“Stand Your Ground” has changed the legal landscape in Florida
Hard numbers tell the story. Before 2005, a shooting was generally considered self defense if an assailant had tried to enter your home and you could prove that you used deadly force as the last resort. In 2005, the “Stand your Ground” law was passed by the state legislature, which removed the need to retreat before using force.
The result? Florida averaged 12 “justifiable homicide” deaths a year from 2000-2004. After “Stand your Ground” was passed in 2005, the number of “justifiable” deaths almost tripled to an average of 35 a year, an increase of 283% from 2005-2010.
“Stand Your Ground” is the justification George Zimmerman’s defense team used when the self-appointed crime watch volunteer shot and killed Miami teen Trayvon Martin, who was returning to his father’s fiance’s house from a visit to the convenience store.
Is there a racial bias in the way the “Stand Your Ground” is manifested in day-to-day court proceedings? A recent study by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center shows that whites who defend themselves with “Stand Your Ground” are more likely to have the actions considered “justified” than blacks.
The case of U.S. airman and father Michael Giles supports this idea. This case began when Giles, who had just completed a second tour in Iraq, visited a nightclub with friends. While he was there, a fight suddenly broke out, and then spread to include 30-40 people. Giles was not involved in the fight, but clearly the situation was dangerous, so he retrieved his pistol from his car and went to collect his friends.
As Giles skirted the crowd, Courtney Thrower, who later testified in court that he was angry and decided to attack the next person he saw, plunged towards Giles and struck him, knocking him to the ground. As Thrower closed in for another blow, Giles drew his pistol and fired, striking him in the leg. Fragments of the bullet broke off and struck two other people as well. No one was killed.
The perfect “Stand Your Ground” case
This was clearly the kind of incident that the “Stand Your Ground” law had been passed for. A man doing nothing to provoke an attack, a man with no history of violence and no arrest record, was assaulted, and he responded by simply wounding his attacker. This should have been an open-and-shut case. But there was just one problem. The shooter was an African-American male, and the rules for them are different.
How different? Consider this: George Zimmerman pursued a teenager, sought out a fight, and then used that fight as an excuse to murder that teenager in cold blood. He used the “Stand Your Ground” defense and walked free. Michael Giles pursued no one, initiated nothing, and when attacked, merely wounded the attacker. He attempted the “Stand Your Ground” Defense and was sentenced by the state of Florida to a mandatory 25 years in prison.
Your voice can make a difference
If you believe that this is a tragic miscarriage of justice, please sign the change.org petition asking for Michael’s sentence to be commuted.
You can also contact the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has the power to commute this sentence. The official phone number is (850) 488-7146.
Governor Scott’s mailing address is:
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001