defense after an argument over Mills smoking in a no-smoking area of the club. His attorney claims he is not guilty. Ferrell is free on a $150,000 bond, and a status hearing is scheduled for February 6, but no trial date has been set.
In a case with echoes of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident, a Florida man concerned over a rash of neighborhood burglaries is reportedly claiming self-defense after he chased, confronted, and killed a young man who was wearing baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt whom he found suspicious.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Claudius Angloricardo Smith, 32, is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bond for killing 21-year-old Ricardo Sanes last Thursday, at The Fountains at MetroWest, an apartment complex in west Orlando.
But Sanes who, from his facebook page, appears to be the father of a young son, wasn’t carrying a bag of Skittles and iced tea. Police found that he was armed, with a .40 caliber handgun in the crotch of his pants. He sustained bullet wounds to the upper back and back of his neck.
When police told Smith about the wounds, he reportedly claimed they must have been exit wounds. He also claimed he didn’t know Sanes had a gun before the police told him.
According to police reports obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Smith’s girlfriend, watching a video surveillance screen, spotted someone in dark clothing “walking around his yard,” who “was last seen climbing over the fence into” the apartment complex.
Smith told police he had “a recent problem with burglaries at his house…and he was certain the unknown male was responsible, so he began chasing the unknown male.”
According to police, Smith, who has a concealed-carry permit, said he jumped a fence into the complex, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, and saw Sanes “looking into windows of apartments as he walked past them.”
Smith said he pulled his gun and confronted Sanes, who tried to walk away, so he grabbed Sanes’ hooded sweatshirt and tried to force him back to his house “so the police could be called.”
Smith told police Sanes “punched him in the mouth and grabbed for the gun, so he pulled the trigger. Smith said he was afraid Sanes was armed “because his pants were falling down and his hands were in his hoodie pockets.”
Smith’s sister reportedly claimed he was so distraught that he was “crying and vomiting” after the shooting, when he told her he had shot somebody. But not only did he leave the scene of the shooting, but he discarded the murder weapon, and couldn’t give a reasonable explanation for either action.
Smith also claimed to have surveillance video he said “would prove this was the second time Sanes had tried to break into his house” in 10 days. But when police got there, the video recorder was gone, and Smith claimed he didn’t know who removed it or why
The similarities to the Trayvon Martin shooting are obvious — both Martin and Sanes wore hoodies. And both shooters claimed concern over recent burglaries, both went after the victims, both said they were attacked first, and both said they fired their guns in self-defense.
Yet, Smith’s argument is weaker: Sanes was shot from behind; Martin was shot in his chest, and Smith reportedly admitted to physically restraining the person he suspected at gunpoint. Zimmerman didn’t.
UPDATE: Claudius Angloricardo Smith was ultimately convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison (with credit for having served 368 days without bond) on February 5, 2015.
A couple of teenagers out for fun who were playing a dangerous game of ringing door bells or knocking on doors in the early morning hours on Friday were shot at by a resident in Pennsylvania, and one bullet hit one of the teens in the foot as he was running, according to reports.
Gabe May, 14, of Arendtsville, was admitted to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries to a leg and foot.
The shooter, Eric Lee Steinour, 28, of Biglerville, was later arrested and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. His bond was set at $50,000. He reportedly told police he was just trying to scare the boys.
The boy who was shot told police that after ringing the man’s doorbell, they ran and hid for a few minutes, then started walking when a man appeared out of nowhere, asked if they “were lost”, then, when they turned around and started running, he felt a pain in his foot, soon discovering he had been shot.
He reportedly said a man named Eric helped him call his mother, and carried him to his mother’s car.
Arendtsville officials have received several reports since November of doorbell ringing in the middle of the night. It’s a very dangerous game that can lead to potentially deadly consequences.
Though this is not a stand your ground incident, Pennsylvania has a stand your ground law but it specifically states that “the person against whom the force is used must display or otherwise use a firearm or replica of a firearm or any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use.”
Over 8,000 seats have been reserved in 19 towns for the opening weekend of the independent film “Cry For Justice: Stand Your Ground”, a courtroom drama based on a true story of faith and a journey experienced by Jackie Carpenter, a Georgia woman, as she fights to free her son, Jason Veitch, from felony murder charges.
The movie is scheduled to open in 19 theaters in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas on Friday.
Ironically, Lucia Mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, gunned down in Florida in 2012 by 46 year-old Michael Dunn during an argument over loud music, is an actress who has a small role in the film. She plays the fictional Mrs. Reymundo, a grieving mother and the wife of a man named Juan Reymundo.
It’s happening all across America. Whether by a gun, a knife, or other means, far too many people are killed every year by others who have the option to invoke “stand your ground” immunity to try and avoid prosecution.
These amended self-defense laws can allow someone to manipulate a scenario that allows them to cause great bodily harm or take another’s life.
The Movement to End Stand Your Ground is releasing a new 35-second video, “All Across America” today, with images of unarmed “stand your ground” victims, to help call attention to this. Check it out, then share it with everyone you know:
A legally blind ex-Marine was granted stand your ground immunity and walked into freedom Friday, after two years in Florida’s Seminole County Jail for killing a friend after a night of drinking beer.
40-year-old John Wayne Rogers (blinded in a work-related accident while working on a fire-suppression system in 2001), had been charged with first degree murder and was facing a life sentence in the death of James Dewitt, 34, on March 27, 2012.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Dewitt and his girlfriend, Christina Robertson, were at Rogers’ home in Geneva, Florida to drink beer and ended up spending the night. About 10:00 in the morning the group went to a store for more beer.
When they got back, Rogers testified Thursday, he had asked DeWitt to leave, but Dewitt attacked him, so he went into a bedroom, got his .308 Remington assault rifle, and walked back into the living room. He said when he pointed it in DeWitt’s direction, DeWitt charged him, and Rogers fired the rifle.
Robertson, a witness to the shooting, contended the shooting was unprovoked, and that the two buddies had been “play fighting” when Dewitt was shot once in the chest. Robertson, however appears to have been less than cooperative in testifying. According to court records, she had to be arrested and brought in as a material witness in the case.
It would be easy to see justification in a blind man’s self-defense case, yet Rogers is no stranger to violence. Four years ago, Rogers fired 15 shots from a handgun at Michael Rogers, a cousin and roommate, after another night of drinking and fighting, according to court records.
His cousin was bruised but not shot. John Wayne Rogers was charged with aggravated assault in that incident but made a plea deal, pled no contest to a lesser charge (unlawfully displaying a firearm), and was placed on probation, which was revoked when he pushed and punched a woman a year later, earning him 71 days in jail for domestic violence, according to court records.
Friday, after two days of testimony, the court at first denied a motion by Dewitt’s public defender, attorney Tim Caudill, for acquittal based on self-defense laws. Caudill then renewed a previously filed stand your ground motion, contending Rogers was just a blind man defending himself.
Judge John Galluzzo cut short the jury trial and issued his ruling, granting Rogers immunity from prosecution under Florida’s stand your ground law, before jury deliberations.
Is it surprising that most stand your ground news comes from Florida? But not every case in which someone claims stand your ground laws ends in death or makes headlines. Many incidents are low-profile or domestic. Yet all of them could be considered life-threatening. Here are a few you may have never heard of:
August, 2013: 34-year-old Matthew Henkel said, “fuck Trayvon Martin…fuck you” – a month after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin – and claimed he was standing up for kids as he confronted and shot an African-American man, Jamal Dixon, in Mount Oliver, Pennsylvania.
Dixon, a 24-year-old college graduate and Iraq war veteran, was seriously injured but survived. He said he had his hands up when he was shot, then when he fell, Henkel shot him again.
Dixon who was outside his home, and had complained about kids hitting his car with a ball. Over a week later Henkel, a white man, was charged with aggravated assault. He claimed stand your ground immunity.
December 17, 2012: Michael Jock, 49, was in line behind Randall White, 52, at a Little Caesar’s pizza shop in St Petersburg, Florida, when White complained about slow service, shouting at the workers.
Jock told him to quiet down, they got into an argument, and White shoved Jock, who pulled out a .38 caliber gun and shot White, then fired again as they struggled. White survived two bullet wounds to the lower part of his body.
Jock told police he was justified, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and claimed stand your ground immunity, which was denied. After trial last year, Jock was sentenced to three years in prison and two years probation on September 24, 2013.
Sept. 08, 2011: 69-year-old Milton Bennett Ellis Jr. claimed he was sleeping in a wheelchair outside a vacant Hooter’s restaurant in St. Petersburg when he woke up to find 22-year-old Josephine Smith on top of him, screaming that she was a vampire.
He said she bit his face and lip. Witnesses called 911 saying they heard a woman screaming and a man shaking her and trying to quiet her.
When she was found intoxicated, bruised, and partly clothed, Smith said she didn’t remember what happened. She was charged with aggravated battery on an elderly person.
Her attorney claimed police arrested the wrong suspect – that Ellis was bitten as he held Smith to the ground and sexually assaulted her. Smith filed for stand your ground immunity, but was denied, and later pled guilty to a lesser charge of battery. She was sentenced to 12 months in jail.
[UPDATE- January 10, 2014: Court Records today show the state’s motion to revoke Marissa Alexander’s bond has been denied]
Supporters of Marissa Alexander are upset, alleging Florida’s Attorney General Angela Corey has made blatantly false accusations that Marissa has violated terms of her bond, and her attorney Bruce Zimet has filed a response asking the court to deny the state’s motion to revoke the bond.
According to the AG office, within days of her release on bond while waiting for a new trial, Marissa Alexander did all the things ordinary people do – got a new driver’s license, went to the bank, went shopping for clothes, or drove relatives to a hair shop and the airport.
But all the “ordinary” things she did were in violation of court orders, and could land her back in jail this Friday, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Marissa is not in a position to do ordinary things. On October 31st she was granted a new trial date of March 31, 2014. She was released November 27th on three bonds – totalling over $250,000 – on home detention, or house arrest, until trial, and wasn’t supposed to leave home except for court, medical emergencies or to satisfy any requirements of her pretrial services program, like a drug test.
In a motion filed Monday to have the bond revoked, State Attorney General Angela Corey’s office said Marissa is “once again violating the court’s orders, and this court should not continue to allow itself to be disrespected in such blatant fashion.” A hearing on the motion is this Friday, January 10th.
Marissa is also not allowed to possess or be near any firearms, can’t consume any alcohol or drugs, and is subject to random drug tests and searches.
She was ordered (again) not to have any contact whatsoever with the “victim” Rico Gray or his two boys. Yet, the AG office also alleges that besides running errands, Marissa has paid a visit to Gray’s brother since her release.
Zimet’s response states that Marissa requested permission from Correctional Services Counselor April Wilson for each trip she took away from home, that Wilson authorized and gave permission for each trip listed in the state’s motion to revoke the bond, but the state failed to include these facts in its motion.
Zimet stated, “No justification supports the state’s failure to include in it’s motion the fact that every activity alleged to be a violation of bond had been approved. Obviously, including those omitted facts would expose the frivolity of the State’s Motion.”
Marissa, now 33 years-old, had served part of a 20 year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing what she described as a warning shot. The appellate court reversed her conviction, ruling that jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous. At trial, the only real issue was whether she had acted in self-defense when she fired the gun.
In her appeal, Marissa maintained that the trial court abused its discretion, by giving self-defense instructions to the jury that improperly put the burden on her to establish – beyond a reasonable doubt – that Rico Gray, her fiance, was committing or was about to commit an aggravated battery when she fired the gun.
Under Florida’s 10-20-Life statutes, anyone who pulls a gun during the commission of a crime receives a mandatory 10-year sentence. Firing a gun during a crime draws 20 years.
Marissa has many supporters including those who have called on Corey’s office to drop the charges, rather than taking the case to trial again.
The case not only exemplifies domestic violence issues but also the misapplication of stand your ground laws, because, per Florida law, it appears that Marissa would originally have deserved immunity from prosecution, but it was denied.
A Florida man scheduled to stand trial this week in the murder of two unarmed men outside a Chili’s restaurant in 2008 is free, marking the first time a Miami appeals court has granted stand your ground immunity, in a major case widely seen as a test of stand your ground law.
Gabriel Mobley, of Opa-Locka, now 36-years-old, had claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Jason Jesus Gonzalez and Rolando Carrazana, both 24 years old, after an argument over women. The case had been scheduled for a jury trial beginning January 10th.
On Feb. 28, 2008, Mobley and a friend, Jose “Chico” Correa were inside Chili’s chatting it up with a group of women at the restaurant’s bar. The two men went outside to smoke cigarettes, and returned to find that Gonzalez and Carrazana, who were also at the bar, had moved in and struck up a conversation with the ladies.
It started a short argument, in which the appeals court said Mobley acted as a peacemaker, and everything seemed cool. Gonzalez and Carrazana left, but soon started “banging aggressively” on the windows of the restaurant and pointing at Mobley and Correa, according to the Miami Herald.
Mobley, apparently feeling nervous, went outside to his car and got his Glock pistol, but as he and Correa stood outside smoking cigarettes again, Gonzalez came out of nowhere and sucker-punched Correa, fracturing an eye socket. Mobley claimed he was scared when Carrazana, reaching under his shirt, came rushing at them.
In the shooting, Mobley who had a concealed carry gun permit, fired at both men, and testified that he thought “they were going to stab or shoot or kill us”, reported WTVJ-TV.
Based on witness statements and surveillance video, Florida prosecutors charged him four months later with two counts of second-degree murder, contending he was not acting in self-defense. He was denied stand your ground immunity by Judge Thomas Rebull at a hearing last April, who said the shooting was “neither reasonable nor necessary.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported that one of the victims had his hands up when he was killed and the other did not seem to be reaching for a weapon as Mobley claimed.
Last Thursday, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals took Mobley’s side, overruling the lower court by dismissing the murder charges and ruling that his use of deadly force was justified.
The court said Gonzalez and Carrazana were “the aggressors”. Judge Linda Ann Wells wrote. “Mobley did not shoot two innocent bystanders who just happened upon him on a sidewalk.” Prosecutors plan to appeal the decision, and the case could end up in the hands of Florida’s Supreme Court.
2013 was the year stand your ground law became a major hot-button issue. After the George Zimmerman trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, civil rights groups, activists, elected officials, and news media outlets across America began calling for a repeal or changes in Florida’s stand your ground laws, causing several major events:
Until the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, few people had ever even heard of a stand your ground law. While Zimmerman never claimed stand your ground immunity, language from Florida’s notorious statute was used in the jury instructions, and news that he was acquitted resulted in a public perception that stand your ground played a role in the outcome.
After the Zimmerman trial, a group of Florida college students got together to form a coalition that quickly gained support and built momentum against stand your ground law in Florida. The Dream Defenders became unofficial leaders of a movement to change or repeal the law in Florida, pushing for lawmakers to hold a hearing.
A Florida woman who fired a warning shot toward an abusive husband became major news after the Zimmerman trial, and a symbol of women’s rights against domestic violence and everything that’s wrong with the state’s justice system when she was denied stand your ground immunity, then subsequently sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison.
A judge later granted her a new trial based on faulty jury instructions, and she is free on bond pending the new trial. The case helped force the state to make changes to the law regarding warning shots, at a Florida Senate hearing held preceding the state’s stand your ground hearing.
For the first time, the federal government held a hearing on stand your ground laws in America. The U.S. Senate hearing, originally scheduled for September 17 in Washington, D.C., was postponed due to news of a mass shooting the day before at a nearby Navy Yard. The majority of a nine-member panel testified against the laws.
Florida finally held a much-anticipated hearing on a bill to repeal stand your ground law, and as also anticipated – (especially since the chairman of the committee had said he wouldn’t change “one damn comma” of the law) – the repeal was rejected. Other efforts are underway to change stand your ground law in Florida, where it all started.
The Zimmerman trial, other incidents, and legislative actions in city halls and state capitols since that trial have ensured that until major concessions take place to close loopholes existing within stand your ground laws, they will continue to be controversial.