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Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Editorial: Stand-your-ground law not license to kill

Last Modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 5:38 PM

Prior to the Treyvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida, many Louisiana citizens were not even aware that this state, like Florida, has a stand-your-ground law in place. Florida’s stand-you-ground law drew national attention when it was brought to light during the trial of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Martin.

Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law has been in effect since 2006. This state is one of 20 states that enacted such a law after Florida did so in 2005. The Louisiana stand-your-ground law says this, in the justifiable homicide and use of force statutes:

“A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

Then, Louisiana’s aggressor statute states:

“A person who is the aggressor or who brings on a difficulty cannot claim the right of self-defense unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith and in such a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict.’’

Louisiana’s stand-your-ground laws were preceded by “castle laws,” which are statutes that allow citizens to use force, deadly or otherwise, to protect themselves on their property, or “castle,” which includes a person’s home or car. In 2006, the stand-your-ground provisions were simply added to the state’s castle laws.

Because of the controversy stirred up by the Zimmerman/Martin case, a group called Leaders with Vision recently hosted a forum in Baton Rouge to open discussion about the Louisiana stand-your-ground law.

At the forum, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said he would prefer a citizen who feels threatened pick up the phone and dial 911 rather than pick up a gun and shoot.

Issues of race and the law were brought up at the gathering. Chief East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender Mike Mitchell told The Advocate of Baton Rouge that across the nation, in states that have stand-your-ground laws, these laws are not always “applied equally along racial lines.’’ In many cases a homicide is justified by the law when a white person kills a black person, but not when it’s the other way around, Mitchell said.

Forum participant Shenequa Grey, an associate law professor at Southern University, brought up the point that the Louisiana law is not a license to kill, and she is right.

Mitchell referenced a recent case in Acadiana where the victim of a home burglary held the burglar at gunpoint until police arrived, making the point that just because you can shoot and kill someone, doesn’t mean you should if it can possibly be avoided. As citizens, even if defending ourselves and our property, we should consider the gravity of taking a human life and avoid doing so at all cost if we can.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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