Jul 17 2013
10:01 am

NBC News quotes Stevie Wonder: "I decided today that until the 'Stand Your Ground' law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world."

According to the Washington Post, more than 30 states have "stand your ground" laws, including Tennessee. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Since that article was published in 2012, North Carolina has also adopted the law.

The law is very popular in the South. Florida was the first state to adopt the law, in 2005. Tennessee passed it in 2007. Reading through a couple of the statutes, you soon notice the similarities. That's because the model legislation was drafted by the NRA and ALEC.

bizgrrl's picture

Not North or South Carolina?

Not North or South Carolina? Wonder why?

R. Neal's picture

It appears the FindLaw list

It appears the FindLaw list is out of date. South Carolina and North Carolina both have similar laws.

The FindLaw link says "Other states may have adopted a stand your ground doctrine through judicial interpretation of their self-defense laws..."

Bbeanster's picture

Stevie Wonder is an admirable

Stevie Wonder is an admirable guy.

I've read/heard claims that the defense didn't claim SYG as a defense in the Zimmerman case.

They didn't have to. The judge read it to the jury when she charged them. Juror B37 (or whatever) specifically mentioned it as a factor in her decision.

R. Neal's picture

That's true. Apparently, in

That's true. Apparently, in Florida you can have a court hearing to assert a "stand your ground" defense and if granted you are immune from criminal or civil liability and it goes no further.

Zimmerman's lawyers chose not to have the hearing, and relied on general "self defense" law. Maybe they were concerned about which way it would go so why risk having to tell a jury that a court had already ruled it out.

They say they will have a hearing if a civil case is filed to seek immunity from that. I suppose Zimmerman's acquittal would be exhibit A at that hearing.

reform4's picture

Yes and no.

He didn't assert SYG as noted in the hearing.

The changes to the law required a change in the jury instruction that basically instructs the jury to rule based on the stand your ground logic. In effect, the jury instruction for "self defense" was modified, so if you claim self-defense, you are in fact invoking Stand Your Ground during the trial.

Like everything else out of the right wing media, it's a bullshit lie behind a fig leaf of "well, technically..."

Bbeanster's picture

I think Zimmerman would have

I think Zimmerman would have been required to take the stand in a SYG hearing, and they were quite adamant about protecting him from cross examination. His lawyer says they are going to have such a hearing to stop any kind of civil action against him.

Factchecker's picture

Those contrarians at Slate

The brilliance of Wonder’s boycott is that it bypasses conversations of whether the Zimmerman verdict is “about” race (conversations Zimmerman’s defenders are all too eager to have, with voices raised) and becomes about laws themselves. George Zimmerman might not have gone free because of “Stand Your Ground,” but he did go free because he lives in a state where the definition of self-defense can favor the aggressor to almost psychotic extremes, and he went free because at least one juror explicitly believed in his right to “stand his ground.” If some people refuse to believe that all those things are connected, and that all those things don’t protect fearful men with guns far more than they protect young black men without them, then that’s their right. It’s Stevie Wonder’s right to believe the opposite.

The whole piece at Slate.

Min's picture

Of course, it's popular in the south.

We gotta be able to stand up to the federales and the revenooers when they come calling, threatening our very way of life.


R. Neal's picture

OK, found a more current list

OK, found a more current list and updated the original post. It's more than 30 states now.

WhitesCreek's picture

Our law seems reasonable until you get to this part:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.


I read that, as in the Zimmerman case, that someone can initiate a confrontation and shoot if they can goad someone into a fight.

Rich H's picture

The first sentence says "A

The first sentence says "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked..." Can you initiate a confrontation without acting unlawfully? Probably. But does that excuse the person who crosses the line and breaks the law?

Because that's what you are arguing.

Look at it this way.

I'm at an unpopular protest. I have the right to be there, but the fact that I am protesting is creating an atmosphere that can lead to a confrontation. I get into a heated discussion with a person on the other side that devolves into an argument. He swings at me.

Do I have a duty to retreat and leave the protest, or can I defend myself?

The law says I can defend myself. You say that's unreasonable. So am I to assume that if you are at a protest and a counter protest group arrives and emotions start ratcheting up, you will quietly pack up your signs and go from a 'duty to retreat?'

Of course not. You have a right to be there without getting punched in the face, which is why the law reads as it does.

Min's picture

And if you shoot and kill the guy who threw a punch at you...'re a murderer, and you have to live with that the rest of your life. And he's dead for no other reason than he lost his temper.

On the upside, if everyone who gets into a heated argument shoots the other person dead, that should reduce Tennessee's unemployment rate.

Rich H's picture

If you shoot someone for

If you shoot someone for punching you in the face, you will be convicted of manslaughter at least because you used disproportionate force. On the other hand, if your assailant pulls a gun, or goes for your gun, then you have the right to defend yourself with equivalent force.

reform4's picture


See below. Perhaps you can tell us where the term 'equivalent force' or 'proportional force' exists within the statute. Because IT ISN'T IN THERE. Scroll down.

Michael's picture

From The Atlantic Cities

AnonymousinTN's picture


Hummm- 2007 - didn't TN have a Democrat governor and a Democrat House - and a Democrat as Lt. Governor?

Min's picture

That assumes...

...that you can refer to Bredesen as a Democrat and keep a straight face.

Bbeanster's picture

One of the bricks in the wall

One of the bricks in the wall of his defense was the testimony of the guy who ran the gym where he'd been working out. This guy pretty much said Zimmerman was a creampuff who couldn't win a butt kicking contest with a one legged granny lady. This, of course, was crucial to the defense claim that Zimmerman was never the aggressor in the confrontation with Trayvon Martin.
The prosecution asked him one time if he'd advertised Zimmerman's being a client. He said no. The prosecution didn't pursue the line of questioning.
The guy flat lied.
And there's this:

And that's just one witness. I could link up his brother's distasteful tweets or his father's weird ramblings, which certainly do nothing to bolster the claim that the Zimmermans are cumbayah singing liberals when it comes to matters of race.

Somehow Zimmerman's version of the facts has become gospel.
It's not. If it were, his lawyers would have put him on the stand.

Min's picture

Well, of course.

When someone shoots and kill the only other witness, the story that gets told is, by default, the shooter's story.

Bbeanster's picture

Plus the rightwing noise

Plus the rightwing noise machine and the defense team have been busy defaming the victim.

Rich H's picture

I'm curious Betty. Should the

I'm curious Betty. Should the jury have considered things that weren't admitted as evidence in the trial? Additionally, the link you provide for Zimmerman's gym is not for advertizing purposes, or to drum up business. It's to provide information to reporters/interested parties. Clearly he is not using this to drum up business but to eliminate a time wasting evolution of answering the same useless questions over and over. To characterize that as advertising and then accuse him of lying under oath is reprehensible.

As for your second link, "ABC affiliate WFTV reports Mangiardi pleaded guilty in March after being accused of taking more than $2 million from investors as part of a Ponzi scheme. Pollock was one of her investors, the station reports." In other words, this woman, who pled guilty to stealing $2 million, accused Pollock of attacking her. She refused to give an address, or cooperate with the police in any way. The case will likely never make it to trial, and most likely was filed as a way for her to harass Pollock.

In short, your evidence is unconvincing.

Bbeanster's picture

Pollock put George

Pollock put George Zimmerman's name on his web site. Curious how that's not promoting the fact that Zimmermann trained at his gym. You can call it anything you want to call it, but the name is there on a request form for information on how to train like George Zimmerman.

And if you want to talk reprehensible, how about the trashing the dead 17-year-old victim is taking in this case based on falsehoods and fantasy ginned up by right wing media, like the whole "Lean" theory that people you follow are repeating as gospel -- that the skittles and watermelon drink were actually ingredients for some sinister illicit ghetto beverage. I'd never heard of this stuff, but looked it up:


Skittles and a non-carbonated drink are not listed as ingredients.

So why the concerted effort to trash this dead kid? And how does what he bought in the corner store have anything to do with what happened that night, anyway? And why didn't Zimmerman's blood get tested that night? Shouldn't that be a standard thing to do with a shooter? Why test the victiim's blood and not the perp's?

A quick background check on Zimmerman should have raised some questions, as well.


redmondkr's picture

All this talk of the 'stand

All this talk of the 'stand your ground' scenario fails to take into account the fact that Zimmerman was actually guilty of stalking the child, something he would have been too cowardly to do had he not been carrying that equalizer.

reform4's picture

I realized today

If you are in a crosswalk and a car approaches the crosswalk too quickly, you can shoot the driver dead and claim SYG.

Read the statute. It makes no consideration about the intent of the other person. Only that you have a legal right to be where you are (crosswalk) and just think you might be hurt (car isn't slowing down fast enough for your tastes).

R. Neal's picture

Prior to the "stand your

Prior to the "stand your ground" law, Florida law (and law in most other jurisdictions that have adopted it) required a "duty to retreat" if possible.

Min's picture

There should always be a duty to retreat.

In a civilized society, killing a person should be the absolute last option considered.

Bbeanster's picture

Between Zimmerman and Martin,

Between Zimmerman and Martin, Zimmerman is the one with a criminal record. And the two assault charges both involve violence against person.

JWagner's picture

In addition to states with

In addition to states with so-called "stand your ground" statutes, the common law of many other states do not have a duty to retreat (i.e. California and Virginia). There are cases from the 1800s, and probably the prior century.

Tennessee has had the "no duty to retreat" since revising the criminal code in 1989.

The 2007 revisions basically broadened the locations where there was a presumption of imminent fear of death or serious injury from an unlawful entry, such as in one's place of business, hotel room and certain vehicles. The presumption under the 1989 law only applied to a residence.

reform4's picture

Yes, but...

.. no duty to retreat from your home (duh) is a long walk from 'stand your ground' which applies pretty much any place- a movie theatre, a crosswalk, Gay Street during Rossini festival, etc.

I wonder how far the definition of "serious bodily injury" goes. I mean, if I got a finger crushed, that would be a bit problem for me in my job.

So, if someone is about to slam a door on my finger at the mall, I can open fire on them? That's what the law says.

Rich H's picture

No, that's not what the law

No, that's not what the law says. The law says you can meet force with force, which means you can only use force proportionate to the threat. SO if someone is about to deliberately slam your hand in a door, you are allowed to use only the force necessary to prevent them from doing so. Shooting them is not justifiable in your example.

That's what's wrong with most commentary on this issue; it proceeds either from ignorance, or dishonesty. Read the statute, then get the parts you don't understand explained to you by an honest, competent lawyer.

reform4's picture


Perhaps you can show us where in the statute it says that. Because 'proportional force' simply isn't there. You can't just make shit up.

You can read TAC 39-11-611 right here.

I would agree with you, the finger-in-the-door is an extreme example, but it does say 'serious bodily injury'. What is that? How is that defined? Losing an arm? A finger? A toe? It's clearly more than life-threatening, because they added this phrase to 'life-threatening' so it must mean more than that.

... an honest, competent lawyer.

I did have to laugh a little at that one.

WhitesCreek's picture

The TN law clearly states

The TN law clearly states "including deadly force". Get the parts you don't understand explained to you by anyone who can read.

reform4's picture

"Cop Killing Law"

Interestingly, the Tennessee statute includes this:

(3) To resist a halt at a roadblock, arrest, search, or stop and frisk that the person using force knows is being made by a law enforcement officer, unless:
(A) The law enforcement officer uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest, search, stop and frisk, or halt; and
(B) The person using force reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary to protect against the law enforcement officer's use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.

Read that second one again. If I 'reasonably believe' that the cop is going to use excessive force, even if he doesn't do it, then I get to shoot the cop?


So, if a cop, in the heat of the moment, says "Get down on the ground or I'm going to beat the shit out of you," the perp then gets to LEGALLY shoot the copy?

(Assuming the perp isn't black, of course... we know the law wouldn't apply then...).

I'm stunned. And appalled.

But it's also interesting that the TN law does include this:

(e) The threat or use of force against another is not justified:
(1) If the person using force consented to the exact force used or attempted by the other individual;
(2) If the person using force provoked the other individual's use or attempted use of unlawful force, unless:
(A) The person using force abandons the encounter or clearly communicates to the other the intent to do so; and
(B) The other person nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful force against the person;

So, reading that, Zimmerman would be screwed if he had been in Tennessee, although he could claim he tried to walk away and Trayvon continued to pursue him. OK, I feel a little better.

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