In what seems to be a clear case of a law that has long left the tracks, a man who shot his old friend in the back ten times in a parking lot in front of several witnesses is not being charged. The state is Florida, so two guesses what the relevant law is. If you guessed Stand Your Ground, congratulations! Unfortunately, the prize is ultimate doom. Which is what happens when vigilante law is official justice policy, as we see here and in several other cases.
In presenting why they would not file charges against 20 year old Colt Thriemer for shooting Thomas James Brown in a Walmart parking lot, the State’s Attorney argued:
Under the current state of the law and the facts of this case, Thriemer was legally allowed to use deadly force based on a reasonable belief that his life was in danger and that he was about to become the victim of an armed robbery. [Italics mine]
Remember the fascinating record that the Florida States’ Attorney has? After much press and external pressure, they finally decided to prosecute George Zimmerman for his fatal encounter with unarmed Trayvon Martin after preying on him (and being advised by police dispatcher to stay away and let the police handle it). Many argue that the SA botched the prosecution in the trial itself. The Zimmerman case was one of clear vigilantism, and much like early 20th century cases, black people who “step out of line”, so to speak, were the targets.
Another clear case of horrible Stand Your Ground vigilantism is the case of Jordan Davis, a black teen, murdered by Michael Dunn, a middle aged white American after some heated words in (here we go again), a parking lot. As I recounted in February:
The case of Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis repeats the case that George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin made clear a year ago: Guns have more rights in the United States judicial system than black youth do. Consider the fact that Zimmerman was set to go free no matter what the evidence showed according to the ways the Stand Your Ground laws were written in Florida and enacted in that court. Consider that members of the jury admitted as much. Consider the fact that Dunn went back to his car, retrieved a gun from his glove compartment, shot into a car nine times while his victims never got out of the car, kept shooting at it while they were driving away with Davis having been fatally shot, and then had the gall and practicality to claim “self-defense.” Despite the clarity that this was a case of pre-meditated murder, his jury could not figure this out for several straight days and still could not agree with that.
The only reason he was indicted, we recall, is that he continued shooting after the car was speeding away. Dunn could have merely murdered Davis and gotten away with it scot-free under the presumption of the vigilante “justice” known as Stand Your Ground. Because Dunn told Davis and his friends to turn their hip hop music down and Davis wouldn’t. That, somehow and in some way, made Davis a threat to Dunn’s life and Dunn could begin shooting.
Remember Renisha McBride? Young black woman who went looking for help after crashing her car into a tree? She was obviously a bit dizzy, but of no threat whatsoever. And yet she was murdered for knocking on doors looking for help in the middle of the night. Through a screen door. With a shotgun. From only two feet away.
It also says something that police detectives did not follow protocol and collect key evidence until ten days after the incident when the county’s prosecutor began checking into the story (again, after external pressure). This case is still ongoing.
Folks, if someone is on the other side of a screen door, it’s usually pretty obvious that they are no immediate threat to your life. But under the Castle Doctrine (immediate cousin to Stand Your Ground), vigilante laws allow for rash judgments. Rash judgments that the Constitution tries to mitigate for.
In the case of Thriemer and Brown, Brown may have been a threat to Thriemer. And maybe, just maybe Thriemer’s life was in extreme danger. But a threat is not an action, as police contend. Though in this case, the violence that the victim would have likely inflicted seems real, it sets a precedent for determining Pre-Crimes, where the alleged is not only guilty before proven innocent, but is deemed guilty before they actually commit a crime, before they are even in a position to commit a crime. Under such conditions where a person is guilty under “reasonable belief”, then, nearly anyone at varying times is a threat. And anyone at some point could then become a victim of these vigilante laws. What, after all, is a “reasonable belief” and who gets to determine if it is reasonable or not? George Zimmerman isn’t the only person with a vigilante trigger-happy finger. Those most in danger of these vigilante laws are supposedly threatening groups of people, such as those with mental health issues or Black, Latino and Arab-Americans, who are often stereotyped as savage and violent.
But as for the elephant in the room, shooting someone ten times in the back seems a bit like, shall we say it, overkill?
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