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Time to Repeal ALEC/NRA Stand Your Ground Laws PDF Print E-mail
Articles | Politics

-- and might be the impetus to repeal a law like "Stand Your Ground," which was adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and subsequently spread across the country. Stand Your Ground was part of the jury instructions in Zimmerman's criminal trial, and it could again come into play if Trayvon's family brings a civil suit.

"This is another tragedy for Black families everywhere, and another instance of how law enforcement and our criminal justice system routinely fail Black people and communities," said Rashad Robinson, Director of Color of Change.

"What the verdict says, to the astonishment of tens of millions of us, is that you can go looking for trouble in Florida, with a gun and a great deal of racial bias, and you can find that trouble, and you can act upon that trouble in a way that leaves a young man dead, and none of it guarantees that you will be convicted of a crime," writes Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic.

Jury Instructions Included Stand Your Ground

In 2012, the killing of Trayvon Martin acutely focused attention on Stand Your Ground laws, which give criminal and civil immunity to a person who claims they use deadly force because they allege a reasonable fear of harm. Because of the law, Sanford Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman because they apparently agreed it was "reasonable" to feel threatened after stalking an unarmed African-American teenager returning from a trip to buy Skittles and iced tea.

Some have claimed that Stand Your Ground played no role after Zimmerman was eventually arrested -- he and his lawyers relied on Florida's lenient self defense statutes -- but the jury instructions invoked the Stand Your Ground protections by stating he had no "duty to retreat" from the situation:

"If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

This language is nearly identical to that in the Florida Stand Your Ground law and the ALEC "model" legislation. We cannot know if the outcome would have been different had the six jurors been instructed differently -- but we do know that Stand Your Ground played a role in the case, even after Zimmerman's arrest.

Law Could Also Be Applied in Civil Lawsuit

And Stand Your Ground could still come into play.

If, as expected, Martin's family brings a civil suit against Zimmerman seeking damages for wrongful death, he could still try to invoke the law's protections. The Stand Your Ground law provides potential immunity not only in criminal prosecutions brought by the state, but also civil lawsuits filed by a person's family.

What's more, if the court sides with Zimmerman's Stand Your Ground claim in the civil case, the law would actually require Martin's family to pay Zimmerman's legal fees.

"The Poison of Stand Your Ground Was from ALEC"

As the Center for Media and Democracy (publishers of uncovered, ALEC adopted Stand Your Ground as a "model" for other states in early 2005, just months after the NRA pushed it through Florida's legislature (with then-state legislator Marco Rubio voting in favor).

The NRA boasted that its lobbyist's presentation at a 2005 ALEC meeting "was well-received," and the corporations and state legislators on the Criminal Justice Task Force voted unanimously to approve the bill as an ALEC model, under the name the "Castle Doctrine Act." At the time, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest seller of rifles, was the corporate co-chair of the Task Force. Since becoming an ALEC model, twenty-six states have passed laws that contain provisions identical or similar to the ALEC legislation. ALEC called the legislation one of its "successes."

(See this infographic showing the connections between ALEC, the NRA, and Stand Your Ground.)


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Time to Repeal ALEC/NRA Stand Your Ground Laws: The acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing unarmed high-schooler Trayvon Martin serves as a reminder of the continuing inequities in America's criminal justice system. ...
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