Are the “Stand Your Ground” and the “Castle Doctrine” Laws Being Used as a Tool for Legal Murder? (Part 1)

By Charles Fisher and Randy Fisher @HHSYC

Trayvonstorypic1The Death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman has sent a ripple effect throughout the country.  This is a tragedy of epic proportions but at the same time happens to young Black men in America everyday.  Did race play a role in the shooting and verdict?  There are some that say no, but if you ask minorities they will tell you that the days of Jim Crow and segregation are still alive and Trayvon Martin is the proof.  This country has yet to have a dialogue on race and until we do acts of violence against minorities will continue.  In order to stop the violence we must understand the “slave owner” type policies that are rooted in our society stacking the deck against the poor and disadvantaged.

Unfortunately this long overdue conversation seems to be a little too much for our political leaders to handle at this time.  At the end of the day it’s up to the people to rise up and get away form the fun, games, and other distractions that take us away from protecting our children.  We have to stop getting mad and just get even by creating new laws regarding a range of policies that reflect a true and just America.  Only by voting and peaceful protest will this happen.  This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Has the sleeping giant awakened?  This could be the one and only opportunity we get to change where the direction the country is going.  With a Black President and U.S. Attorney in the mix the time could not be more perfect.

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Let’s take a look at some of the laws that need to be reformed.  The Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine that designates a person’s abode (or in some states any place legally occupied, such as a car or place of work) as a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.  Typically deadly force is considered justified and a defense of justifiable homicide applicable in cases “when the actor reasonably fears imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to himself or another.”  The doctrine is not a defined law that can be invoked, but a set of principles which is incorporated in some form in the law of most states.

The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.”  This concept was established as English law by 17th century jurist Sir Edward Coke in his The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.  This was carried by colonists to the New World who later removed “Englishman” from the phrase thereby becoming simply the Castle Doctrine.  The term has been used to imply a person’s absolute right in England to exclude anyone from their home, although this has always had restrictions. And since the late twentieth century bailiffs have also had increasing powers of entry.

The term “Make My Day Law” arose at the time of the 1985 Colorado statute that protects people from any criminal charge or civil suit if they use force – including deadly force – against an invader of the home.  The law’s nickname is a reference to the line “Go ahead, make my day” uttered by actor Clint Eastwood’s character Harry Callahan in the 1983 film Sudden Impact, inviting a suspect to make himself liable to deadly retaliation by attacking Eastwood’s character.

Castle Doctrine & Stand Your Ground

A number of states in the U.S. have the Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground law, or both.  Castle Doctrine is derived from English Common Law that a man’s home is his castle.  You have every right to defend yourself in your home and no duty to retreat in the face of danger.  Stand Your Ground extends that principle to outside your residence.  If threatened in public, you have the right to defend yourself and no duty to retreat.  There are 18 States with the Castle Doctrine, 1 State with Stand Your Ground, and 12 States with both.  In total, there are 31 States with some form of Castle Doctrine and/or Stand Your Ground laws.

LIST OF 31 STATES WITH “STAND YOUR GROUND” AND/OR “CASTLE DOCTRINE” LAWS

As of 28 May 2010 31 States had some form of Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground law, they are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Indiana
  8. Iowa
  9. KansasTrayvonstorypic2
  10. Kentucky
  11. Louisiana
  12. Maine
  13. Massachusetts
  14. Michigan
  15. Mississippi
  16. Missouri
  17. Montana
  18. New Hampshire
  19. North Dakota
  20. Ohio
  21. Oklahoma
  22. Pennsylvania
  23. Rhode Island
  24. South Carolina
  25. South Dakota
  26. Tennessee
  27. Texas
  28. Utah
  29. West Virginia
  30. Wisconsin
  31. Wyoming

Some of the states that have passed or are considering “Stand Your Ground” laws already implement “stand your ground” principles in their case law.  Indiana and Georgia, amongst other states, already had “stand your ground” case law and passed “stand your ground” statutes due to possible concerns of the case law being replaced by “duty to retreat” in later court rulings.  Other states, including Washington, have “stand your ground” in their case law but have not adopted statutes.  West Virginia had a long tradition of “stand your ground” in its case law before codifying it as a statute in 2008.  These states did not have civil immunity for self-defense in their previous self-defense statutes.

New York

New York’s justification statute dates from 1968 and allows deadly force to be used in a number of circumstances.  Under Penal Law § 35.15, in general, deadly force may be used as necessary to defend against unlawful deadly force used by another.  Retreat is required when one knows it can be done with complete personal safety to innocent parties.  Even then, no retreat is required when a person is in his dwelling and not the initial aggressor, or is defending against kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act or robbery, or is preventing arson or is terminating a burglary or attempted burglary of an occupied building as allowed by Penal Law § 35.20.

Trayvonstorypic3§ 35.15 Justification; Use of Physical Force in Defense of a Person

1. A person may, subject to the provisions of subdivision 2, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless: (a) The latter’s conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or (b) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or (c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.

2. A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision 1 unless: (a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force.  Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is: (i) in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor;

or (ii) a police officer or peace officer or a person assisting a police officer or a peace officer at the latter’s direction, acting pursuant to section 35.30; or (b) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act or robbery; or (c) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary and the circumstances are such that the use of deadly physical force is authorized by subdivision 3 of Section 35.20.

§ 35.20 Justification; Use of Physical Force in Defense of Premises and in Defense of a Person in the Course of Burglary.

1. Any person may use physical force upon another person when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate what he or she reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by such other person of a crime involving damage to premises.  Such person may use any degree of physical force, other than deadly physical force, which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose, and may use deadly physical force if he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of arson.

Trayvonstorypic42. A person in possession or control of any premises, or a person licensed or privileged to be thereon or therein, may use physical force upon another person when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate what he or she reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by such other person of a criminal trespass upon such premises.  Such person may use any degree of physical force, other than deadly physical force, which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose, and may use deadly physical force in order to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of arson, as prescribed in subdivision one, or in the course of a burglary or attempted burglary, as prescribed in subdivision 3.

3. A person in possession or control of, or licensed or privileged to be in, a dwelling or an occupied building, who reasonably believes that another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling or building, may use deadly physical force upon such other person when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of such burglary.

It is our hope that we have been able to shed some light on both these laws and the states that support them.  The Martin case will not just go away, there are talks about federal changes and the will be a civil law suit.  There are protests by people and artists that are demanding that the laws be eliminated.  Will this happen?  With enough public pressure the “Meek Can Change the World.”  Stay tuned for Part 2 and more updates on the law and the movement to get justice for Trayvon Martin.  Hit us up at HipHopSYC@aol.com for comments.

PART (2)

SHOULD THE HIP-HOP COMMUNITY JOIN STEVIE WONDER IN PROTEST OF THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” AND/OR “CASTLE DOCTRINE” LAWS?