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What Stand Your Ground Really Means

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Stand Your Ground laws are horrible by themselves. But the idea that these laws are meant to allow citizens to defend themselves is laughable. The laws’ real meaning is to allow white men to reassert their authority over non-white men in whatever way they choose. South Carolina has effectively affirmed this:

South Carolina is one of more than 20 states that has passed an expansive Stand Your Ground law authorizing individuals to use deadly force in self-defense. The law has been used to protect a man who killed an innocent bystander while pointing his gun at several teens he called “women thugs.” But prosecutors in Charleston are drawing the line at domestic violence.

In the cases of women who claim they feared for their lives when confronted with violent intimate abusers, prosecutors say the Stand Your Ground law shouldn’t apply.

“(The Legislature’s) intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” prosecutor Culver Kidd told the Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with (its) wording and intent.”

In other words, a woman using armed force to defend herself against a home invading man she had a relationship with doesn’t apply because, again, these laws are about white dudes. And South Carolina refuses to take domestic violence seriously even thought it is an epidemic:

The Post and Courier, which originally reported prosecutors’ position, has been doing a series on domestic violence over the past few months, in which it found that women are dying at a rate of one every 12 days from domestic abuse in South Carolina, a state “awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered … a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse.” More than 70 percent of those who kill their spouse had “multiple prior arrests on those charges” and the majority spent just days in jail.

It is in that context that the Post and Courier gave front page treatment to another strike against domestic victims in Stand Your Ground laws, even as those who engage in what many consider vigilante killings are protected by the law. The man granted immunity for killing an innocent bystander, Shannon Anthony Scott, reportedly had a sign posted in his window that read, “Fight Crime – Shoot First.”

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  • I hear the sound of tap-dancing feet as Culvert tries to say the Castle Doctrine doesn’t apply to women, without actually saying it.

    They should rename SYG and call it Don’t Be Afraid to Shoot Strangers (apologies to Iron Maiden).

    • Tennyson

      Of course the Castle Doctrine applies to women. Women should stay inside the castles and never look out the window or they’ll end up floating down rivers and dying.

    • Pat

      They should rename SYG and call it Don’t Be Afraid to Shoot Strangers (apologies to Iron Maiden).

      More like: White guys get to shoot whoever they want.

      • Lee Rudolph

        White guys get to shoot whoever they want

        as long as they’re only shooting down. Shooting is like kicking in that respect.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I hear the sound of tap-dancing feet as Culvert tries to say the Castle Doctrine doesn’t apply to women, without actually saying it.

      I’ve got news for you, they already said it.

  • Gregor Sansa

    Sickening.

  • Derelict

    We can’t have women thinking they can take any sort of effective action against abusive men. That way lies, well, empowerment. And empowerment leads to Lorena Bobbit, or The Burning Bed, or even women thinking they can just up and leave!

    So, blasting away at the black kid at your front door who’s trying to sell you magazines? A-Okay! Stopping the husband who’s knocked out most of your teeth, beaten you bloody, chained you kid to the radiator and is now coming toward you with a knife? Shut up and make him a sandwich!

    • It’s particularly discouraging that the proponents of SYG express the differences pretty much just this way — it’s okay for white men to shoot anyone they want, but it’s not okay for anyone who’s not a white man to shoot anyone. And it’s still unlikely we’ll ever get the goddamn things overturned or voted out. :/

      • Aimai

        Its really very southern. I know I always refer to it but in Albion’s Seed the different concepts of liberty in Northern and Southern cultures are explored. Basically until I read the book I had not understood how very much past each other we speak when we speak of liberty. In the Southern cultures liberty and rights really belonged primarily to certain kinds of people: older, important, white, males. And a key aspect of liberty was the ability to exert control over females, non whites, and poorer people (tenants, lower orders) or strangers (such as yankees).

        • The Dark Avenger

          Yes, a relative of mine had a grandfather who left the family home from TN to Texas when he was a legal adult, but was essentially kidnapped from there by his father, who took him back to TN. A second trip to TX a few months later was more successful. This would’ve taken place in the late 19th/early 20th Century time period.

          It’s reminiscent of Roman law that the father had rights over his child until he died, regardless of the age of the child. It’s a mentality that is sometimes spotted, like a pair of crocodilian eyes seen in a calm, featureless, fetid swamp, in Southern culture. Plus, TX was seen as a desirable destination for people’s from TN to move to, which dynamics I’m still somewhat unclear on as to why it was so, or were they welcomed as fellow Southerners with a shared history and a common beginning?

          • JustRuss

            Maybe Davy Crockett love?

  • Origami Isopod

    Well, you know, it’s the man who’s the real homeowner, head of household, etc. The woman’s just there to serve him. She probably doesn’t contribute anything to the household anyway, just sits around and eats bonbons all day.

    • Nobdy

      Women are chattel property. Can a chair shoot a fat guy who threatens to damage it by sitting in it? Of course not. So why should a woman be allowed to shoot her owner, I mean boyfriend, just for smacking her around or threatening to kill her? It’s a perversion of the course of privilege, I mean justice.

    • witlesschum

      …law-abiding citizens…

      That’s who the prosecutor said the law was for. By South Carolina definition, those are white men and apparently nobody else. It’s not surprising that they think the real meaning of every word of state law is to instill dominance by the rich, white and male, or should be. Because their actions make it clear that’s what they’re always thinking. But it’s always jarring when it gets this close to the surface.

  • Nobdy

    Reaching into our personal relationships? I think we can agree that women shouldn’t be able to shoot men for leaving socks on the floor or insulting their cooking or hogging the TV remote, but once you’ve gotten to the point of assault and violent home invasion it’s no longer really a personal relationship, it’s a criminal attack. Was what War Machine did to Christie Mack part of their personal relationships? Would it have been okay for the man who was there to shoot War Machine but not Mack because they had a “personal relationship?”

    Most murders are committed between parties who know each other. Any self defense law that excludes people with which you have “personal relationships” is not really about self defense at all.

    • witlesschum

      It’s interesting that he put it that way, “our personal relationships,” too. It reads like he’s imagining himself as the victim of Stand Your Ground laws for the first time, which is pretty fucked up when you realize he has more empathy toward your average wife beater than he does toward Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. To be as charitable as possible, he can more likely imagine a situation where his wife murders him and falsely uses a stand your ground defense than he can imagine a stranger accosting him on the street and using a stand your ground defense.

  • Joe_JP

    home invading man she had a relationship with doesn’t apply because, again, these laws are about white dudes

    so white women who attack even black intruders are convicted?

    The article suggests the historical double standard applied to domestic relations (and race), but just to remind, the problem goes beyond women here. After all, men are sometimes victims of domestic violence, including “gay dudes” who very well can be physically smaller than their attackers.

    I agree stand your ground laws are a bad idea, but this is another example of overcompensating.

    • Origami Isopod

      I think you’re being overly literal here.

      • Joe_JP

        I might be, but things like:

        The laws’ real meaning is to allow white men to reassert their authority over non-white men in whatever way they choose.

        leads me to wonder.

        To me, what the example shows is that domestic violence as well as race as a whole is treated differently in this country depending on whose ox is being gored. Making this about SYG itself is questionable, esp. his (typical) laying it on a bit thick.

  • rea

    Well, hell, the common law rule was that home was the one place where you were entitled to stand your ground.

  • KmCO

    No one could have predicted…et cetera et cetera, vomit.

  • DrDick

    They had already established that SYG does not apply if you are black.

  • Does nobody fucking read a linked item? Including the guy who posts about it?

    “South Carolina” hasn’t done any such thing as Loomis writes, according to the article he links.

    Rather:

    On October 3, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson sided with Jones and granted her Stand Your Ground immunity, meaning she is exempt from trial on the charge. In response to Kidd’s argument that individuals could not invoke Stand Your Ground to defend against violence in their own homes, Nicholson said that dynamic would create the “nonsensical result” that a victim of domestic abuse could defend against an attacker outside of the home, but not inside the home – where the most vicious domestic violence is likely to occur.
    Kidd is unsatisfied with this reasoning, and is appealing the case to argue that Jones and other defendants like her can’t invoke the Stand Your Ground law so long as they are in their home. The Post and Courier reports that there are two other similar cases coming up the pike that are being pursued by the same prosecutor’s office. In one, a judge who dismissed a murder charge against a women who stabbed a roommate attacking her called the charge “appalling.” In another, the defendant’s attorney plans to ask for a Stand Your Ground hearing.

    So: this asshole prosecutor is running amok, but in two of the three cases mentioned, the courts told the prosecutor he was nuts, and a hearing is pending in the 3d case.

    Wake me up if/when the appellate courts in S.C. agree with the prosecutor. But right now, this isn’t a story about “South Carolina” … this is a story about prosecutors seeking convictions at any price. Which is a problem, but not the problem the post is talking about.

    • Aimai

      Wake me up when the Prosecutor is censured by anyone for basically denying that SYG can apply to women.

      • Prosecutors do shit like that all the time, as my crim-defense friends tell me. Fortunately this instance is getting some publicity.

        But it’s misleading, to put it kindly, to write a blog post about how the entire state is doing X, when it’s apparently one prosecutor’s office that’s doing X. That’s like blaming Rhode Island on Loomis.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Agree with you there. Where the hell is Nikki Haley on this?

      • mojrim

        Can’t be done. Prosecutorial discretion is nearly absolute.

        • Yep. The media might get the elected boss – I assume SC elects its DA’s – to cut the line on this crap. Another reason not to make this about “South Carolina” but rather “that asshole in South Carolina.”

        • matt w

          Does not “Prosecutorial discretion is nearly absolute” make “This prosecutors’ office is running amok” a really big problem?

          • Yep. System relies on judges to smack ’em down. You can see the flaws there.

    • Joe_JP

      knee jerk comments worthy of a SNL “never mind” on LGM?

      Color (sic) me shocked!

    • Rob in CT

      Righteous rant. Bravo.

  • mojrim

    While you are right about what states like SC and Florida intend by SYG laws that does not make them ipso facto horrible. I live in Washington where “no retreat” and “pro-active” self defense have been the law since incorporation and it doesn’t get used in the way you describe. In point of fact the pro-active interpretation is what gave us battered spouse defense. I’m not sure exactly why it works: perhaps because they are affirmative defenses at trial, or because they are precedent rather than statute. More and more I’m inclined to think that WA lacks the nasty racial history of the american south and that those states passed the laws in question specifically to enable white men to kill scary brown people.

    • As I vaguely understand it, self defense at common law didn’t work if retreat was an option.

      This had occasional bad results, because Joe Blow is not versed in the common law of self defense, and even if he were, he might forget the fine points when some motherfucker was trying to kill him.

      Still, I think asking a jury whether it was reasonable not to retreat remains better than a purely subjective standard, which seems like it would tend to acquit assholes.

      • mojrim

        English common law as we inherited it does involve a duty to retreat. My point about WA is that our legal history has abolished such requirement yet we do not seem to have suffered the ill effects witnessed in Old Dixie. When called to trial a WA jury need only determine if the defense was proportionate to the assault.

  • CDWard

    SYG laws are the modern version of lynching.

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