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Marissa Alexander. Associated Press Marissa Alexander. Associated Press  

Blacks benefit from Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at disproportionate rate

Photo of Patrick Howley
Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

One hundred thirty three people in the state of Florida have used a “Stand Your Ground” defense. Of these claims, 73 were considered “justified” (55 percent), while 39 resulted in criminal convictions and 21 cases are still pending.

Forty four African Americans in the state of Florida have claimed a “Stand Your Ground” defense. Of these claims, 24 were considered “justified” (55 percent), while 11 resulted in convictions and nine cases are still pending.

Of the 76 white people who have used the defense, 40 were considered “justified” (less than 53 percent), while 25 were convicted and 11 cases are still pending.

Ten Hispanics have used the defense, seven of them successfully, according to the database, which included George Zimmerman as a “Stand Your Ground” defendant.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” cases have resulted in 78 white victims against 40 black victims, including Martin, and 10 Hispanic victims.

“For a defense attorney, it (stand your ground) is an excellent tool. Even if your client is not found legal under stand your ground, it helps you flesh out the issues as the case proceeds to trial… It’s an opportunity to push forward with that position while also forcing the state to show their hand,” said defense attorney Chuck Hobbs, whose 20-year-old African-American client Earl Jackson was found not guilty of murder but was convicted on lesser charges after a 2009 gang shootout in a Tallahassee parking lot that left an innocent bystander dead.

Then-19-year-old African American Tony Hayward of Palm Beach County also benefited from the “Stand Your Ground” defense when he was acquitted in the shooting death of 22-year old Jyron Miles.

“Besides the shooter’s word and a grainy surveillance video, jurors had little to go on when deciding if Tony Hayward was defending his life when he shot and killed Jyron Miles, 22. Hayward, then 19, and his father were delivering newspapers when Miles appeared at about 3 a.m., according to newspaper reports. They said Miles aggressively demanded ‘is you straight?’ a phrase sometimes used to see if someone has drugs,” according to the Tampa Bay Times database. “The father and son said Miles then reached for what they thought was a gun, so the teen fired. The video did not show whether Miles had a gun, but police did not find one when they arrived…At his second trial in early 2011, Hayward was acquitted. His public defender argued that Hayward was standing his ground during the confrontation.”

The best known African American associated with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is Marissa Alexander, who was prevented from invoking the law after firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive ex-husband. Alexander, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and her case has become an important cause for supporters of the law. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same state attorney who lost the Zimmerman case.

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