South Carolina’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a North Charleston woman legally used deadly force in 2012 when she fatally stabbed her boyfriend at their home. The ruling on May 18, 2016 helps clarify how South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law applies to domestic violence.
In October, 2014, a trial judge in Charleston dismissed a murder charge against 26-year-old Whitlee Jones, who claimed immunity from prosecution under the state’s Protection of Persons and Property Act. The law allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury.
Whitlee Jones (photo: Cannon Detention Center)
Jones was the first of three North Charleston women charged with murder during a two-year span in the stabbing of a boyfriend or a roommate. Judges dismissed charges against all of them. Read the full story at postandcourier.com
A South Carolina barber with a history of altercations told police he “felt threatened” when he refused service and pulled out a gun on an African-American man who walked into his barbershop for a shave, according to reports.
Rock Hill barber Larry Thomas, 65-years-old, who is white, allegedly pulled out a gun when Arthur Hill, of Fort Mill, a 37-year-old African-American, walked into Thomas’ barbershop on May 11 asking for a quick shave on his way to work.
Instead of offering a chair, Hill said that Thomas responded by holding a .38 caliber revolver in his hand saying, “I don’t do black hair.” Hill retreated from the shop and called the York County Sheriff’s Office.
When police arrived, Thomas reportedly led them to an outside shed and to the gun Hill had described. Thomas is out on bond after being charged with pointing and presenting firearms at a person. In South Carolina the crime is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison.
“I told him I did not do black hair and he kept coming towards me and I stepped back here and I always keep a gun right here and I just picked up my gun and put my gun at my side,” Thomas told WBTV. The news station found several other reports from the past of Thomas presenting firearms at potential customers.
Thomas also told the station he doesn’t do flat tops or women’s hair styles. He added, “I’m just not good enough to do black hair cutting at all. Being an autistic individual, I pretty much stick to my routine.”
Hill told WCNC, “I was shocked. I was shocked for my life, because I’m thinking that could’ve been me laying on the floor dead. “He did not point it at me, but it was clear in [hind]sight like he meant business. He said, ‘I don’t do black hair.’ I asked him does he shave, can he shave me, and he said, ‘I don’t do black hair.’ ”
Hill says he asked Thomas to clarify why he couldn’t get a cut. “I said, ‘Are you referring to African-American hair?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and at the time I noticed he already had his hand gripped on a .38 snub nose chrome revolver.”
Time for another treat with a top tweet about stand your ground laws. It’s summertime and Florida recently began a “#SummerStartsNow Visit Florida” tourism campaign.
Unfortunately, the murder of singer Christina Grimmie and massacre at the Pulse nightclub have occurred two weeks after this tweet was posted. We all truly grieve with Orlando. Yet incidents like these may only serve to help the state promote it’s NRA-led gun agenda.
So, why not celebrate the season in a place where guns are not so prevalent and promiscuous? What better time to give California oranges and juice a try, or skip the Southeast corner of the U.S. to visit Hawaii, which has one of the lowest rates of gun ownership (7%) and gun deaths (7 in 2010).
In November 2012, Trevor Dooley, now 75-years-old, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in prison for the September, 2010 murder of a neighbor, 41-years-old David James, on a basketball court – as James’ 8-year-old daughter watched. Dooley was convicted in 2013, and served three years and three months of his sentence in prison.
Dooley’s first appeal was denied, but the Tampa Bay Times reports a second appeal has been granted because of an ineffective appellate lawyer and “erroneous” wording in the jury instructions on the justifiable use of deadly force. In Florida, that’s known as the “stand your ground” law.
When I heard that Trayvon Martin was killed, and that his killer was claiming Florida’s stand your ground defense, that law piqued my interest. I had not heard of stand your ground and wanted to know of other cases in Florida where the defendant claimed that defense.
Among the cases I found was that of Trevor Dooley. On January 23, 2013, I wrote an article on the significance of the Dooley decision. It is a Florida case where the defendant claimed self-defense….
After each mass shooting in America, a voice is heard somewhere in the wilderness of the gun control debate preaching the myth that “nothing stops a bad guy but a good guy with a gun.” This worn-out statement has been used in support of stand your ground laws, but it’s unlikely stand your ground laws would stop a mass shooting.
The good guy myth is repeated by the gun lobby – like a sales pitch for a reliable car – almost every time there’s a high-profile murder of innocent people, or a vigilante kills a perp, and it’s simply not true.
In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, at the Pulse night club in Orlando, we heard it again. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, an NRA supporter, is likely to have said it again by the time you read this.
Stand your ground is dangerous
Some gun owners may argue that engaging a threat is the best solution. In Florida – the birthplace of “stand your ground” laws – it’s highly possible that several patrons or employees of the night club were armed, and reports are that an armed security guard fired back at the gunman during the frenzy. It’s unclear if the club had a system to check for weapons at the entrance.
Chances are, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, like any other mass shooter, probably didn’t bother to make a normal entrance on his hours-long rampage, as he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. it was only when police fired on him that the shooting ended.
Stand your ground law relieves a person of a duty to retreat. That means there is no obligation to try and escape any danger or call police in the face of a threat. It allows for the use of deadly force to meet deadly force.
But without any warning or firepower to match, who can stand their ground against an AR-15 assault rifle firing 45 rounds a minute – a weapon designed for war – wielded by a crazed gunman intent on carnage?
At it’s deadliest worst, there is also an increased chance during an active shooter situation that any number of innocent people may be hurt or killed by “friendly fire” from an untrained civilian – who happens to be a “good guy with a gun”. There could also be criminal or civil legal repercussions.
Manufacturers of these high-powered weapons of war are facing lawsuits from some families. Families of Sandy Hook victims have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers they say made a weapon that shouldn’t be sold to civilians. In response to the Orlando shooting, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said “It reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
There should be state and federal bans on assault-type weapons designed more for war than for hunting, such as was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It’s estimated that there are millions of these weapons in circulation. Efforts to reinstitute the ban have been underway but encounter resistance from the gun lobby.
It’s up to lawmakers in each state who recklessly feed into NRA rhetoric and NRA money to act now – with urgency – and address the epidemic of gun violence by enacting gun laws for safety that may protect us. Anything less will continue to diminish our pursuit of happiness.
Having a stand your ground law can’t help stop a mass shooting, but sensible gun laws can help. We must hold state lawmakers responsible if they want our votes. We must demand that they take action to make America SAFE again.
Gun empowerment continues to give others an excuse to use gun violence. A 69-year-old Indiana man was charged with murder after he shot and killed a 27-year-old man who he said “verbally threatened” him on a downtown South Bend, Indiana street.
Police say Michael Young, of Mishawaka, Indiana, who is white, fatally shot Markest Flowers, an African-American, in the face about 10:30 p.m. on May 31, after the younger man allegedly uttered some threatening words to him during an altercation. Police have not said whether or not the incident was racially motivated.
It’s unclear what was said, but witnesses reported that Flowers, wearing a backpack, was walking back and forth holding a plastic cup as Young followed, when Young, a small man who stands at 5′ 7″ and weighs 150 pounds, grabbed Flowers by the backpack, spun him around, then without hesitation fired a shot point-blank into Flowers’ skull.
Young reportedly told police he was surprised when the gun went off but said he had experience firing the weapon, and admitted Flowers had not displayed a weapon or tried to physically attack him, but had “verbally threatened” him.
At a preliminary hearing on June 2nd, Young, who appeared without legal counsel, told a judge he is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD, and said he plans to hire a private attorney. He entered a plea of not guilty. No bond information was available. Young is due back in court June 16. It’s unclear if he will pursue a claim of self-defense.
After receiving a fourth extension of time to file initial appeal briefs, attorneys for Michael Dunn finally did so, and asked a panel of three judges at Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals on June 7 to throw out his conviction in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
Dunn fatally shot the teenager at a Jacksonville gas station on November, 23, 2012 after a confrontation over loud music coming from a vehicle Davis was sitting in with three friends.
Dunn was originally convicted on February 15, 2014 of the attempted murders of Davis’ friends, but a jury deadlocked on whether Dunn was guilty of Davis’ murder. A new jury convicted Dunn of first-degree murder on October 1, 2014.
Dunn is serving a life sentence (with no chance of parole) for the shootings at an undisclosed Florida prison. He was not present at the appeal hearing. It could be weeks or even months before the appeals court issues a ruling. Read the full story at jacksonville.com
In the final chapter to a heartbreaking story, a Florida mother was sentenced on yesterday (June 6) to serve 13 years in jail for fatally shooting her daughter a few days before Thanksgiving in 2013.
Adele Bing, 54, of Winter Haven, Florida, had been charged with second degree murder, shooting a deadly weapon, domestic violence with aggravated battery, and child neglect without great bodily harm. She entered a plea of guilty on May 25 to the lesser charge of manslaughter with a deadly weapon for the death of her daughter, 25-year-old Ruby Bing, and to aggravated battery (without firearm) on her boyfriend.
Adele Bing will receive credit for 270 days already served, and be on probation for 10 years after she is released.
On November 25th, 2013 Adele Bing had a fight with her boyfriend, during which she hit him in the head. Bing told police he left, telling her he’d be back to kill her. He instead went to a hospital for treatment of his injury.
While he was at the hospital, Adele Bing claimed she heard a banging and kicking at her apartment door, and, thinking it was the boyfriend, went to the door holding a baseball bat in one hand and a .22 caliber pistol in the other. At the door was her daughter, 25-year-old Ruby, who was holding Adele’s 4-month-old grandchild.
Bing told police that as she opened the door, the gun accidentally went off, hitting Ruby with a single shot to the chest. She died at the scene. Luckily, the baby wasn’t hurt. Police arrived to find Adele Bing cradling Ruby’s body, begging her to wake up.
She reportedly made a statement to police that it was a “f–up accident” and stated, “How can I look my grandkids in their face and say I killed their mother? Y’all can lock me away for good.”
This and other recent incidents underscore the importance of gun safety and dangers of approaching a door in supposed “fear” while holding a gun, and of banging on a door at night, heightening the likelihood that a deadly encounter or a self-defense incident may occur.
Bryce Dejean-Jones of the New Orleans Pelicans’ NBA team was shot and killed after an early morning break-in on Saturday, May 28, at a Dallas apartment he believed to be his girlfriend’s, when he startled a man he didn’t know, the Dallas Morning News reports. Under Texas self-defense laws the shooter likely won’t face any charges.
Dejean-Jones, a 23-year-old 6′ 6″ guard for the Pelicans, reportedly kicked open the front door of the unit in the Dallas apartment building, awakening a man who grabbed a handgun,“called out”, then fired when he got no answer and Dejean-Jones kicked the door to a bedroom. Dejean-Jones died later at a local hospital.
Although Dejean-Jones was not armed, the shooter would be justified, and likely won’t face any charges, this should not be considered a “stand your ground” case.
Texas self-defense laws provide immunity from liability for a personal injury or death resulting from the use of deadly force to a defendant who is found to be justified.
Just like virtually every other state, Texas uses Castle Doctrine as a basis, defined such that a person is allowed to use deadly force to defend himself inside his home, if “immediately necessary”. The person using deadly force must know or have reason to believe that the person against whom the force or deadly force was used unlawfully and with force entered, or attempted to enter the person’s home.
The stand your ground portion of the law allows deadly use of force with no duty to retreat outside the home, such as in a vehicle, or place of business or employment; or anywhere a person has a legal right to be.
In either case, the person using deadly force cannot be committing or attempting to commit certain serious crimes; cannot have provoked the person against whom the force or deadly force is used; and cannot be engaged in criminal activity. Texas law does not state that the person must feel threatened or in fear for their life.
DeJean-Jones attended the University of Southern California and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, then transferred to Iowa State. He joined the Pelicans as a free-agent rookie last year for his only NBA season (which ended early because of a broken right wrist), starting 11 of 14 games and averaging 5.6 points with 3.4 rebounds. He had recently signed a three-year, $2 million deal with the team. Read the full story at Dallas Morning News.
Ever wondered what a certain person had said or who said what about stand your ground laws? Some statements against stand your ground laws made in the aftermath of the trial in Trayvon Martin’s death were very controversial, and overshadowed the tragedy itself. Here are a few notable – or infamous – memorable expressions:
“If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?… when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
“It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common-sense, age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.”
“The law just allows people to go on the offensive…it doesn’t do what people think it does, and people will get the idea that they can shoot people wherever they want. I just think we went too far.”
“Florida has to fix this problem because Florida created this problem with the kind of law that we placed on the books, so we have to change the law or we are going to see more Trayvon Martins.”
“Stand your ground would do nothing but turn our state into the Wild, Wild West.”
“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”
“‘Shoot-first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws – drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington – encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue ‘justifiable homicide’ later.”
“These laws give anyone with a gun more permissive rules of engagement in America’s communities than our troops have on the battlefield.”
“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again.”
“The laws are also more permissive than 19th-century law, despite the fact that dueling remained legal until 1859, when most states outlawed it. Unlike Stand Your Ground, both parties in a duel were armed and had an equal chance of success. Duels were also voluntary, whereas a person who is shot under Stand Your Ground has no choice in the matter.”
(Correction: This article as originally published incorrectly named Judge Susan Barthle as having granted the defense motion to not file depositions. This has been changed as of June 8, 2016 to correctly name Judge Anthony Rondolino. Apologies for this oversight)
Florida Sixth Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino has granted a motion by the defense in the theater shooting that allows attorneys for retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves to not file depositions from witnesses and others who may be deposed in relation to the case. Judge Rondolino’s May 24 ruling ensures that any pre-trial depositions will no longer be available for public scrutiny.
Reeves is claiming self-defense under Florida’s stand your ground law, saying he fired on Oulson after the younger man threw an “unknown object” at him, which turned out to be a box of popcorn, and presumably a cell phone.
The defense motion, filed April 29, asserted that the case had become a matter of public interest, and that news reports had contained incorrect, mischaracterized and/or otherwise inadmissible information. State prosecutors had responded by filing motions of their own against the defense motions.
Reeves’ attorneys had claimed that public access to depositions would violate the privacy of those who are deposed, and that media coverage leading up to any trial could potentially prejudice any prospective jury or harm Reeves, so he wouldn’t get a fair trial.
They also claimed that forcing them to file the depositions would cause a “wholly unpredictable and potentially devastating chain reaction in the media,” because the depositions contain “prejudicial, inadmissible, inflammatory, irrelevant, inaccurate, unreliable, demonstrably incorrect & false statements.”
Reeves’ attorneys argued that there was there was no possibility of media outlets not publicizing these things, which could possibly prejudice any potential jurors should the case go to trial.
As a bill that would expand the state’s stand your ground law stalled in the Senate, the South Carolina Supreme Court has asked legislators to clarify under what circumstances someone can claim self-defense if they kill a stranger or someone else in their home.
They also asked the state lawmakers to determine if all defendants deserve a stand your ground hearing before a trial.
A bill that would shift the burden of proof in a stand your ground case to require prosecutors to prove there was no threat stalled in the state Senate on Thursday, May 19, when a subcommittee decided not to vote on it. The bill would essentially be an expansion of South Carolina’s existing “shoot first” stand your ground law.
Should the burden of proof shift from defendant to prosecutor, it would make it easier for a defendant to prove self-defense. Full story at theslate.com