For the use of deadly force to be justifiable, the user must be in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm to himself or to another innocent party he has the right to protect. You wouldn’t think otherwise intelligent people could get confused about this, but history shows that some do.

A few years ago, the Florida state legislature passed a law rescinding the previously existing requirement to retreat before using deadly force when attacked in public. Prior to that, retreat had only been demanded by Florida law if it could be accomplished with complete safety to oneself and others, and for well over a century U.S. Supreme Court case Beard v. United States had made it clear that innocent parties shouldn’t have to retreat from an unprovoked, unwarranted attack in any place where they had a right to be.

However, whether motivated by ignorance or intentional deception, at least one anti-gun lobbying group went to great pains to tell the world that now, anyone in Florida could shoot anyone they wanted and go unpunished if they merely claimed that they were afraid of the person they shot. Of course, any professional reading the state’s jury instructions realized that this was not the case. In fact, the new law—Florida Statute 776.013—spelled out rather clearly that the party who fired would have to show to a preponderance of evidence that they did indeed act in legitimate defense of self or others.

Alas, certain media editorialists picked up the false cry of “they can just claim fear and get away with killing you,” and a nation accustomed to instant headlines began to believe it. Unfortunately, some of those who wrongly believed this foolishness were otherwise law-abiding citizens who carried guns.

Inciting Fear

In 2010, Case One occurred in a suburb some 30 miles outside of Houston, Texas. A retired firefighter brought a neighborhood feud to a tragic end. Upset that a schoolteacher who lived down the street was hosting a party and playing music louder than he liked, Raul Rodriguez strapped on an exposed pistol, shouldered a video camera and headed to the neighbor’s house. Entering the neighbor’s property line, he proceeded to record an argument that he himself had obviously instigated.

The neighbor and the partygoers were upset and angered by Mr. Rodriguez’s apparent attempt to intimidate them with the openly carried gun. Open carry is not legal in Texas. Hostilities escalated. One man implied that he would go into the house and get a gun of his own, though he did not in fact carry out that act.

Rodriguez recorded himself saying repeatedly that he was in fear of his life and standing his ground. The homeowner and invited guests approached him. The video came to an abrupt, gunshot-crackling end as Rodriguez opened fire. Before he was overpowered and disarmed, he had killed the neighbor and wounded two other men.

After his trial in 2012, in which his defense lawyer vigorously attempted to establish a “stand your ground” defense, the jury found Rodriguez guilty of murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Pages: 1 2 3
Show Comments