What if Zimmerman were black? ‘Stand Your Ground’ double standards exposed

Opinion

George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after a jury found him not guilty in Seminole circuit court July 13, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)

George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after a jury found him not guilty in Seminole circuit court July 13, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)

“It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” Holder said in a speech to the NAACP. “These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” he added.

Meanwhile, in light of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Zimmerman was not charged until six weeks after Trayvon’s killing.  In addition, the judge in his trial instructed the jury, “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

When blacks invoke the law

Further, “Stand Your Ground” has failed to serve other African-Americans who have invoked the law.

In November 2012, a multiracial Tampa jury found a black man named Trevor Dooley, 71, guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of David James, 41, his white neighbor.  He was sentenced to 8 years in prison.  The shooting took place in a basketball court in front of James’ 8-year-old daughter, in what began as a fight over a skateboarder.

Dooley—who is 5-feet-7 and 160 pounds—said he shot James—who was 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds— because the man had his hands around Dooley’s neck and attempted to take his gun.“Do you really think that if it was the other way around and the skin color would be different we would be here today? … We wouldn’t,” Dooley told reporters.

Meanwhile, in a town 125 miles from Sanford, Florida, Marissa Alexander, 31, a black mother of three, was sentenced last year to 20 years for firing a warning shot at her husband who she said was abusive and threatening her.  Alexander had a protective order against the man, who according to her attorney “had put his hands on her and there was a fight in the bathroom.”  No one was injured, and the judge refused to allow Alexander to invoke “Stand Your Ground” due to “insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself.”

The judge concluded that Alexander’s decision to come back into the home with the gun rather than retreat “is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life.”  Alexander had rejected a 3-year plea deal, and was subjected to strict mandatory sentencing for crimes involving a firearm.

State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the Zimmerman trial, stands by her handling of the Alexander case. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., the NAACP, Martin Luther King III and others have shown support for Alexander.

But the different outcomes in the cases of George Zimmerman and John White provide further proof that justice is not blind, and race plays a front-and-center role in the administration of American justice. African-Americans seem to get the short end of the stick.  Now is the time to get rid of the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove