Top Tweet: Jim Crow States Have Stand Your Ground Laws

Today, almost every state that had Jim Crow laws from 1876 to 1965 now has some form of “shoot first” or stand your ground law. In the history of the United States of America, no practice of law has caused more controversy, grief, injustice, and shame than Jim Crow laws, which were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the South.

The practice existed for 75 years, until 1965, after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Jim Crow laws followed the 1800–1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and liberties of African-Americans.

During it’s time, Jim Crow law encouraged prejudice, enabled discrimination, and deprived Black Americans of even the most basic qualities of life.

Segregation by race affected everything from the U.S. military and federal facilities to all public places, including schools, restrooms, restaurants, housing, and public transportation. Even drinking fountains were segregated.

The goal of this tweet posted on twitter was to show the irony of having stand your ground laws in today’s racially charged society, and many tweeps noticed it. I didn’t do the graphic. Props to the creator.

Advertisements

A Stand Your Ground Case Taking Too Long To Go To Trial

Curtis Reeves, Jr. will probably never again be a free man. He will likely die behind bars – or perhaps while out of prison on house arrest – in a stand your ground case that’s taking a noticeably long time to go to trial.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Reeves, now 73-year-old, fatally shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson in a Pasco County, Florida movie theater, wounding Oulson’s wife in the process.

Reeves – a retired Tampa, Florida police captain and former SWAT leader – was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault. But he asserts that he fired in self-defense and is claiming immunity under Florida’s notorious stand your ground law.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

After six months in jail, Reeves posted $150,000 bail and was released in July 2014, with a requirement to wear an ankle bracelet monitor and remain under house arrest. He can only leave home for doctor visits, grocery shopping, or church.

If convicted, he faces a life sentence. But at his age, even pleading guilty to a lesser charge could mean that he will die behind bars, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Defense Attorney Richard Escobar speaks with reporters after his client Curtis Reeves, Jr. (center) was released on bail in July, 2014 [photo credit: OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Now, almost three years, dozens of court sessions, and multiple depositions after the fatal shooting, it may seem as if Reeves’ defense team is trying to keep him out of prison as long as they can.

“(This case) should have gone a long time ago,” Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett told the Tampa Bay Times. “Factually, it’s just not that complicated. It happened in a movie theater, in a matter of minutes, and it’s over and done with.” Bartlett said the stand your ground phase of a case like this is typically decided within 18 months or two years at most.

A stand your ground hearing was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26,  then postponed again to June 29, 2016. Now, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.

RELATED: Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

Reeves’ defense attorney Richard Escobar denies any deliberate stall tactics and attributes the delays to the complexity of the case and a multitude of some 170 witnesses.

Escobar is hopelessly optimistic about what seems to be a clear case of murder, and once said he thinks Reeves has a “pretty solid stand your ground case.” He told the Tampa Bay Times, “We believe that when we go to trial, Mr. Reeves will be acquitted of all charges.” Read the Tampa Bay Times story.

NOTE: This article was edited after it was originally posted to include the third paragraph.

 

Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

Prosecutors and attorneys for a retired Florida cop who killed a man during an argument over the man texting on a cell phone in a movie theater have agreed to postpone a stand your ground hearing – again, and again, and now again – until next year.

A hearing on an immunity claim of self-defense under stand your ground law was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26,  then postponed again to June 29, 2016. This time, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

RELATED: A Stand Your Ground Case Taking Too Long To Go To Trial

Curtis Reeves photo credit: Pasco County Sheriffs Office)
Curtis Reeves (photo credit: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office)

Retired Tampa Police Captain Curtis Judson Reeves, 73-years-old, of Brooksville, is charged with second-degree battery and second degree murder in the shooting death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding Oulson’s wife, Nicole. The incident, which some people call the “popcorn shooting”, occurred inside a movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014.

Theater surveillance cameras captured multiple images from different angles of the venue seating areas and lobby, with one scene that appears to show popcorn, then what appears to be a cellphone being thrown by Oulson just before Reeves fires the fatal shot.

A stand your ground hearing would determine whether or not Reeves is immune from prosecution. If he loses at the hearing the case would then go to trial. If his plea is successful, he will not have to stand trial.

Defense attorneys earlier this year filed a successful request to have public access to possibly dozens of court depositions restricted amid repeated delays in proceedings during an era of calls for an end to gun violence and public scrutiny on law enforcement killings.

RELATED: Attorneys In Stand Your Ground “Popcorn Shooting” Want To Stop Access To Court Records (Updated)

 

Missouri Governor Vetoes Stand Your Ground Bill

SB656, a bill designed to change Missouri’s self-defense laws – and make Missouri the first state since the Trayvon Martin incident to pass a stand your ground law – was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon today (June 27). After sailing through the state’s Senate and the House, the bill had been awaiting approval or veto by Nixon since May 13.

It is possible for a gubernatorial veto to be overridden by the state legislature.

SEE: Missouri (Almost) Becomes A Stand Your Ground State

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (official state portrait)

Nixon, a Democrat, faced enormous pressure from the Republican-led Missouri legislature to enact the law. The bill has been widely considered “veto-proof”; however, a bill which faces opposition by the Governor after passing through the legislature can be challenged with a veto override in the next legislative session, and still become law in the future.

RELATED: 

Missouri’s current self-defense laws state that only the property owner or someone leasing it are allowed to use deadly force against an intruder.

SB656 would have allowed deadly force to be used by anyone who has permission to occupy private property, such as a house guest, and also make it a misdemeanor, and no longer a felony, for anyone carrying a concealed weapon into a place that has restrictions on concealed carry.

The bill also would have allowed open-carry without a permit, and expanded the state’s self-defense laws to include the words “does not have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, vehicle, private property that is owned or leased, or anywhere else a person has a right to be – the very definition of stand your ground law – making Missouri the first state since Trayvon Martin incident to pass such a law.

 

 

Crazy Gun Laws That Put Our Lives at Risk

Did you know there is at least one municipality in America that requires the head of household to own a gun? It’s just one of the many “gun laws” that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has pushed to enact across the nation. In fact, Thom Senzee reports on Advocate.com that there are other “crazy” gun laws – like stand your ground – that put our lives at risk.

The NRA has been so effective at defeating just about every proposed gun control measure in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and in state houses across the country that it may be time to replace the term “lobbying” with a new one.

The NRA and its executive director, the unyielding Wayne LaPierre, have been working hard to enact pro-gun laws. For example, according to Mother Jones, LaPierre and company are bent on bringing stand your ground laws to all 50 states.

During the past four decades, the NRA has fundamentally changed the very meaning of the term “gun laws.” If you think “gun laws” refers to laws that limit the availability of guns, think again. This list of absurd legislation (and proposed legislation) shows how some are fighting to extend the right to bear arms to even schools and workplaces. See 7 Crazy Gun Laws That Put Our Lives at Risk on advocate.com

South Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Murder Charge Dismissal

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.

SC Supreme Court Asks Lawmakers To Help Them Understand Stand Your Ground

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)
Whitlee Jones (photo: Cannon Detention Center)

                                   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

Why Stand Your Ground Laws Won’t Stop A Mass Shooting

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.

Scene of Pulse nightclub shooting
Scene of Pulse nightclub shooting (photo credit: Orlando Police Dept.)

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.

SEE: About Stand Your Ground Law

It means the law may be on the good guy’s side even if he’s not the intended target of a gunman. There have been several cases where the “good guy” saved the day. A Good Samaritan can also be killed while trying to come to the rescue of others, as what happened outside a Dallas, Texas store last month.

No warning, lots of firepower

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?

Mass shootings in U.S.
Mass shootings in U.S. (graphic credit: L.A. Times)

Some research suggests that a “good guy with a gun” may not even be aware of a threat until it’s too late. In a mass shooting, there is usually no warning, in which case the good guy role is dangerously ineffective at least.

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.

To successfully meet force with force, there must be some type of warning and an equal or better effective and accurate amount of force used to stop a bad guy with an AR-15. In almost every mass shooting of recent years (including the Newtown school shooting, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, and the San Bernardino  shooting) it was the shooter’s weapon of choice.

Yet the NRA, the AR-15’s most avid supporter, has opposed any efforts to keep assault weapons out of the hands of bloodthirsty maniacs. In the immediate aftermath of the worst mass shooting in our memory, the organization was unusually quiet and offered no expressions of sympathy for the victims.

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.

Only lawmakers can help

Unfortunately, it appears that mass shootings do little to change state gun laws, even when we say enough is enough. Many politicians only use phrases like “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, when action is what’s needed.

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.