Trayvon Martin, the Castle Doctrine, and Minnesota’s close call (5×8 – 3/20/12)

The Florida shooting examined, the picture of poverty, Duluth in a fog, the hockey team that must not be mentioned, and the lost art of locking the car.


It’s unlikely anybody on either side of the emotional “stand your ground” bill in Minnesota has been swayed by the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. A 28-year old “neighborhood watch” leader who called “911” because Martin looked suspicious and “we’ve had some break-ins” in the neighborhood killed him in “self defense,” he insists. Martin is black and he was found armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when police viewed the body, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. Justice Department is pursuing an investigation.

Police haven’t charged George Zimmerman because it hasn’t been proven he did anything wrong under the law, a version of which Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a couple of weeks ago.

Slate takes a deeper look at the law today, which springs from attempts to provide more protection for victims of domestic violence:

Now someone under attack could “repel force by force” if he was attacked “in a place where he has a right to be.” That’s how the Supreme Court put it in 1895. This is amazingly called the “true man” doctrine, from a line in an 1876 case: “A true man, who is without fault, is not obliged to fly from an assailant, who by violence or surprise, maliciously seeks to take his life or do him enormous bodily harm.”

Not all the states adopted the true man doctrine. And 100 years later, courts and legislatures faced a new problem: What to do with women who said they were victims of domestic violence and had killed their husbands to save themselves? Did you have a right not to retreat if the person coming after you lived under the same roof? At first, the answer was no, to the fury of feminists. Then in 1999, the Florida Supreme Court said a woman who shot and killed her husband during a violent fight at home could successfully call on the Castle Doctrine to argue self-defense. “It is now widely recognized that domestic violence attacks are often repeated over time, and escape from the home is rarely possible without the threat of great personal violence or death,” the court wrote.

The article says prosecutors aren’t even bothering to charge people because of the law. That’s not the way it was intended, at least not in the Minnesota version that Gov. Dayton vetoed. Someone who killed another person could use the doctrine in a self-defense claim in a court case. But the unintended consequences — or perhaps they’re intended — of the law is that it rarely gets to that point.

NPR examined the law in 2007, after a man in Texas told police he was going to shoot men breaking into a neighbor’s home. “Property isn’t worth killing over,” a 911 operator told him.


You know what story isn’t made up? Poverty in our backyard. Last evening, CBS profiled one of the journalists who founded “In Our Own Backyard,” which encourages people to document poverty in their own backyard. It spoke to the art of telling the stories of the poor while giving them dignity.

Steve Liss, the photographer, was interviewed last fall on NPR. His group,, is planning a Mother’s Day Project this year in which photojournalists will highlight “the struggles and dreams of impoverished mothers.”


David Cowardin’s outstanding time-lapse video of the evening fog Saturday on Lake Superior proves, again, that Duluth is the most fascinating part of Minnesota when it comes to weather.

Foggy Night from David Cowardin on Vimeo.

(h/t: Chris Julin)


A few years ago, the Star Tribune newspaper vowed to stop using the names and logos of sports teams using race-based mascots, names, and logos. It made for some awkward writing when the Twins played “the team from Cleveland,” and shortly thereafter it dropped the effort.

What’s happening in Saint Paul this week recalls the noble and rational effort as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team begins the NCAA hockey tournament as “the team from UND.” The logo has been scrubbed from the program, there’ll be no mention of the Fighting Sioux in public address announcements and the team will wear new hockey sweaters without its infamous logo, Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald writes today.

North Dakota law prohibits the team from dumping the Fighting Sioux nickname, and NCAA rules prohibit the team from using it in postseason play.

More sports rules: In Duluth, an 18-year-old junior basketball player won’t be able to play in the state high school tournament because he was caught smoking on a street corner. That violates the rules of the Minnesota State High School Sports League. He was denied the chance to prove his innocence through chemical testing, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

“Regardless of the decision they make, we’re not just going to forget about it,” assistant coach Will Starks told the newspaper “There’s going to be a firestorm no matter what after all of this, because people have stepped way over their bounds in the way they’ve handled this entire situation.”

Even more sports: Remember: The NHL does not condone fighting. Last night in Boston:


I’m a big fan of reading the police reports in the local newspaper. Every week there are at least three break-ins of cars in which a purse was left on the front seat and the car left unlocked.

Last week, WCCO reports, a thief stole a $40,000 cello from inside 26-year-old Scott Lykins’ unlocked SUV.

Lykins told the TV station he “accidentally” left the car unlocked.

Bonus I: Today would have been Mr. Rogers’ 84th birthday. Here’s everything you didn’t know about him.

Bonus II: A new study finds states are increasingly at risk of corruption. New Jersey — New Jersey? — is considered the most transparent of the states. Minnesota gets a D+ in the survey:

Government observers say decision-making in the state is usually done in public and citizens have ample opportunity to have their voices heard. But last summer’s state government shutdown and budget deal provided a troubling example of how legislation gets passed with no public input at the end of a legislative session.

Weeks of closed-door negotiations between Republican legislative leaders and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party led by Governor Dayton preceded the budget compromise on July 19th. Twenty days after the shutdown began, a special legislative session was called and the budget bills were signed into law.


It’s the first day of spring, but that’s only going by the calendar. The season came early in Minnesota and other parts of the country. Saturday’s high, for example, was the earliest 80-degree temperature ever recorded in the Twin Cities. Today’s Question: How has Minnesota’s early spring affected your life?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: What — if anything — should be done about Iran’s development of nuclear capability?

Second hour: Jonathan Odell, author of the acclaimed novel, “The View from Delphi,” which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil-rights Mississippi, his home state. His new novel, “The Healing,” explores the subversive nature story plays in the healing of an oppressed people.

Third hour: Singer-songwriter Mike Doughty.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Georgetown University law professor David Cole , who spoke recently at the U of M Humphrey School about civil liberties and human rights.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Rob Gifford talks about the future of China. Plus, actor Wendell Pierce on his venture into the grocery business.

Second hour: The military and mental health. Plus, the Iditarod winner, who beat out his dad and grandfather

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – From NPR: For spectators, rodeo is thrilling. The riders and ropers live for the rush. But the danger of severe injury in the sport exceeds professional football. Inside the thrilling and dangerous world of the rodeo.