There’s a difference in the way some regard the notion of self-defense these days and it’s a difference that’s taking a dangerous turn.
These are the thoughts running through my head as I read about the case of Detroit resident, Renisha McBride; shot and killed outside a Dearborn Heights residence after she went there seeking assistance, after a car accident and her cell phone died early in the morning.
In this case, the distinction lies in the way home owners interpret their responsibility in an event where deadly force is used.
The home’s owner says that he felt threatened and that his actions were justified. He has also hired an attorney. And while it’s true that police had initially sought an arrest warrant for the shooter, whose identity is being withheld, the Prosecutor’s office has sent it back seeking additional information.
Unfortunately, we’ve all seen how this type of maneuvering turns out. You can’t help but wonder about the approach of law enforcement officials right now. Are they looking for something that exonerates the shooter and justifies the killing under Detroit’s SYG laws , also known as the Self Defense Act, or are they looking at the case more objectively and taking into consideration the plight of the 19 year-old victim. That’s the danger of Stand Your Ground. It seemingly prohibits prosecution of individuals as long as they claim they felt threatened and prevents law enforcement from investigating fully the circumstances leading up to the killing.
This case, however, shouldn’t be considered a slam-dunk for SYG since there are discrepancies in the homeowner’s account. By the one, he was in fear for his life and the killing was justified but on the other, the gun discharged accidentally.
Other troubling aspects include the fact that he was originally behind a locked, closed door within the safety of his home and wound up killing someone outside. And while his retreat is not a factor in this case, the retreat of the victim should be considered as her family has said she was shot as she was leaving the porch; another indication that the threat, real or perceived, was reduced.
Has it come to this? Is this the direction we really want to go?
Is it so bad today that a knock on a home owner’s door, in the middle of the night from someone seeking assistance, will be met with immediate gunfire, without provocation?? Are we all really that afraid of each other or is it simply open season on blacks, minorities and other folks existing on the so-called fringes in America? With Stand Your Ground, it’s hard to tell.
Back in the day, deadly force was considered a last resort, a step to be taken once all other options were tried unsuccessfully. Today, it seems that deadly force is most often the first and only choice on the table.
As the title of this piece, I asked a simple question, one that, if we’re smart, we’ll all each of us ask the other: in cases of Stand Your Ground, who speaks for those killed? In times past it was the law and the courts that spoke up, representing the dead or those murdered in any type of confrontation; blind as to the fault until a verdict was rendered and with no ax to grind.
These days, under the current, disjointed statutes, a gross presumption of innocence travels in lock-step with those who pull the trigger. It creates a situation of, Oops! My bad! while at the same time trivializing the result of that bad, which is more than likely someone lying dead somewhere. It belittles the value of a human life and until that changes, Dame Justice becomes truly unseeing, uncaring and very easily manipulated.