At least 26 children and teens have been murdered in Florida Stand Your Ground (SYG) cases and, this week, another individual will use this defense in trial for the fatal shooting of a teenager. Michael Dunn, a 46-year-old businessman, shot and killed Jordan Russell Davis, 17, in 2012 after complaining about his loud music.
According to ThinkProgress, the number of individuals who have killed others and then claimed self-defense has increased in at least 20 states. The laws are associated with vigilantism, such as with the case of Trayvon Martin. In October, the Senate held a hearing to examine the gun lobby’s influence on SYG laws. A proposal to repeal the Florida law was rejected by the House in November while a proposal to expand SYG immunity was approved at that time.
The Tampa Bay Times’ SYG database shows that a significant number of victims of fatal crimes for which the SYG defense was used (134 cases) were children and teens, including Martin and Davis. Mothers of young victims have been outspoken advocates of reforming SYG laws, which grant immunity to the accused by creating a legal presumption that the person had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm.
The laws are sponsored by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council. In 2005, the two groups asked legislators and lobbyists to adopt the Florida SYG bill, which passed unanimously and became a model for other states.
The laws allow police to refrain from prosecuting the accused after a crime is committed, allow the accused to request an SYG hearing to be granted immunity before even going to trial, and allow the accused to raise SYG as a defense during trial.
In the most recent high-profile SYG case, the accused, Michael Dunn, is expected to use the defense during his trial for the shooting death of an unarmed teenager. Dunn pulled up next to the victim, Jordan Davis, in a convenience store parking lot. Davis and 3 friends were listening to music in their vehicle when Dunn pulled up next to them and complained that their music was too loud.
Words were exchanged between Dunn and Davis and Dunn later claimed he felt threatened after Davis “brandished a weapon.” Dunn fired several shots into the teens’ SUV and then fled the scene. He was apprehended a day later. No weapons were found on Davis or in the SUV.
Davis’ mother, Lucinda McBath took part in the October SYG hearing and is the spokesperson for a gun law reform group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group’s founder, Sharon Watts told ThinkProgress that SYG cases like Dunn’s attempt to “normalize behavior that isn’t normal.”
“A teen who was playing loud music, which is what my teens do,” she said of the case. “That is sort of the attitude of the teenager. You don’t have the right to kill an innocent unarmed teen.”
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.