NRA Fired Up As Court Ruling Refuels Fight Over Stand Your Ground

A road rage incident involving an Indiana family on the way to DisneyWorld in 2011 has led to a major court ruling that is a severe setback for stand your ground laws and gun rights, leaving the NRA steaming mad. On July 9, 2015, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that defendants, not the prosecutors, has the burden of proof in a self-defense situation.

A ruling for the defense could have led to more pretrial acquittals, and made it easier to get immunity under the stand your ground law. Stand your ground gives a defendant two chances to go free. Pre-trial hearings are held in “stand your ground” cases, to determine whether defendants are immune from prosecution.

The court decision came in the case of defendant Jared Bretherick, who was 22 years-old when he was riding with his 13 year-old sister on the back seat of a Chevy Silverado truck as his parents Ron and Debbie Bretherick – both disabled veterans – were in the front. Ron was driving, as the vacationing Hossiers headed to Orlando for a stop at DisneyWorld on the way home to Avon, Indiana from a Christmas vacation.

Jared Bretherick
Jared Bretherick (Osceola County sheriff’s office booking photo)

On December 29, 2011 a Florida man, Derrick Dunning, driving a blue Cadillac Escalade, was reportedly driving recklessly through traffic in Osceola County at a high rate of speed. After Dunning almost collided with the Brethericks while swerving toward their truck, Ron instinctively responded with his horn, and continued driving. Dunning apparently didn’t like it.

According to a police report, Dunning at some point stopped the Escalade in the middle of a multi-lane highway – right in front of the Bretherick’s pickup. He got out of his vehicle, walking back toward the Indiana family – who later said they felt threatened. Jared got Ron’s gun from the glove compartment while Debbie called 911.

As Dunning approached, Ron held up his gun. Dunning backed up, returning to his vehicle saying “I got a gun, too”, while Jared grabbed the family gun and got out of the pickup. There ensued a brief standoff between Jared and Dunning, since no one knew Dunning’s intentions after he returned to his Escalade and sat there. The two females exited the pickup and ducked in a ditch on the side of the highway. Ron, the driver, was immobile due to the nature of his disability. The cops arrived just in time -10 minutes after the 911 call, according to reports.

Despite family and witness statements about the circumstances, Jared Bretherick was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Police found no weapon in Dunning’s vehicle. At a stand your ground hearing, Bretherick was denied immunity, yet the defense and his case centered more on Florida’s self-defense immunity statutes than on stand your ground law.

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association had backed the state during the litigation, and Jared’s mother, Debbie Bretherick, started an organization, Mothers Against Wrongful Prosecution (MAWP), to “address the growing concerns of the policies and powers of the prosecutor’s office within the criminal justice system.”

The NRA, which had filed motions supporting Jared Bretherick, calls the court decision an attack on Second Amendment rights. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), an organization fighting against Florida’s 10-20-life sentencing, says that due to this ruling, “law-abiding gun owners in Florida are now more vulnerable to prosecution and conviction for acting in self-defense.”

In the final Florida Supreme Court ruling, Justice Barbara Pariente said immunity in stand your ground law is not blanket immunity, but requires establishing that use of force was legally justified.

She was joined in the majority opinion by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry in stating, “We conclude that placing the burden of proof on the defendant to establish entitlement to stand your ground immunity by a preponderance of the evidence at the pretrial evidentiary hearing, rather than on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s use of force was not justified, is consistent with this court’s precedent and gives effect to the legislative intent.”  Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice J. Canady  said, “By imposing the burden of proof on the defendant at the pretrial evidentiary hearing, the majority substantially curtails the benefit of the immunity from trial conferred by the legislature under the stand your ground law.”

News4Jax.com reported that State Representative Alan Williams calls the ruling a chance for Florida lawmakers to scrap “stand your ground” and start over. “There are provisions of the law that allow aggressors to get away with murder, so I want us to repeal it and start over, so hopefully this is our opportunity,” Williams said.

[CORRECTION: This article has been modified from it’s original version. The sentence “Police found a weapon in Dunning’s vehicle” should have read “Police found no weapon in Dunning’s vehicle.”]



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Facebook Killer Derek Medina Gets Thrown Out Of Court

The Miami man who killed his wife – then posted a confession with a grisly picture of her dead body on facebook – was rebuked by a Miami judge last week during a pre-trial status hearing, and thrown out of a courtroom after repeatedly addressing the judge. He previously interrupted proceedings in a courtroom at a status hearing six months ago, asking for a bench trial.

UPDATE: Facebook Killer Derek Medina Convicted

"Facebook killer" Derek Medina
“Facebook killer” Derek Medina is escorted out of courtroom July 1, 2015 (screenshot credit: CBSMiami)

Derek Medina, now 36 years-old, is accused of murdering his wife, Jennifer Alfonso, 26, two years ago, on August 8, 2013, claiming it was self-defense. He reportedly told police that Alfonso had attacked him by throwing things at him and threatening him with a knife. His attorney at the time, Saam Zanganeh, said they were planning a “stand your ground” defense, alleging Medina had been the victim of  spousal abuse.

Medina reportedly said he posted the picture on the social networking site to let both their families know what he had done, so they would be ready to take care of her young daughter (who was in the couples’ apartment during the incident). He was arrested, and indicted on a first-degree murder charge. Medina entered a plea of not guilty, and has been held in jail since being denied bond after his arrest.

 

medina's facebook post
medina’s facebook post

 

Medina appeared disheveled, in a state of hypertrichosis, at a hearing in a Miami-Dade courthouse last week on July 1st, and addressed Judge Yvonne Colodny, claiming, “we have video evidence of Jennifer Alfonso attempting to murder me”. Although being repeatedly warned by Colodny not to speak, and with his attorney admonishing him, Medina was determined to make his point. After several warnings, the judge ordered him out of the courtroom.

Derek Medina
“Facebook killer” Derek Medina (screenshot credit: CBSMiami)

A surveillance video Medina may be referring to (below) appears to show the location of the crime, an off-camera scuffle, and the flash of gunshots, but does not show the actual murder.

Medina obviously can’t keep his mouth shut during court hearings. At a status hearing in January, he stood and requested a bench trial. His next status hearing is set for August 14. The case is scheduled to go to trial on October 12.

(Video courtesy: Miami-Dade Florida state attorney’s office/Miami Herald)

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ALEC: “No Stand On Gun Policy Whatsoever”

[UPDATED July 9, 2015]
A member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) said last week that the group – which collaborated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to orchestrate stand your ground laws and ease restrictions on guns across America – presently has no plans to create any new policy or be involved in gun legislation. He also sidestepped a question on an ALEC-led push to repeal stand your ground laws. Perhaps they realize that they shot themselves in the foot on this controversial issue.

ALEC duck

ALEC is one of the most vilified organizations in the history of American politics. It has members who mingle in closed quarters around conservative policies affecting all of us, devising schemes called “model policies” designed to control state legislation, while exchanging clout and money in the process.

Every state in America has politicians affiliated with ALEC, a group which denies involvement in some controversial issues, and won’t admit it has anything to do with problems that arise from any policy. Yet, ALEC has everything to do with state policies, problems, and legislation. Issues like climate change and stand your ground law have caused many leading corporations to cut ties with ALEC.

In a blog piece titled “A Clear And Present Danger: The United State Of ALEC“, renowned journalist Michael Maynard compares ALEC to drug cartels.

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post Apple CEO Tim Cook implicated ALEC when he wrote that a “wave of legislation” in the form of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) across dozens of states would allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

When asked whether the organization was involved in supporting the RFRA, ALEC spokesperson recently told Christian Science Monitor: “We do not work on firearms, marriage equality, immigration, any of those things people frequently say are ours.” Yet, legislation that spreads across multiple states – as was the case after the success of stand your ground in Florida – is usually modeled by ALEC, and this template legislation causes problems, partly because what works in one state may not work in another.

In light of recent intense public debate on gun laws, ALEC claims to be taking a back seat, although they, along with their bedfellows over at the NRA, own the very policies at the center of the gun debate.

In a series of tweets Thursday (July 2nd), research analyst William Freeland, a member listed on ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, engaged in a lively conversation with ALECExposed and myself. He avoided a direct answer to a question on any plans to repeal stand your ground laws, and denied that the organization is directly involved in gun policy this year, though he was not speaking on behalf of ALEC.

[CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: Mr. Freeland has informed me that he is not a ‘senior staff member’, as described when this post was first published, nor was he speaking on behalf of ALEC on twitter. He is, however, listed as a member of the group’s Tax and Fiscal Ploicy Task Force. Also, there is no ALEC model policy on the RFRA listed on the ALEC website. However, the implications stand as quoted in this post.]

So, what do you think? Do you think ALEC is still working behind the scenes to influence gun laws across the country? Do you believe ALEC?
Leave your comments below.

Stand Your Ground Tweet Of The Month @endyourstand

 

 

I read the Declaration of Independence yesterday, just to refresh my memory, so it seems fitting today to debut a new featured post called “Tweet of the Month“, which will present some of the most thought-provoking, engaging interactions from our twittersphere every month. Wishing wish you and yours a happy, safe, Fourth of July, also!

End Stand Your Ground July 4th
End Stand Your Ground July 4th

Stand Your Ground Frees Black Woman Charged In Killing White Man In Road Rage Incident

 

In what her attorney called a “perfect stand your ground case” an African-American Texas woman has been cleared in the shooting death of a white man who she claimed was a threat during a 2012 Harris County road rage incident. Crystal Scott, of Houston, had been charged with murder in the death of Jonathan Ables. Prosecutors dismissed the charge on Monday, June 29, 2015. The case drew widespread attention because of its racial undertones.

Crystal Scott
Crystal Scott

Scott was 23 years-old when she and 22 year-old Ables were involved in a minor morning rush hour traffic accident as they were each were driving to work on September 17, 2012. She reported they had cut each other off while driving, with Ables at one point even getting in front of her and slamming on his brakes as they hop-scotched on the highway.

When they both pulled over into a service station, after Ables had reportedly bumped her car, Scott and several witnesses said Ables got out of his pickup truck, approached her vehicle in a rage, then started cursing and banging on her car window while pulling on her car door. She was not injured, but said she feared for her life when she fired through her car window. Ables reportedly suffered two gunshot wounds in the upper torso.

Jonathan Ables
Jonathan Ables

Scott said she was acting in self-defense when she fired at Ables through her closed car window as he raged at her and tried to open her car door. Scott, who holds a concealed carry permit, was questioned for several hours and released without being arrested.

Ables’ family was furious, claiming he had his hands up and was backing away when Scott fired on him. His parents said he had no reason to harm Scott. It was only after his family called for justice that a grand jury indicted Scott on a murder charge – five months later – in February, 2013. And that’s when Scott’s family and supporters became angry. She surrendered, and was released on a $50,000 bond.

Now that the case is over, Scott’s attorney, Letitia Quinones said, “It’s a perfect ‘stand your ground’ case”. However, Ables’ family is angry again, feeling that justice has not been served.

Texas is a stand your ground state, requiring no duty to retreat from a threat before using deadly force. Self-defense “castle doctrine” laws in most American states include and extend to a person’s vehicle, therefore there was never a need for Scott to invoke stand your ground.

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New Orleans Homeowner Arrested For Shooting Burglar

New Orleans police arrested a 39 year-old New Orleans homeowner for aggravated battery on June 30, accusing him of shooting a man suspected of burglarizing a house the homeowner had under repair.

According to the Times-Picayune, the homeowner, Luiz Delmia, and his wife, were driving by a building that was being repaired due to a fire, when they saw an unidentified man enter the house. Delmia parked, got out of his car, went to the house, and encountered an unidentified man. Delmia allegedly shot the man several times, then stood over him and threatened to shoot again.

Luiz Delmia
Luiz Delmia

One witness reportedly said he heard nine shots, then two more, and heard the suspected burglar begging for his life, saying “Please don’t shoot me again”, and that witness told the New Orleans Advocate that Delmia kicked the wounded man as he lay on the ground. The witness said after Delmia emptied one clip of his gun, he asked his wife for another.

It’s not clear whether the shooting occurred inside or outside the house. Delmia’s wife told police that the house had been burglarized for copper pipe and wiring three times in the past week.

Louisiana is a “stand your ground” state. The state’s stand your ground law (La. Rev. Stat. 14:20) reads, “A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force”.

Louisiana self defense laws (La. Rev. Stat. 14:19) state, “Use of force which does not result in death is justifiable when committed to prevent forcible offense against the person; or forcible offense or trespass against property in a person’s lawful possession”.

Homeowners should always know the law before taking action pertaining to protection of property. Check out the stand your ground laws in your state.

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