?Stand Your Ground? Cases: Defendants More Likely To Walk Free If Victims Are Black: Report

 @LauraMatt on June 03 2012 4:31 PM
George Zimmerman Bond Hearing: What To Expect During The Court Appearance
George Zimmerman's bond hearing is set for Friday. What can you expect to happen during the court appearance? REUTERS/POOL New

When George Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in February, he wasn't immediately arrested and charged because of the state's controversial 2005 Stand Your Ground law.

At the time police did not have any evidence to prove Zimmerman wasn't acting in self-defense. After the case was reviewed by a prosecutor, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and is now in a Florida jail awaiting trial.

But could Zimmerman beat the charge?

Some killers and vicious attackers are walking free today as a result of the Stand Your Ground law, a report in the Tampa Bay Times shows. The Florida newspaper probed almost 200 Stand Your Ground cases and found the following:

-- The law was successful for those who used it to dodge prosecution, as almost 70 percent have been freed.

-- The law tends to work for defendants whose victims were black, as 73 percent of those who killed black people were not penalized, while 59 percent of those who killed white people were penalized.

-- Defense attorneys are using the law in dozens of cases with minor or no injuries, so the number of cases involving the law is increasing;

-- People have gone free after shooting their victims in the back.

-- In almost one-third of the cases evaluated, the defendants were the ones who initiated the fights, shot their unarmed victims, or pursued them.

Of course, the outcome of the case is dependent on how you use the law.

For example, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison last month after being convicted of three counts of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot during a dispute with her husband. 

The 31-year-old claimed she discharged her handgun into the wall to protect herself from her husband, who she said abused her. Her husband had two children with him when Alexander fired the shot, so officials charged her with three counts of aggravated assault, according to MSNBC.

Her attorney said that Alexander acted in self-defense and also used the Stand Your Ground law. But Alexander left herself open to prosecution for her use of potentially deadly force, even though she felt threatened, because the jury found she left during the relevant argument, got a gun, and returned to confront her husband.

The judge in the case said that when Alexander returned to the house she showed she was not in fear for her life.

A Miami-Dade state attorney's office representative, Ed Griffith, told the Tampa Bay Times the Stand Your Ground law is malleable and is arising now in the oddest of places.

One attorney told the newspaper that a defense counsel would be crazy not to use it in any case where it could apply.

With the more publicity the law gets, the more individuals will get off, said Zachary Weaver, a lawyer in West Palm Beach.

Read the comprehensive report by the Tampa Bay Times to learn more.

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