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., 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., 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 ., p. 1.

Good News: Jesus Is Not Nice | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Next week I’ll be posting again to continue writing  my series ” The Single Black Woman Conundrum”. Meanwhile, in keeping with my prominse to keep timely and newsworthy content, I’m postin this article from Christianity Today. Let me know what you think. Have a blessed weekend.  Good News: Jesus Is Not Nice | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

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



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,


The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt. 3

NOW after this beat down on to the TRUE  perspective………

This one is even funnier ………

Now does any of this sound just a bit ridiculous and stereotypical and CRAZY to anyone but me???? This is my TGIF post. Right now I’m studying for midterms and don’t have much time for a long post. Next week  I’ll be back to tackle these and a few other beefs I have with this whole topic. Until then, enjoy these clips and have yourself a good laugh and a FABULOUS weekend!!!!!!!

The Single Black Woman Conundrum Pt.2

Genesis 1:26-29

   26God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth.(D)

    27So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.(E)

    28And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth.

    29And God said, See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the land and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

2:7 7Then the Lord God formed man from the [a]dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being.(C)


 18Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.

    19And out of the ground the Lord God formed every [wild] beast and living creature of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name.

    20And Adam gave names to all the livestock and to the birds of the air and to every [wild] beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.

    21And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and while he slept, He took one of his ribs or a part of his side and closed up the [place with] flesh.

    22And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

    23Then Adam said, This [creature] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of a man.

    24Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.(E)

    25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other’s presence.

The first time I saw the above video was on the post of a Facebook friend. He asked what we , the female FB community that follows him, thought of it. My opinion? It’s the words of someone who has deep rooted issues of self-hatred that he is using to berate black women. At least this is the cleaned up version of what I put in his comment box. The one comment I agreed with, out of all the other comments, was that of a young black man (believe it or not). The young man made the statement that it’s easy to sit back and point fingers and asked the question, “Would Black men do any better if Black women were M.I.A.  or AWOL for DECADES and black men had the job of two parents (mother and father)”.  Excellent point !!!!! The disturbing part of this rhetoric is that many black men and women have bought into it (scary). In a later post, I’ll uncover where these attitudes come from because they’re not new by any stretch of the imagination.

I venture to say that black men faced with the same set of circumstances would do the same thing that black women have done for decades. Pool their resources. Fathers would tell their sons to “bring the baby home” and proceed to make room for baby. Babysit whenever possible and help the young brother out because “it ain’t the baby’s fault”. They would sit and try to figure out why women are the way they are , fathers would shake their heads, heartbroken that the young man chose a path that, while  rewarding, is hard work even when done by two people much less one who is so young and can barely take care of themselves. In other they would “make do”.

I started this post with scriptural references because I wanted to point people to the truth (John 8:32). You see I agree with God‘s word that parenting is meant to be  done by two’s. Don’t get me wrong, one good parent is better than two horrible ones any day. But God gifted each gender with attributes (of His)  that when brought together within the covenant of marriage, girds  us with the ability to be a dynamic parenting team. An unstoppable force (both spiritual and carnal) to be reckoned with.

Because of our history in the U.S., this has not always been an easy task. With the advent of slavery, Jim Crow, and later sociological issues that have fought us as a people, we’re finally starting to realize that to make this thing called life work, we need each other. However, the hating has to stop. The problem I have with this situation is the anti-black women sentiment turn that has taken place. It seems like every insult that ever been said about black women is all being said at once. And it’s not fair. If not for black women stepping up and doing what needed to done, we would not have made it as a people. I have a problem with the sentiments expressed in this video and those who see it as truth (puh-lease) because it’s so far removed from the truth that it ain’t even truth’s play cousin. It’s time to stop buying into our own negative press and communicate with each like people and not stereotypes.  All black women aren’t hard to get along with. And if you were one person doing the job of two, you might be a little cranky too.

PS  Since when is Octomom Black?

The Single Black Woman Conundrum pt.1

Conundum-a.Question or problem having only a conjectural answer b.An intricate and difficult problem.

Conjecture- A proposition that is unproven but APPEARS correct and has NOT been disproven.

Scenerio #1 Man of African-American descent works very hard at a chosen craft (business, sports, music, politics, acting), gains a considerable amount of success and status (after paying dues), reaches for and gets brass ring,decides to marry outside his ethnicity and as a parting shot gives an interview about his decision to do so (why???) and decides to list everything that is wrong with African-American women forgetting that he has a mother, sisters, cousins and female friends who have supported him up to this point. Thus giving us the finger (yes, that finger).

Scenerio#2 Writer writes an article charging the Black Church with the “plight” of single black women stating that it is responsible for “keeping them single” News at 11″

Scenerio#3 “National black man back to church movement” is spearheaded. Movement is seemingly “sensitive to the needs of black men” but relaxes God‘s standards to meet this goal (notice I said God’s standards and the church’s, the two aren’t always synonymous). Funny what people do when they lose faith in God.

Scenerio#4 National news network does story about the inability of professional African-American to find quality relationships. Second national news program has panel discussion, brings high African-American male to help address the issue who promptly blames, you guessed it, African-American women (a sistah can’t win for losing).

When I was younger, one of my favorite radio programs to listen to was “The Rest of the Story” by Paul Harvey. The program went a little something like this, Mr.Harvey would present a story or some little known facts about a public figure. After this he would say ” this is Paul Harvey, now for the rest of the story” implying that there was more to the story than what the public was privy (had access) to.Well, I’m Anjanette Potter of AnjanetteSpeak and here’s the rest of the story.

You would have to live under a rock to not have at least have heard snippets of the buzz about the “plight” of single black women in the U.S. I put plight in quotes, not to play down the issue, but to keep from playing up the hype,but, is it all hype? Let’s look a closer at the issue, I don’t have a bunch of numbers to throw at you but I will say this much, book sells on books about marriage and relationships have gone up, especially those that are designed to help women know the inner workings of men. The problem with all this? It portrays women as standing around wringing their hands desperately yelling “whatta we gonna do?” (Gimme a break). Not to say there isn’t some concern on the part of women period ,not just black women, remember what I said earlier about those book sells.

However,I remember hearing a saying about not letting a shopkeeper know you are desperate for his goods because it drives the price up. Well, I believe the shopkeeper smells the desperation because the merchandise (men) keeps driving up its own price. Nothing pumps up an ego quicker than knowing that half the population will now do anything to have you , including lowering its standard for what a decent man is.

I remember being a younger woman back in the 80’s when there was a bunch of hype about a man shortage (white women got to take part in this one, WOW!!!!bet they felt honored ) and we had the same thing back then (a hot mess).

So how do we fix this hot mess? Through honest communication with each side listening to what the other has to say. In AnjanetteSpeak to listen is hear with your heart. God didn’t create man out of his own rib, He created woman. And He created her so the man wouldn’t be alone. So since men can’t marry themselves, it stands to reason that they would listen as well as speak. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best advice I ever got about relationships came from my male friends. However, they never advised as though I was a stereotype. They advised me as though I was a person.