Some of the nation’s backers of the “Stand Your Ground Law,” under which a Florida man has so far escaped prosecution, appear to be rewriting history.
George Zimmerman, 28, apparently shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death last month after pursuing him and then claiming self defense.
The law, a version of which was vetoed last month by Gov. Mark Dayton in Minnesota, expands the “castle doctrine” in matters of self defense.
Zimmerman was warned by a 911 operator not to pursue Martin, who was unarmed.
Florida Sen. Durrel Peaden, who wrote the law in the state, says Zimmerman shouldn’t be protected by the law because he ignored police advice to stay away. “They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid,” Peaden tells the Miami Herald. “He has no protection under my law.”
Florida’s expanded Castle Doctrine law passed in 2005. Two years later, the nationwide effort — partly motivated by Florida’s law — found a hero in Joe Horn.
In Pasadena, Texas,. Horn chased down burglars of his neighbor’s house, and shot them to death. A grand jury refused to indict him, Horn was hailed as a hero, and — as Time magazine reported — it was considered a victory for the expanded Castle Doctrine.
“If the Castle Doctrine were interpreted with the kind of sobriety and restraint espoused by my instructor (and responsible gun owners), it would be a good law,” Nathan Thornburgh wrote. “But by celebrating its most overreaching interpretations, those who make a hero out of Joe Horn will ultimately only succeed in ensuring that it isn’t.”
Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies, notes that two shootings per week occurred under the law by 2009.
In Texas in 2007, Joe Horn also claimed that “he was afraid for his life” in justifying his fatal shooting. But like the Martin case, the 911 tapes are damning in showing that Horn’s life clearly was never at risk — he, like Zimmerman, pursued the supposed burglars, even though they weren’t even on his own property.
But Horn apparently knew the law offered him no protection for his actions. It didn’t need to. He had a grand jury to do that.