The law is supposed to solve problems, not create them. Laws should provide for as much clarity as possible, not expand the realms of ambiguity and subjectivity. Laws ought to bring about the practical results their promoters claim they'll achieve. And at its best, the law can help us to live together more harmoniously.
By all these measures, “stand your ground” laws are a failure. These statutes make the already difficult task of jurors even harder. They aggravate mistrust across racial lines. They appear to increase rather than decrease crime.
We should not have had to go through another racially charged trial in Florida to learn all this. Writing in the Washington Post, Mark Berman offered a succinct account of the facts of the Michael Dunn case that has aroused so much legitimate passion.
“In November 2012, Michael Dunn shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station parking lot. Dunn had approached a Dodge Durango holding Davis and three other teenagers and asked them to turn down their music. ... An argument developed, and Dunn fired 10 times at the vehicle, including multiple shots fired as it pulled away.
“Davis died almost immediately after he was hit. ... Dunn, who was in town for a wedding, returned to his hotel and drove back home to Brevard County the following morning; he was arrested later that day.” Dunn said he saw a shotgun in the Durango but there was no evidence of one.
Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder but the jury hung on the first-degree murder charge brought in connection with Davis' death.
The verdict came seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Sanford, Fla., killing of Trayvon Martin in another case where stand your ground was at issue. Both Martin and Davis were black teenagers. Should it surprise anyone that many African-Americans fear that the law does not protect young males of color when they find themselves in confrontations with whites?