Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Overturn stand-and-kill laws
As many have noted elsewhere, the George Zimmerman trial jury actually followed Florida law. In this case and many others, the law, to modify the cliché, is not only an ass. It is an immoral murderer.
Until the stand-your-ground variations on your-home-is-your-castle laws are replaced, such arbitrary and often vigilante murders will occur as they did with Trayvon Martin. These laws can give each of us the right to kill another person because we have a bad feeling.
At the least the states (see Wikipedia's compilation of over 30) need to imitate the mild MA version. At least it insists someone must be in your dwelling unlawfully and you have to fear great bodily harm to act.
In the clip below, first US AG Eric Holder and then civil-rights lawyer and former DOJ official Sam Bagenstos discuss why these laws must change. Start around 7:12.
Yet the consensus seems to be that these laws are states-rights issues and no place for the feds. The conclusion is that Holder's use of the bully pulpit is the extent of it.
Is it really?
I recognize that a majority of states have some form of legalized murder with such laws. The other states require someone to walk or run away from a confrontation if possible before it becomes physical or deadly. How rational, moral and humane that is.
So, changing this in nearly three dozen states would be as big a deal as, for example, desegregating schools or overturning miscegenation laws. We should get to it.
I suggest starting with the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Among its protections is that "No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
While this is the double-jeopardy and fair trial amendment, it could not present a more apt federal basis for overturning stand-your-ground laws. Someone who wants to play at cop, prosecutor, court or executioner should play video games or write fan fiction instead. The laws should never give the power to kill another person on the authority of fleeting thought or feeling.
I think if the Obama Administration found a little of its missing courage, it should confront these blood-soaked travesties in law. They give crackpot as well as reasoned folk the authority to murder arbitrarily.
Ideally, the SCOTUS would have already ruled these laws unconstitutional. I can't see that happening in its present 5-4 arch-conservative composition. Meanwhile, Holder was spot on in defining the issue but lacked vision and guts in defining the solution.