March 26, 2012

Another Young Man’s Shooter Apparently Protected by ‘Ghostwritten’ ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law


In the wake of the terrible tragedy of 17-year-old Trayvon Marton’s death, journalists, activists, politicians, and other concerned citizens have focused on the “Stand Your Ground” law (also known as the “Castle Doctrine“), which Florida police have claimed they are following in declining to arrest George Zimmerman, Martin’s killer. This law was pushed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) — which is funded largely by the gun industry — and the corporate front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ideologically conservative corporate front group that unites state lawmakers with corporations wanting to push specific agendas in statehouses across the country. Many of ALEC’s funders and members are kept secret, but some of those that we do know are popular consumer companies many of us buy from everyday. Today, Republic Report joined a coalition of other groups and sent a letter to all of the companies with representatives on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board asking them to publicly end their affiliation with ALEC.

I don’t know about you, but I’m highly uncomfortable with the thought of companies who make products and provide services I really like, like Coca-Cola and Amazon, funding secretive organizations that push reckless gun laws.

Republic Report is glad to see that ALEC’s implication in Martin’s death is gaining more traction. The National Urban League’s Mark Morial told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that ALEC and the NRA “promoted these laws, ghostwritten these laws, inside the Beltway, and pushed them out across the states:”

ALEC and the NRA have successfully worked to get similar laws passed in 23 other states, including Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker, a former member of ALEC, signed Wisconsin’s version of the law (worded quite similarly to the ALEC boilerplate) last December.

In Slinger, Wisconsin, 20-year-old Bo Morrison was shot by a local homeowner on the homeowner’s porch. Morrison wasn’t trying to break in — he was hiding from the police after an underage drinking party in the neighborhood he was attending got busted. The local District Attorney’s office determined that the homeowner who shot Morrison acted lawfully in self-defense. The story is heartbreaking:

The report says the homeowner “acted reasonably in his use of force, based on the facts and circumstances of which he was aware when he encountered an unknown intruder in his residence at 2:00 a.m. March 3rd.” The report says the requirements of the recently passed Castle Doctrine were met in this case based on factors including: time of day of the shooting, location of the shooting, small size of the room where the shooting took place, lighting conditions of the room (dark), dark clothing Morrison was wearing, the fact that the homeowner’s wife and three young children were in the home at the time, etc…

Law enforcement officers reported the homeowner appeared “in a state of disbelief or shock” when they arrived on the scene after the shooting.

Morrison was a student at a local technical college studying carpentry. He played football and baseball in high school.

I believe people have a right to defend their families. As a young, white, relatively smallish woman living in an urban area, I empathize with those who feel the need to take measures to protect themselves. But the laws that allow us to do that shouldn’t be written by NRA lobbyists and promoted across the country by a group that is ostensibly meant to “unite members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities” and in actuality pushes corporate priorities at the expense of the public interest.

Our legislators need to be a little bit more thoughtful about passing laws like “Stand Your Ground.”

There are many other instances where people have avoided justice through “Stand Your Ground.” The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about the sad death of Pedro Roteta, who was pursued and stabbed by Greyston Garcia after stealing his truck radio. Roteta was carrying only a pocket knife — and seemingly had no intention to do bodily harm to Garcia. Nonetheless, Garcia’s second-degree murder charge was tossed by a local judge. This floored Miami police Sgt. Ervens Ford:

Ford called the law and the decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom a “travesty of justice.” ”

How can it be Stand Your Ground?” said Ford, a longtime homicide investigator who on his off-day on Monday plans to attend a rally in the Trayvon case in Sanford with his two teenage sons. “It’s on [surveillance] video! You can see him stabbing the victim . . .”

We should all feel so angered and disgusted by such laws. More so, we should be angered and disgusted by the fact that these laws aren’t part of the democratic process as we all know it. Instead, they’re part of a system where democracy is traded on a black market where the public interest is irrelevant.

  • I like how you neglect to mention that the homeowner was found justified under Wisconsin’s decades-old self-defense laws IN ADDITION to the newly passed Castle Doctrine. Had this act of self-defense occurred 5 years ago, it still would have been justified.

    All the Castle Doctrine does in this case is reward the homeowner attorney’s fees if he is sued in civil court, and also found to have been justified there as well (which isn’t a given.)

    • Alan Lunn

      I think what you’re basically saying is that if someone intrudes into your home, regardless of whether they are armed or not, or are threatening, you are justified in shooting them simply because if they’re that stupid (or drunk) then they are not a victim — you are an assumed victim. The point here, about ALEC, is that this is a group taking corporate funding to pursue a political ideology and agenda. These are just more examples of our “people’s government” being hijacked by a few. The few have no business making laws for the many because of monetary advantage. We need a government where the public is served in general (the “general welfare”) rather than the welfare of a few billionaires who are hungry for power no matter how good their intentions are. Government by the few is always the road to some form of totalitarianism.

      • No, that’s not what I said at all. I’m saying that it didn’t matter in the Wisconsin case whether Castle Doctrine was there or not. The DA’s decision would have been the same – the DA says so right in his report on the incident. The homeowner’s belief of his perceived threat of danger was reasonable under the circumstances. He’d been told by police that no contact was able to be made with the party-members, that police had left the scene, and while investigating a noise he finds an unknown person inside his house, who, when told to stay where he was, made aggressive moves toward the homeowner in a situation where the homeowner couldn’t tell if the intruder was raising a weapon or not.

        But yes, don’t intrude into other people’s houses. I’m not saying I would shoot willy-nilly just because “the law allows it;” it is truly in one’s best interest to not shoot if possible, as even with castle doctrine, your life is going to be a legal nightmare for several years to come. But I’m glad the law is there to protect me if I do feel the need to protect myself. Try to assess the situation safely, if possible, and take steps to get the person out of your house or contained, if possible. But with the incidences of home invasion on the rise in the US, I’m not taking a chance that someone who broke into my house is just there to say “hello.” You make ANY threatening movements, and I’m not going to chance it.

        • guest

          A person entering your home is a little different than on the street. The important thing is exposing ALEC, what corruption goes on in our lawmaking, what secrecy!! So many people have no idea. I actually read about ALEC in my city’s newspaper in Va., surprising since Va. is 47th in corruption, secrecy in state govt.

        • guest

          So why do we need Castle laws? Just in case it’s really not self-defense and this law will cover your a–?

  • Kathy Cole

    I wish you had told us which companies are on the ALEC Board, so we can all boycott them.

  • We need to fight the law with the law. Too bad folks do not know the constitution as they should or the way I was taught as a child. Like this man Classic: 5 Police Officers vs a law knowing Citizen

  • guest

    Expose the Corporations involved with ALEC.

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