I've had my fair share of discussions regarding stand your ground policies over the last decade.

in #selflast month


The in-person discussions with people on the other side had become fewer and further between in recent years. Upon having a few more of these talks, I'm realizing that the understanding of these policies by the people on the "duty to retreat" side hasn't evolved much.

Basically, a great many of them still think that support for stand your ground is just people looking for a pass to kill black people.

So, I'm gonna tackle this two ways. Hopefully there will be some clarity.

Understand that I'm talking to anybody who decides to read this as a potential juror in a future murder trial in which the defendant claimed self-defense.

One thing that people need to understand is that jurors have tremendous power. A jury can return any verdict it chooses. Jury nullification is a thing. As we can more than suspect from the Chauvin trial, in regard to the juror Brandon Mitchell, you can also turn in a guilty vote having gone into the trial with your mind already made up.

Of course, I personally believe that the only ethical way to go against the letter of the law is to turn in a not guilty verdict while having proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did break the law on the basis of the law being unjust or the penalties being too severe or whatnot. I can't imagine it ever being ethical to find a person guilty because you think that the person did something immoral that isn't illegal, or that should be illegal.

Still, that's neither here nor there.

The bottom line is that all these policies do is provide instruction to you as a juror. In fact, in most stand your ground states, jurors are still told that they can make a judgement that a reasonable person would have made a greater effort to retreat even if he or she wasn't legally obligated. Even with duty to retreat policies, different jurors will have different ideas about what a sufficient effort to retreat looks like.

Putting in a verdict that goes against the letter of the law isn't going to bite you in the ass as a juror.

Now, that said, if you are one of these people who views stand your ground as a malicious effort to make it easier for trigger happy rednecks and Karens to shoot black people, imagine that you are on a jury. Examine what it actually means for you to be passionately against stand your ground as a policy.

There are five elements of self-defense: innocence, imminence, proportionality, reasonablness, and avoidance.

Avoidance is the only element that stand your ground challenges.

If you're on a jury, and the charge is murder, and the defendant is saying that he or she acted in self-defense, and you're in a stand your ground state (namely, you're told not to evaluate the element of avoidance), you as a juror don't need the defendant to fail to check all four boxes -- you only need the defendant to fail to check one of those boxes to be justified in throwing him or her in prison for the rest of his or her life.

You can believe that the defendant was innocent and facing an imminent threat of deadly force and you can see the defendant's assessment to be reasonable; but, you can believe that the defendant acted disproportionately -- maybe the defendant squeezed the trigger one too many times for your liking -- you don't need to overturn stand your ground to find the defendant guilty.

All a passionate opposition to stand your ground tells me about you is that you want that fifth excuse to take away a person's life.

All that tells me is that, if you're a juror on a case like this, you could agree that the defendant was going about his or her law abiding day until he or she was attacked, and agree that the defendant was reasonable in assessing the attack as an imminent deadly force threat, and that the defendant did respond proportionally; but, you want one more excuse to find that defendant guilty.

Really, though, there's a fundamental difference between the "you want" statements on this issue.

The "you want" statements from the people who think that we should do away with stand your ground are neither falsifiable nor verifiable. It's just a statement without warrant that's meant to put the other side on the defensive.

Now, in terms of the "you want" statement that I just made, I should clarify that it only applies to those who know the elements of self-defense, know the first thing about what your duty is as a person who could be on a jury, and still passionately oppose stand your ground. There are a lot of people out there who don't know enough about this to consciously want anything. But if you are aware of all the opportunities that will be given to you to rule guilty if you ever are involved in this kind of a trial, and you're still passionately opposed to stand your ground policies, I think my "you want" statement is valid and provable.

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