Even as many prosecutors, police and researchers have loudly criticized stand-your-ground laws, the policy has only grown more popular and more extreme nationwide since the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida 10 years ago brought such laws into the public eye, the Washington Post reports. George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin's shooting death on plain self-defense grounds, but the jury was instructed about Florida's law, which kicked off a wave of such laws when it was passed in 2005. Most states now have some form of the law, and Republican members of Congress have introduced a bill to establish a federal law. In addition to erasing the traditional duty to retreat, some of the laws have put the burden of proof on prosecutors to show that the law does not apply before a case can be tried.
“Again and again, we are seeing these stand-your-ground laws being used as an excuse to kill Black people and particularly Black children,” said Maurice Evans, a Wichita, Ks., pastor and spokesman for the family of Cedric Lofton, a Black teenager who died after being restrained for more than half an hour by people invoking a stand-your-ground defense. “We have to reevaluate these laws and how they’re being applied.” Allison Anderman, senior counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says a new crop of state-level bills is especially worrying. One would allow defendants to sue prosecutors if they successfully prove self-defense. Another would allow someone to shoot a person defacing their property if they have a “dangerous instrument,” regardless of whether they fear physical harm. “I think the next iteration of these laws is the expansion of the right to use deadly force, even when your life is not threatened or your personal safety is not threatened,” Anderman said. Last Friday, a Florida jury acquitted a retired police captain, Curtis Reeves, of murder charges based on his claim that he was defending himself and did not need to retreat when he fatally shot a man who had tossed popcorn at him during an argument in a movie theater.