The Effects of the Castle Doctrine on Community Policing: Do “Stand Your Ground Laws Create Distrust between the Police and Minorities

This post is actually a research paper I wrote for a criminal class while in undergrad. It is about the “Stand Your Ground” law that has been under a great deal of public scrutiny since the death of Travon Martin in 2012.

On February 25, 2012 at approximately 7:09 pm, George Zimmerman called the Sanford, Florida police department to report “suspicious behavior” by Trayvon Martin. Mr. Zimmerman was advised by the police dispatcher to refrain from following Martin after telling the dispatcher that Martin had started running. Around the same time Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend called him on his cell phone (Surge, Robertson, & Alverez, 2012). They talked for approximately three minutes. In the course of their conversation, Martin informed his girlfriend that he spotted a strange man following him. She advised him to run and overheard him exchange words with George Zimmerman, overheard sounds of pushing, and then his headset went silent. After trying to call him back, she couldn’t reach him (Surge, Robertson, & Alverez, 2012). At approximately the same time, neighbors began to call 911 to report an altercation they overheard (and in some cases saw) between Martin and Zimmerman. By the time police arrived, the altercation was over and Martin was dead from a gun shot to the chest from Zimmerman’s gun (Stutzman, 2012). All of this, including the police taking George Zimmerman to the police station to question him, took place in less than three hours (Stutzman, 2012).

On August 1, 2010, Marissa Alexander’s husband became enraged after discovering text messages that she had written to her ex-husband and began strangling her (Hadad, 2012) (WJXT-TV, 2012). After getting loose from his grip, she ran to the garage intending to get in her truck and drive away. When she made it to the garage, she discovered that she forgot her keys in the house. Sensing that going back into the house would lead to another altercation, she grabbed her gun for protection. When she re-entered the house her husband threatened to kill her, so she shot a warning shot into the air to scare him. When he heard the shot, her husband took his two children and left. Her husband admitted, at the time, to having a history of violence against women. He admits to beating all of his five “baby mamas” and says that he once beat Alexander so bad that he put her in the hospital and wound up in jail. Even though no one was hurt or killed in this incident, Marissa Alexander now sits in jail and could face twenty years in prison (Hadad, 2012) (WJXT-TV, 2012).

The purpose of this research is not retry the above cases but examine a controversial piece of legislature that they have in common. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Because of this law, George Zimmerman almost avoided arrest and trial for his part in the death in the death of Trayvon Martin. Marissa Alexander tried to use this law in her case to avoid prosecution, and the court threw it out in her case. Both of these incidents took place in the state of Florida.

Senate Bill 436 was signed into law in April of 2005 by Governor Jeb Bush. The law is meant to expand and explain the self-defense rights of citizen’s of the state of Florida against violent attackers (Wallace, 2006). “Stand Your Ground” laws state that a “person may use force in self-defense when there is a reasonable belief of a threat, without obligation to retreat first” (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). Florida’s version of the law allows for deadly force in cases where the victim has reason to believe that his/her life is in danger (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). Twenty-three of fifty states have enacted some sort of castle doctrine legislation from 2005 to 2008 (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009). Eleven states have considered castle doctrine legislation since 2005 but have yet to pass it (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009).

Castle doctrine, the formal name for “Stand Your Ground “laws, has its origins in English common law when a man’s home was considered to be his “castle” (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). The whole idea was that home was considered to be a sanctuary from danger and each man has a right or duty to protect it. This doctrine gave men (and women) the right to use force, even deadly force; in order to make sure his “sanctuary” was (is) protected against intruders (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). In 1914, Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo instituted the “no obligation to retreat” portion of the doctrine. According to research, castle doctrine seems to have ties to the Second Amendment “right to bear arms” (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009).

Florida’s expansion includes the right to use force anywhere the person has a right to be. And it forbids the arrest of any person the police determine to have acted in self-defense. This means that the police can make the decision, at the scene of the confrontation, that arrest isn’t necessary because the person acted in self-defense. The law also gives the person criminal or civil immunity and offers attorney’s fees, courts costs, and compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the person in defense of any civil action by the injured party or his family in the event of the his/her death. The law is not supposed to apply if the person is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after committing a forcible felony or initially provokes the use of force against him/herself unless they’ve exhausted every reasonable means to escape danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great harm to the assailant (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). Or if “in good faith” they withdrew from physical contact with the assailant and made it clear to the assailant that they desire to withdraw and terminate the use of force (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007).

The problem seems to be that a lot of cases where defendants that use “Stand Your Ground” laws were cases where the defendant was advised by police dispatchers not to confront the suspect (Horn vs. State) (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009), or shoot at people who are a threat to them selves or others (Montanez vs. State)(Wallace, 2006), or shoot at people who haven’t threatened them and really mean them no harm at all and wanted to ask them a question (Quaggin vs. State) (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). One major concern is that the laws don’t really deter criminal behavior and might increase vigilantism. One study found that justified homicide is on the rise since 2005 (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009) showing a slight increase from 2003 to 2007. Justified homicides involving a firearm (the weapon of choice in most “Stand Your Ground” cases) have also increased steadily since 2005 with 75% to 82% of justified homicides involving the use of a firearm (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009). An interesting fact is Florida was the first state to enact new castle doctrine laws in response to NRA lobbying in 2005 (Boots, Bihari, & Elliot, 2009).

At first glance, castle doctrine law reads like a good law for those who are actually defending their lives. Researchers are currently examining whether or not the expansions to castle doctrine law are of any benefit to domestic violence victims (like Marissa Alexander) and only one study deals with this matter (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). And according to that study, there seemed to be no direct benefit to women who live with their batterers (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007). The complication seems to stem from whether or not a woman’s response to her attacker is reasonable and the study indicated the law seemed to ignore the dynamics of ongoing abuse (Jansen & Nugent-Borakove, 2007).

The effects on community policing have already been seen with both Trayvon Martin’s case and that of Marissa Alexander in that it seems open old wounds of racial injustice and concerns about uneven application of the law, especially along racial and class lines.

Works Cited

Boots, D. P., Bihari, J., & Elliot, E. (2009). The State of the Castle: An Overview of Recent Trends in State Castle Doctrine. Criminal Justice Review, 515-535.

Hadad, C. (2012, April 24). “Stand Your Ground” law under scruntiny in Domestic Violence Case. CNN.com, pp. 1-2.

Jansen, S., & Nugent-Borakove, M. (2007). Expansions to the Castle Doctrine: Implications for Policy and Practice. National District Attorneys Association (pp. 3-23). Alexandria,Va.: National District Attorneys Association.

Kuo, V. (2012, March 15). Fatal shooting of Florida teen turned over to State Attorney. CNN.com, pp. 1-2.

Stutzman, R. (2012, April 2). Trayvon Martin facts vs. Rumors. Orlando Sentinel, pp. 1-3.

Surge, D. B., Robertson, C., & Alverez, L. (2012, April 1). Race, Tragedy and Outrage Collide After a Shot in Florida. New York Times, pp. 1-7.

Wallace, P. A. (2006, Fall). Stand Your Ground: New Challenges for Forensic Psychologists. The Forensic Examiner, pp. 37-41.

WJXT-TV. (2012, April). As Supporters Rally, Woman Asks for New Trial . MSN.com, p. 1.

The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt.6 : Revenge of the Side Chick


If you haven’t had the above conversation with a man, you probably know someone who has. And although you don’t necessarily have to be a mistress to have this conversation, it certainly adds clarity to a situation. What clarity? You’re probably asking. I’ll tell you what clarity. It’s the realization that when you make up your mind to be truly honest with yourself, you wind up admitting that your current romantic situation just isn’t as fulfilling as you would like it to be. In other words, it ain’t cutting it. When you come to this realization, the above confrontation may take place.
You probably recognize the characters in the above clip from the TV series “Scandal”. To give a little bit of background, the black woman I this clip is a political “fixer” who has been involved in an ongoing affair in an incumbent president (the white guy in the clip). The two had been apart for a time and despite her attempts to resist, started hooking back up again. Although the two actually are in love with one another, our heroine has realized that she can’t continue to live with their relationship like it is. The president, like most presidents, is married. In fact he’s involved in what I call a “political marriage”. A marriage that isn’t necessarily based on mutual love, respect, and trust, but on the career aspirations of both the wife and husband (his desire for power and her desire to be married to a powerful man).
Now our heroine is not the stereotypical mistress in that she’s not financially dependent on her lover, in fact she’s the kind of woman who a lot people who never suspect as “mistress” material. In fact she’s probably the new face of mistresses (career minded, educated, and upwardly mobile). A more realistic portrait of what side chicks actually are (women).
At the risk of sounding like I’m condoning sleeping with other women’s husbands (I’m not), I’ve had to tell a lot of women that all women are not after other women’s husbands, but “trip over” them on their way to their own. Which doesn’t mean I don’t hold women accountable for their indiscretions with married men, but it’s pretty hard to trip over a man who isn’t in your way. One thing I give this side chick credit for is recognizing that she wasn’t happy in this situation and having the guts to be ready to end it. Kill it and put it out of its misery already. And refusing to come back while it remains unchanged. No demanding he leave his wife (which happened in this case), just good old fashioned it ain’t working so I must bounce, whether we reconcile or not.
Leaving an unsatisfactory relationship takes a great deal of courage that I wish more women possessed.

In His Name,
Sis Anjanette M. Potter

The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt. 5b : How much of the Problem is Us ?

Last week I asked the question “How Much of the Problem Is Us?” The topic was  assigning people who don’t fit our list of  superficial (swag/money/penis/looks) criteria to the “FRIEND ZONE”.  And I ended with three  questions. How much should you overlook  just to say you’re in a relationship (or married)? How picky is too picky? And if you’re the friend, how long do you pine away wishing that the person would just give you a “CHANCE” to prove that you could be “the one?”

I coined a term a few years back called “deal breaker” (others have since “borrowed” it :-)). A deal breaker is a boundary line in relationships that if  crossed, can mean you’re in deep sugar honey iced tea (break up territory). I coined the phrase to let a few male friends/associates know how serious some offenses  are  in a relationship and no she (his wife/girlfriend/baby mama/jump off/etc.) ain’t tripping because if he did the same to me I’d divorce/break up/move out/banish him to the couch too. The reason I’m giving all this background info is because 99.99% of the time if someone was banished to the FRIEND ZONE, they haven’t committed any serious offenses except having bad genes. So I ask again. How much of the problem IS us? I’m actually writing this posting several months later than I anticipated because the situation in my life that led me to write about this happened a while back. I  was sitting around doing some self inventory and making a list of the qualities of my past boyfriends/lovers/jump offs/boy toys (yes women have jump offs) and what is was about them that I liked vs what it was about them that I didn’t like. I also decided to make a list of all the qualities I like about my platonic male friends vs what I didn’t like about them. And I found that the list of the ones I was romantically  involved with was pretty close to the “friend” one.  That’s how I arrived at the above question. US? Because when it’s all said and done only you can decide how much you’re willing to overlook in order to be in a relationship with someone. 

Now to the question of pickyness. How picky is too picky? It depends on what you’re looking for. The more casual the relationship, the less picky you can afford to be. However, if your wish is like mine (you wanna mate for life). You need to be picky. Not castrating, leave a brother with SOME dignity. But, picky. Expecting him to have a sense of  permanence and stability about himself (you know, steady income, a place of his own, if he’s living with mother it’s because she’s physically unable to care of herself ), is not being picky. It’s being smart.  Even  God’s word tells us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).  Marriage is expected to last for LIFE.

If  you perceive that you’ve been the one banished. Don’t wait. I’m not saying to go and jump into a relationship out of retaliation. But don’t wait. Live your life.  Don’t spend one second in relationship limbo (I’ll explain about that term in a later post). Don’t be their rebound/jump off/other man/woman.  And definitely stay out of bed with them. If they discover that you’re the one while you’re still available, cool. If not, it’s their loss. This is another Proverbsn 4:23 situation because when you’re what I call emotionally invested, it’s hard to make to logical decisions and while you’re waiting, time is passing. Be their friend, but, handle your emotional business. The steps of a good man are ordered BY GOD. 

In His Name,

Sis Anjanette Potter

AnjanetteSpeak

 

The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt. 5a : How much of the problem is us ?

I’m going to write about a situation that most of us have found ourselves in at one time or another. Here’s the scenario, boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl doesn’t like boy back (chemistry), dismisses boy’s romantic overtures and promptly banishes boy  into, you guessed it, THE FRIEND ZONE!!! THE FRIEND ZONE  is the place where perfectly good men who just didn’t have enough chemistry/swag/money/penis/you name it get sent when they don’t fit our superficial criteria of what kind of man we want.  Many men hate the friend zone and I understand why (having been there a few times my own self ). Because really, who wants to be told that they’re not good enough to date you, then have to listen to all your relationship problems and on top of that have to give you advice and have to act like it doesn’t bother them that you’re with someone else. I’ve been on both sides of this coin, so I can  speak with some authority from both sides of it. As the guilty party, should you sacrifice qualities that aren’t must haves, but  for you make a relationship really nice to be in. And is it really fair to the offended party if you do? I don’t know about you, but, I’ve always been of the mind that BOTH parties in a relationship should mutually think that each other is the bees knees (translation: all that and a bag of chips). And I don’t want no one acting like they are doing me a favor by giving me a “CHANCE” to be in a relationship with them (as if?!?).  On the other hand, do you really want to spend the rest of your life having to deal with the very things that made you turn them down in the first place? How much should you overlook  just to say you’re in a relationship (or married). How picky is too picky? And if you’re the friend, how long do you pine away wishing that the person would just give you a “CHANCE” to prove that you could be “the one?” I decided to make this one a two parter (possibly a miniseries). I feel “led” to stay on this one for a minute.

                                                        In His Name,

                                                          AnjanetteSpeak

The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt. 4c :What Happened to Black Women being Loosed???

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Image via Wikipedia

 11And there was a woman there who for eighteen years had had an [f]infirmity caused by a spirit ([g]a demon of sickness). She was [h]bent completely forward and utterly unable to straighten herself up or to [i]look upward.

    12And when Jesus saw her, He called [her to Him] and said to her, Woman, you are released from your infirmity!

    13Then He laid [His] hands on her, and instantly she was made straight, and she [j]recognized and thanked and praised God.

    14But the [k]leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the crowd, There are six days on which work ought to be done; so come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.(A)

    15But the Lord replied to him, saying, You playactors (hypocrites)! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead it out to water it?

    16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?

    17Even as He said this, all His opponents were put to shame, and all the people were rejoicing over all the glorious things that were being done by Him.

The last time I posted, I wrote about a very touchy subject that may be a contributing factor in the “black church keeping black women single” part of the single black woman conundrum, clergy abuse. Unfortunately, many women are the victims of clergy who don’t know their proper place in life of their female congregants. They become attracted to women in their church and instead of going to God in prayer and allowing Him to heal and deliver them from this inordinate affection, they allow it to stay and fester, turning into an unGodly soul tie.  Then every time a man shows any interest in her, you guessed it, he starts blocking. This is terrible because it is an abuse of one’s God-given authority over HIS flock (his meaning God of course). And it creates an atmosphere of mistrust and insecurity within the people in that congregation. Remember,  the Bible in Matthew 20: 25-28 states what a Christian leaders attitude should be toward God’s people, “25And Jesus called them to Him and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men hold them in subjection [tyrannizing over them].26Not so shall it be among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant,27And whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave– 28Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].”

We are not to imitate or take on the attitudes  of this world (Proverbs 3:31-32, Romans 12: 1-3), in any area of our lives. Blocking someone’s ability to marry because of one’s own attraction to one of the persons involved is a sign that the leader should recuse themselves from the situation (in other words step aside) because you obviously are not able to be objective. If you’re a woman and this is your situation, you need to either change churches or find someone else to do your marriage preparation.  You don’t need anyone marrying you and your beloved who has a bad attitude about marrying you to anyone (attitudes can create spiritual environments that aren’t conducive to your new marriage). And you certainly don’t need them stirring up strife between you and your future mate (Proverbs 22:10, Proverbs 26:20-22, Proverbs 15:18,  Proverbs 29:22). And if you’re a man, the same rules apply. 

Clergy abuse is bad deal for everyone involved and if a pastor (male or female) is being inappropriate toward  someone they’ve been appointed to lead (male or female), it’s serious. We can’t sweep this problem under the rug any longer.  Some states have passed legislation that makes any inappropriate  sexual between clergy and members a felony and I agree that it should be . That might sound harsh, but considering the special nature of the relationship between clergy and members, it’s a necessary step to restore the sacredness to this relationship. If you ever want to see what happens when there is no Godly leadership, read the book of Judges in the Holy Bible and see the chaos the results from it. The last verse says it all “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. ” Now you may say, but Anjanette we have leaders. If your leaders aren’t following Christ then they ain’t leaders. Remember TRUTH dispels lies and TRUTH= Jesus Christ. much love to you. 

                                              In Him,

                                                                Sis Anjanette M. Potter of AnjanetteSpeak

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