Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Stand Your Ground' Total Failure for All

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Stand Your Ground' Total Failure for All

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

We have something to fear. And it is fear itself.

This is especially true in Florida, where fear is more than an emotional reaction to threats, real and perceived.

It is a self-defense, a legal basis for pulling out a deadly weapon and reacting to threats, real and perceived.

Imagine where this last detail can lead. Imagine standing on ground that has become a slippery slope leading to a place where someone can get in an argument over loud music while at a gas station, reach into a glove box, pull out a pistol and fire shot after shot at a car full of teenagers.

Imagine that after one of the teenagers dies, a lawyer representing the shooter says he doesn't have to prove his client actually was threatened, just that he believed he was.

No, wait. You don't have to imagine. You only have stop by the courthouse or turn on the news.

The George Zimmerman trial is over. But State Attorney Angela Corey, her prosecutors and perhaps some of the national spotlight have returned to Duval County for the pre-trial of Michael David Dunn.

If possible, put aside your thoughts about the specific case that just played out in Sanford, but think about the instructions given to the jury. The Stand Your Ground law wasn't used. But the words "stand your ground" were in the instructions. And beyond that, as The Associated Press story about those instructions explained, jurors were told that the defendant was allowed to use deadly force not only if he faced death or bodily harm, but also if he merely thought he did.

"The danger ... need not to have been actual," began one part of the instructions.

The court went on to say that the "appearance" of danger must be so real that a "reasonably cautious and prudent person" believes deadly force is necessary. Still, this idea of fear - even perceived fear - being such a part of self-defense is in itself scary. Because these days it seems everyone is afraid of everything and everyone else.

I recently read a study that said people who watch a lot of television involving crime consistently overestimate the amount of actual crime around them.

This study was done in the 1970s. Before 24-7 cable news, before Nancy Grace, before the Internet. We have since reached a point where a reality TV show like "Fear Factor" is a break from the fear of reality of TV news.

In the 1990s, John Stossel did an ABC special called, "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" He chastised his own business for cranking up the fear for the sake of ratings. These days, Stossel's employer, Fox News, and pretty much every other cable news network dishes up even heartier dishes of fear every day and every night. And often, it seems, Florida is in the middle.

Last year, when I was traveling all over the country, I ended up in some old Wild West towns, places where guns and shootouts are a part of their history. …

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