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ACLU calls on state to ‘shed light’ on stand your ground laws

gun, gunsBy Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — In response to the killings and subsequent verdicts in the deaths of Florida teens Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, and the killing of Detroit resident Renisha McBride, as well as countless nationally unknown cases, the ACLU of Michigan has called on state Attorney General Bill Schuette to commission research into the state’s “stand your ground” laws.

“As the anguish surrounding these tragic deaths understandably prompts many to grasp for explanations, many arrive at the conclusion that so-called ‘stand your ground’ laws are in some way responsible for granting a license to kill, then at least for creating a climate that is conducive to impulsive acts of violence,” attorney Mark Fancher of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project wrote in a letter the Schuette dated March 3.

Fancher referenced a 2013 study by the Urban Institute, “Race, Justifiable Homicide, and Stand Your ground Laws: Analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Report Data” that concluded there are racial disparities in justifiable homicide determinations.

Dr. John K. Roman, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute, wrote, “Regardless of how the data are analyzed, substantial racial disparities exist in the outcomes of cross-race homicides. These findings hold throughout the analysis, from differences in average rates, to bivariate tests of association, to regression analysis. In addition, the recent expansion of Stand Your Ground (sic) laws … appears to worsen the disparity.”

Dr. Roman reports whether a state was a stand your ground state affects the likelihood of a homicide being ruled justified. The study found white-on-Black homicides were most likely to be ruled justified (11.4 percent) and Black-on-white homicides were least likely to be justified (1.2 percent).

The study goes on to find:

“Overall, states with (stand your ground) laws have statistically significantly higher rates of justifiable homicides than non-(stand your ground) states… The presence of a (stand your ground) law is associated with a statistically significant increase in the likelihood a homicide is ruled to be justified for white-on-Black, Black-on-Black, and white-on-white homicides. The change in likelihood for Black-on-white homicides being found justified is not significant.”

Fancher says because of the growing record of violence associated with stand your ground laws and the racial dynamics highlighted in the Urban Institute report, they’re asking the AG’s office to commission research that will shed light on the stand your ground racial experience in Michigan.

He says the ACLU will continue their advocacy (surrounding the SYG laws), but the state has the resources at hand.“We would do it if we were capable, but it’s a project that if it’s going to be done right … (and) given that it’s in the interest of the people of the state, it should be a state expense,” Fancher told the Michigan Citizen. “Our first effort is to try and get the state to do what it should do to make sure it doesn’t have a law on the books that has a detrimental impact on such a large number of people.”

Fancher also expressed concerns the study raises, particularly in Michigan, which shows there is a “small amount of (justifiable) cases…”

The study shows 53 or 2.49 percent of homicides in Michigan were ruled justified opposed to 2,076 or 97.51 percent that were ruled “not justified.”

“Where are these cases and who’s involved?” Fancher asked. “What it could suggest is that a heavy concentration of the homicides are occurring in predominately Black cities like Detroit or Flint. And if there are only a small number of justifiable homicides, that means Black-on-Black homicides are not (ruled) justifiable … and that (ruling) is reserved for if a white person killed  a (Black person).

Fancher says there are a lot of unanswered questions worth further exploration.

Michigan is one of about 12 states that have adopted laws that allow a person who feels threatened by another individual to protect or defend themselves by deadly force, if necessary, according to the report. However, a majority of the 50 states have some form of SYG.

The AG’s office did not respond by time of publication.

The Michigan Self-Defense Act MCL 780.972 provides in part:

– an individual, who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force, may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if either of the following applies:

(a) The individual honestly and reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.

(b) The individual honestly and reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent sexual assault of himself or herself or of another individual.

– An individual, who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses force other than deadly force, may use force other than deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if he or she honestly and reasonably believes the use of that force is necessary to defend himself or herself or another individual from the imminent unlawful use of force by another individual.

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