Monday, June 4, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.
Sometimes, "standing your ground" means chasing a guy and hippo-crushing him.
It looks to be a coincidence that the Tampa Bay Times published an analysis of Florida stand-your-ground cases on the same day George "Fib About PayPal" Zimmerman got tossed back in the clink, but it would have been a good read either way.
A poll last week showed that only 35 percent of Floridians are opposed to the law
, which removes the duty to retreat and removes civil liability in cases where it applies. Self-defense and stand-your-ground cases come up all the time, as we pointed to earlier this year when we found two potential cases
in Broward County in the same week.
The Times reviewed almost 200 more cases in Florida and found -- surprise! -- the law is applied in wildly unpredictable ways. It's definitely worth reading the whole thing, but here are five of the most interesting tidbits it unearthed:
1. "Stand Your Ground" is a great way to get out of charges.
Almost 70 percent of those who claimed they stood their ground went free.
2. It's an even better defense if you kill a black person.
Among defendants who killed a black person, 73 percent weren't charged. Among those who killed while folks, the number dropped to 59 percent.
3. You can start the altercation and still get off.
Contrary to what has been reported over and over again since Trayvon Martin was killed, "people often go free under 'stand your ground' in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended," write reporters Kris Hundley, Susan Taylor Martin, and Connie Humburg. They found cases in which a man shot somebody who was lying on the ground, more than one in which those killed were shot in the back, and, in "nearly a third of the cases," defendants "initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim -- and still went free."
4. Prosecutors, police, and judges can pretty much do whatever they want with the law.
In addition to analysis, the Times piece rattles off a bunch of "stand your ground" cases to show how ridiculous enforcement of this thing is -- there are stories of people leaving fights to get knives, men shooting an AK-47 outside of an apartment complex, and one guy who killed a person who was being dragged away. It's a horrifying read.
4. It's impossible look at all the cases.
Because "stand your ground" results in charges not being pressed, there aren't always records about it. Even though the law is vague, dangerous, and inconsistently enforced, nobody's tracking this stuff. Really.