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
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.
In a second tragic incident of its kind in two years, a Florida mother apparently in fear has accidentally shot and killed her daughter last night (Tuesday, December 29th) .
The Orlando Sentinel reports this latest shooting occurred just before midnight at a home in the Osceola County city of St. Cloud, when a sleeping mother, who reportedly works as a dispatcher for a local police department, was startled awake by the sound of someone entering the house. Thinking it was an intruder, she fired a single shot that struck her 27 year-old daughter, who was visiting from North Carolina and had just entered the house.
The young woman’s stepfather, identified by the Orlando Sentinel as detective Claude Campbell, a corporal with the St. Cloud police department, called 911. On audio of the emergency call, the grieving mother, identified as 45 year-old Sherry Campbell, can be heard in the background, apparently comforting her wounded daughter, who the Sentinel identified as Ashley Doby, and crying,”Baby, I love you so much, please!..please…Oh my God!.”
On the audio, the stepfather does not tell the dispatcher that the daughter had been shot. He reportedly had not yet realized what had transpired.
The young woman died at a hospital, while the mother was taken to the hospital for unspecified treatment. Citing law enforcement policy, police did not initially release the names of those involved because it occurred at a home of someone who works in law enforcement.
Police said evidence so far indicates the shooting appears to have been accidental. No charges have been filed as of the time of this post and an investigation is still taking place, but police say the State Attorney’s office will review the case.
Accidental shootings like this one underscore the caution that should be taken when a weapon is in a household. All residents and visitors should be made aware – especially during holidays – when someone may be visiting, that a weapon is in a home, and to always communicate before entering a home at night.
Neither of these cases should be construed as a “stand your ground” incident. However, each would fall under a state’s self defense laws, or “castle doctrine“, which dictates that a person has a right to defend himself and family against great bodily harm or death in the home, if a person fears an imminent threat – even if by deadly force.
This article will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
In what her attorney called a “perfect stand your groundcase” 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.
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.
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.
Every incident of an unarmed person being killed by a weapon is awful, the complexity made worse when it involves stand your ground, and the wounds are never closed in these cases.
Florida leads this pack of several high-profile stand your ground cases that were closed with sentencing or an acquittal:
Trayvon Martin, 17, Florida – On February 26, 2012 America’s most infamous case of stand your ground happened in the small city of Sanford, Florida when an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Hundreds of others had already been killed under self-defense statutes enacted in 2005.
Since it was the first state to initiate these new laws, it was widely assumed that Zimmerman would be acquitted under stand your ground law. But he never claimed stand your ground immunity. The jury was allowed to hear language from the law, which arguably may have been the basis for an acquittal on July 13, 2013.
Wyche ran, and when Berry – who was not armed – caught up with him, Wyche pulled scissors from a backpack and lunged, stabbing Berry to death.
Wyche, now 25-years-old, claimed immunity under Florida’s stand your ground law, and was denied. He was convicted of manslaughter in September, 2013
and sentenced to 20 1/2 years in prison on November 25, 2013.
Darrell Niles, 17, South Carolina – On April 18, 2010, after a night out in Columbia, Niles, a high school athlete, only wanted to make sure some girls he knew made it home ok. Niles, who was unarmed, was shot and killed as he sat in his car by Shannon Scott, 33, the father of one of the girls.
Kelly Danaher, 36, Texas – On May 1, 2010 in Houston, Raul Rodriguez, 46, a retired firefighter, complained about loud music coming from the birthday party for school teacher Danaher’s 3-year-old child.
Holding a video camera, a phone, and a gun, Rodriguez told a police dispatcher that he felt threatened and said, “I’m standing my ground here” [see the video here] as he fired his gun on a group of unarmed men, killing Danaher and wounding two others. Rodriguez was charged with murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on June 27, 2013.
Tim, Sr. intervened, taking sides with his grandchild’s mother, but Tim, Jr., a high school football star, retaliated by attacking his dad, who retrieved a pistol and fired two rounds, killing Tim, Jr. At a jury trial on February 14, 2013, the father was acquitted of second-degree murder.
Daniel Adkins, Jr., 29, Arizona – On April 3, 2012, Adkins, a disabled Hispanic-American man walking his dog in Phoenix, was shot and killed outside a Taco Bell restaurant by Cordell Jude, a 22 year-old African-American man, after a shouting match caused when Jude’s car almost hit Adkins.
Jude said Adkins swung at him with an object. The only object found on Adkins was a dog leash. Jude was later charged with second-degree murder but found not guilty, but convicted of reckless manslaughter in what is called the “reverse Trayvon Martin” case. UPDATE: Jude received an eight year sentence on February 28, 2014.
Darius Simmons, 13, Wisconsin – On May 31, 2012, in Milwaukee, 75-year-old John Henry Spooner confronted an unarmed teenager about a burglary in which guns were stolen from Spooner’s home. As the teen’s mother watched Spooner shot the youth in the chest, fired another shot that missed, and tried to shoot again but the gun jammed.
Spooner was found guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole, on July 22, 2013, and ordered to pay $58,551 in restitution to the Simmons family.
Walter Conley,32, Florida – On March 10, 2013 in Brandon, Ralph Wald, 70, woke up and found his 40-year-old wife in the living room having sex with Conley, who Wald shot and killed, claiming he thought Conley was raping her. Conley was not armed.
Wald was charged with second-degree murder, but acquitted on May 31, 2013.
(UPDATE: This article has been edited since first publication to omit the words “in 2013” from the second paragraph, and also to add any other updates noted above)
Since the Trayvon Martin shooting over 500,000 names have been added to online petitions calling for a review, change, or end to stand your ground laws, and over 80% of that number come from a petition started by Martin’s parents.
Although activism against the law has dropped dramatically, public sentiment against stand your ground law appears steady, sometimes refueled by news of homicides involving the possibility of stand your ground laws being invoked.
Popular internet petition sites like Change.org, credoaction, and MoveOn contain most of the requests, which call for change or repeal of stand your ground law or Florida boycotts.
“Change For Trayvon“, a petition on Change.org, calls for the Governors of 21 states to review and amend stand your ground laws. This petition was started in 2012 by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin (parents of Trayvon Martin) and appeared to have had the most signers in February, 2014 – 427,605 – with a goal of 500,000 (In August, 2013, there were 383,844).
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.