Discussing Stand Your Ground Laws on MSNBC this morning

An extremely rough transcript of the interview is available here.

Update:  Media Matters has gotten upset with the media for the third time in eight days because of coverage that I have received.  It appeared to me that Chuck Todd was alluding to Media Matters' attacks when he introduced me on the show, and I appreciate him having me on despite the fact that he must have known that they would attack his show also.

Interestingly, I have already dealt with many of the comments in this newest comment from Media Matters in my previous posts (here and here), but just as Media Matters won't allow me to put up responses on their website in the comment sections, they won't acknowledge my responses to their claims that I post on my website.  It is interested to see how fearful Media Matters is of letting their audience know that there are responses to their claims.

In any case, let's take the new claim that they made after my appearance.
Even more astonishingly, Lott then claimed that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law has nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin's death.
What I will say is that no matter whose story is right, the Stand Your Ground law isn't relevant to the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case. If George Zimmerman is right and the wounds on the back of his head that he was on the ground, Trayvon Martin was on top of him beating him, there was no place for him to retreat. And so the old defense, even if you had the rule that you have to retreat as far as possible, he still would have been able to act in self-defense there. And if the other side is right that somehow George Zimmerman provoked the attack, attacked Martin to begin with, then he wouldn't be able to rely on the Stand Your Ground law to protect him in that case either.
Lott is really burying his head in the sand on this one. The Sanford Police Department cited the "Stand Your Ground" law as the reason that Zimmerman was not initially arrested. Before he became George Zimmerman's lawyer, attorney Mark O'Mara appeared on a Florida local news program and suggested that Zimmerman's actions may have been legally excusable under "Stand Your Ground." Controversy surrounding the law has even led Republican governor Rick Scott to convene a taskforce to address concerns related to the 2005 legislation.
Lott is correct that Zimmerman may unsuccessfully assert "Stand Your Ground" at trial. Or it is possible that Zimmerman will not use the defense at all. Or that he will use it and prevail. Only time will tell. But to claim that "Kill At Will" has not been "relevant" to the Trayvon Martin controversy is an act of willful blindness that serves to draw attention away from the legitimate debate surrounding the self-defense law.
Building on this point, Lott then claims that "the Stand Your Ground law doesn't allow you to provoke an attack, doesn't allow you to throw the first punch, it doesn't allow you to go and shoot someone in the back. You have to pass this reasonable person test that you're in direct threat, serious injury or death was going to occur." By suggesting that all shooters claiming immunity under "Stand Your Ground" face a thorough review into their actions, Lott is ignoring the fact that some of these shootings, even those that occur under dubious circumstances, are resolved without the shooter ever having to face a jury of his peers.
The quote that Media Matters reports from the interview gets most of my point across.  What Media Matters doesn't understand is that the Stand Your Ground law covers self-defense of all types and what I was referring to was what had changed in the Stand Your Ground law relative to what was in the original law that required retreat when possible.  The point is clear that the Stand Your Ground law added nothing new that allowed Zimmerman to claim self-defense that he couldn't already claim under the old law.  Yet, instead of dealing with the logic of this point, Media Matters just asserts its point.

I have some examples of why Stand Your Ground laws were adopted in

Cases Supporting Stand Your Ground/ Castle Doctrine/ Business Protections

Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer:
Two businessmen indicted in intruder's shooting death
The Baltimore Sun
November 30, 2001
Byline: Sarah Koenig

Two businessmen accused of shooting to death an intruder who broke into their East Baltimore warehouse in June surrendered to police yesterday after a grand jury indicted them on first-degree murder charges.

The indictment contrasts with a similar Baltimore County case in which a grand jury declined to indict two brothers who shot and killed someone who broke into their warehouse in March. That grand jury said the men acted in self-defense.

Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer, both 35, surrendered to police yesterday and were in custody last night, said Deputy State's Attorney Haven H. Kodeck. They will be arraigned Jan. 18.

The men, whose addresses could not be confirmed last night, are charged in the death of Tygon Walker, 37, on June 30. Walker was shot after a break-in through a second-story window of the men's warehouse in the 1300 block of N. Wolfe St. . . .

"I'm really sorry that the grand jury saw fit to indict," said Der's attorney, David B. Irwin. "It was a self-defense situation where the men were in their own business and it was being burglarized. ... I'm upset, and I think it's the wrong decision." . . .

Irwin said the two men were at work on the building's first floor about 9:30 p.m. when they heard "crashes and thunks" upstairs.

They armed themselves and went up to investigate. Irwin said it was dark on the second floor, where they discovered Walker. "He says, `I'm gonna kill you,' and comes toward them," Irwin said.

Irwin said the men opened fire on Walker, who was holding a weapon believed to be a hammer. (At the time of the shooting, police also said any weapon Walker had was not a gun.)

Walker, who lived in the Yorkewood Apartments in the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Ave., was convicted of felony theft in Baltimore in 1994, records show.

Irwin said the grand jurors might have been swayed by Walker's having multiple gunshot wounds. "Maybe the grand jury thinks they shot him too many times," he said.

Under Maryland law, a person can use deadly force if that person has a reasonable belief that his or her life is in imminent danger and if he or she uses no more force than reasonably necessary.

In the case of Dominic "Tony" Geckle and Matthew Geckle, who killed one unarmed man and injured two others who had broken into the Geckles' concrete plant in Glyndon in March, the grand jurors found that the brothers were protected from prosecution under the self-defense law.

"It was an open-and-shut case," one juror said at the time.

In that proceeding, unlike this week's, one of the brothers was invited to testify before the grand jury.

Judge acquits two men who shot intruder
The Baltimore Sun
January 24, 2003
Byline: Allison Klein

Arguing that the state's murder case "challenged the foundation of the right to defend yourself," two Harford County businessmen were acquitted yesterday of gunning down a drug addict who broke into their East Baltimore warehouse.

Prosecutors said the men, frustrated by repeated burglaries at their business, were acting with murder in mind, not self-defense, when they killed Tygon Walker with a shotgun and a handgun in June 2001. But Baltimore Circuit Judge John M. Glynn pronounced Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer not guilty of first-degree murder seconds after attorneys finished their closing arguments.

"This is a sad and disturbing matter," Glynn told the courtroom packed with teary-eyed supporters of the defendants. "The case is straightforward. The state has the burden of proof, and I cannot find that the state met that burden of proof."

The courtroom erupted into gasps of relief, and Der and Kifer hugged each other. Both had said that Walker appeared to be carrying a weapon and threatened to kill them.

"This case was an injustice that challenged the foundation of the right to defend yourself," Kifer said. "I am hoping people will now be able to defend themselves and not be prosecuted by the law."

The Der and Kifer case is one of a handful of Maryland self-defense killings in which the gunmen have not been held legally responsible for murder.

Most recently, a Baltimore County grand jury declined in 2001 to indict brothers Dominic "Tony" Geckle and Matthew Geckle; they killed an unarmed man and injured two others who had broken into their concrete plant in Glyndon.

In Baltimore, Der and Kifer were indicted but waived their right to a jury trial, instead opting for Glynn to decide the matter. Der said he was grateful for the judge's decision.

"Now I can go on with my life," said Der, who nearly broke down and cried as he testified on his own behalf yesterday. "It's been a living hell. This has been a tremendous burden emotionally and financially."

Throughout the five-day trial, prosecutor Mark P. Cohen said Der and Kifer, both 36, did not act in self-defense - claiming that they knew an intruder was in the Wolfe Street warehouse and fired at Walker, 37, with intent to kill. The men own a furniture refinishing business in the building, which is owned by Der's father.

Cohen said the men were angry because the warehouse had been broken into many times in recent weeks, including one incident hours before the shooting. Walker had 11 gunshot wounds, including five in the back. . . .

Norman Borden:
The South Florida Sun Sentinel
July 1, 2007
Byline: Nancy L. Othon

Norman Borden doesn't want to be the poster boy for Florida's self-defense laws.

He never wanted to kill anyone, but he did. He killed two.

More than eight months in a jail cell awaiting his murder trial gave Borden, 44, time for contemplation.

He wondered what might have happened if he hadn't done what he did.

How much of a beating could he have endured? How many times could he have been run over? Would he have been left in a vegetative state?

And even though he was acquitted Monday of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two young men, this is what Borden wants you to know.

"Stop saying I'm a murderer," Borden said in a lengthy telephone interview Thursday from a location he declined to disclose. "There has to be a new word for people who defend themselves. There has to be a word for people who are forced into a situation." . . .

He was walking his four dogs near his home in the Westgate neighborhood west of West Palm Beach with his friend. It was after 2 a.m. on Oct. 8, in the rough neighborhood where homeless settle and gang activity has grown.

There was an altercation between Borden and Juan Mendez, 21, and Christopher Araujo, 19. Heated words were exchanged, the men reportedly threatened to hurt Borden's dogs. He showed them he had a gun.

But it wasn't over. The men sped away and picked up Saul Trejo, 21, a documented member of a violent gang. Armed with bats, they headed straight to Borden, and he fired.

Fourteen gunshots later, Araujo and Trejo were dead, Mendez injured. Prosecutors said the first five shots fired at the windshield were self-defense, the next nine were murder.

"When I called 911 that night, I didn't believe I would be put in jail," Borden said. "The simple fact of the matter was that it was a do-or-die situation."

Borden said he's almost positive Mendez, who he said started the incident with taunts and threats, had a gun that night; his attorney told jurors that Mendez had opportunity to hide a gun before deputies and paramedics arrived.

"If I had done it out of anger, or spite, it would surely be him that would be dead," Borden said. "I'm glad he's alive because life gives opportunity for change. I hope and I pray he will change, and he will be an example for people to say, 'Turn away, stop, don't do these things.' "

Though Public Defender Carey Haughwout vigorously argued that Borden was immune from prosecution as a result of a 2005 Florida law that became known as the "stand your ground" law, Circuit Judge William Berger declined to dismiss the charges and the case went to trial. Eleven women and one man on the jury reached their not-guilty verdict in two hours.

Now he's a free man.

But he's a marked man. . . .

And the jury says: Fight back -- Florida prosecutor decides to test new law giving citizens right of deadly force against attacker in any public place
The Associated Press
July 15, 2007
Byline: Brian Skoloff

Norman Borden fought back twice - once against three assailants on the street, then again in a courtroom where he was charged with murder for killing two of them.

Borden, 44, was walking his dogs last year when three men in a Jeep tried to run him down. He pulled a gun and shot five times through the windshield, then moved to the side of the vehicle and fired nine more rounds.

He thought the shooting was self-defense, but a prosecutor put him on trial in the deaths, despite a new Florida law that grants wide latitude to people using deadly force to protect themselves.

The case highlights the confusion surrounding so-called "stand- your-ground" laws, which have been adopted in at least 14 states. The laws have perplexed judges and prosecutors, and, in some cases, forced attorneys to change the way they review evidence.

In Borden's case, a prosecutor filed charges against him, even though he privately thought Borden might have been correct to open fire. . . .

Overcharging, John McNeil:
February 13, 2013

A Wilson native who spent more than six years in a Georgia state prison for a killing that he said was in self-defense was released from prison Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the case.

John McNeil, 46, was convicted in November 2006 of the shooting death of a man who McNeil said had threatened his son and refused to leave his property.

He was serving a life sentence at Macon State Prison for the crime, but for years, McNeil's wife, Anita, and his supporters, including the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, spoke out for his release, saying he was wrongfully prosecuted because of his race.

John McNeil is black. The man he shot, Brian Epp, was white.

But on Tuesday, a Cobb County Superior Court judge accepted a plea on a charge of voluntary manslaughter and gave him 13 years of probation and credit for seven years served, making him a free man.

"I am grieving for my wife's death," John McNeil told reporters upon his release. "It's just a sad time for me right now."

Anita McNeil, 47, died Feb. 2 after a long battle with breast cancer. Even as she underwent chemotherapy for her second recurrence of the disease, she traveled and advocated for her husband's release.

Family members said they are planning a memorial service once John McNeil returns to Wilson.

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber called Tuesday's release "a kind of partial repentance" by the Georgia criminal justice system.

"While we would have preferred John to be exonerated based on self-defense, we are thankful that he can return home to be with his two sons and start his life over," Roslyn M. Brock, chairwoman for the National Board of Directors for the NAACP, said in a statement. "His release today is a bittersweet victory, because he also returns home in sorrow following the recent death of his loving wife Anita, who fought for his release until her last breath."

Epp's family members, who were present for Tuesday's hearing, said they did not support the plea deal or John McNeil's release.

"It's just hard to believe that someone can do something so horrific and get away with seven years," his former sister-in-law, Jill Bonney, said.

According to the NAACP, the McNeils were the only black residents living in an upscale suburban Atlanta neighborhood in December 2005 when John McNeil received a call one day from one of his sons, telling him that a man was on their property and was threatening him with a box cutter.

John McNeil called 911 and drove home, where he asked the man to leave his property. When the man would not leave, McNeil fired a warning shot into the ground and a second shot when the man became aggressive and approached him.

Witnesses corroborated the story, and police initially ruled the shooting self-defense.

Nine months later, the Cobb County District Attorney's Office pursued a murder charge against John McNeil and won a conviction, putting him in prison for the rest of his life.

Last fall, however, a judge ruled that John McNeil should be released because of multiple errors at trial, including that the jury was not properly instructed on a person's right to use force to defend himself, his home or another person from violent attack.

"I am happy and sad, all at the same time," McNeil's brother, Robert Lee McNeil Jr., said Tuesday. "I'm happy that he's out free, but due to the situation on how it took place, that displeases me, because when a man is innocent, he's innocent."

Anita McNeil's family members in Wilson cried and celebrated John McNeil's homecoming Tuesday morning.

"It's bittersweet. He's going to be very happy here at home," sister Claudette Howell said. "But not to see (Anita) here, it's going to be a little sad."

The family had hoped he would have made it home before his wife died, but they say she died knowing that he would likely be released from prison.

"She believed in justice. She had plenty of faith, and she knew this day was coming," friend Patricia Higgs said. "So, she was able to lay to rest knowing that it was near."

Paul Anders Saustrup:
The Austin-American Statesman
May 27, 2000
Byline: Leah Quinn

Jurors late Friday acquitted Paul Anders Saustrup of murder, finding that he acted in self-defense when he shot to death Eric Demart Smith after following the car burglar for two blocks in downtown Austin in 1998. The verdict, coming at 10:45 p.m. on the fifth anniversary of the law allowing Texans to carry concealed weapons, was cheered by Saustrup's family and friends.

On the other side of the courtroom, Smith's sister, Charlotte Sledge, covered her face with her hands and wept. She left the courtroom without comment .

Saustrup said he had endured a "terrible, terrible ordeal" and was looking forward to resuming a normal life.

His supporters were jubilant, hugging each other and the defendant. "I'll say we're all kind of happy right now," said Jolice Wiedenhof, a friend of Saustrup. "We didn't expect the deadlock to break."

Jurors reached their verdict three hours after they had attempted to declare themselves deadlocked. State District Judge Bob Perkins had ordered them to continue deliberating.

If convicted of murder, Saustrup would have faced up to life in prison.

Saustrup is licensed to carry a handgun. Although both sides said the case was not about the right to carry concealed weapons, it was monitored from the beginning by gun safety instructors and gun- control advocates.

In closing statements to a packed courtroom earlier Friday, attorneys presented radically different interpretations of the facts.

Saustrup, 35, never denied shooting 20-year-old Smith after discovering the man sitting in his girlfriend's parked car on July 8, 1998. He told police he did so because Smith had lowered his hands to his waist and began to turn around, as though to attack.

Two bullets struck Smith in the back, one behind each shoulder blade.

Earlier this week, Saustrup's girlfriend, Sasha Sessums, provided jurors with a first-hand account of the minutes just before 2 a.m., when she and Saustrup found the passenger window of her Chevrolet Suburban broken and saw a man jump into the driver's seat.

While Saustrup drew his .380-caliber pistol -- shouting, "Freeze! . . . Anyone else comes jumping out of there, you'll be the first to die!" -- he told Sessums to call police on his cell phone.

When she turned around, she saw Smith standing outside the car, his shirt off. Other witnesses testified that Smith's torso was decorated with gang tattoos and that he was drunk. . . .

Defense attorney Joe Turner then reminded jurors that Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo agreed the bullet angles looked as though Smith was spinning before and during the shooting.

He referred to Saustrup's gun instructor, who testified that Saustrup followed the rules of self-defense, firing when he reasonably believed he was in danger, without waiting to see a gun.

"He followed the instructions he was taught in a class approved by the state of Texas," Turner said. "And now the state of Texas wants to prosecute him for murder."

He told jurors it's easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

"Here's the good guy," he said, pointing to Saustrup. "And here," he said, picking up a life-sized photo of Smith's tattoos, "is the bad guy. He's dead because he's the bad guy."

Phillip D. Mielke:
Pastor acquitted in fatal shooting of intruders at his church
Associated Press (AK)
October 27, 2003

      PALMER, Alaska (AP) - A preacher was acquitted Monday of two counts of manslaughter and two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the shooting deaths of two intruders at his Big Lake Community Chapel last spring.
      Jurors deliberated for two days in Superior Court before acquitting the Rev. Phillip D. Mielke, 44, in the deaths of Christopher Lee Palmer, 31, of Big Lake and Francis Marion Jones IV, 23, of Wasilla.
      "We're relieved," Jim Gilmore, Mielke's defense lawyer, said after the verdicts were read.
      Mielke had no comment.
      "I will never be able to accept what Mr. Mielke did," Palmer's mother, Shirley Novak, told KTUU-TV in Anchorage. "Chris is never going to be back."
      Palmer and Jones were burglarizing the chapel at about 5 a.m. April 24 when Mielke heard a noise over a homemade intercom system that linked the church to his home, across the road.
      He got his .44-caliber Magnum revolver and went to investigate.
      The three men ended up together in a small, dark arctic entry.
      Mielke testified that he ordered the men to stop and then fired when they kept coming.
      He told investigating troopers that he saw one of the intruders get up and run toward a parked, idling car outside the church.
      Palmer was found dead on a road near the church. He had been shot once in the lower back.
      Several hours later, a woman called 911 to report that Jones had been shot and was at her house. When investigators arrived, they found him dead with a gunshot wound to the back and the left ankle.
      In closing arguments last Thursday, Gilmore characterized Mielke as a mild-mannered man who carried a gun for self-defense. The preacher used it in a "totally unexpected, out-of-control" situation when Palmer and Jones rushed him inside his own church, he said.
      "It was like a bear charging," Gilmore said. "The critical feature of this event (is) it happened in a matter of seconds ... and it happened in the dark. ... His fear that caused him to pull the trigger was reasonable under the circumstances."
      If Mielke was acting in self-defense, why did he empty his gun out a window as the mortally wounded Jones fled toward his car, Collins asked in closing arguments.
      "Once he started shooting, he couldn't stop shooting," Collins said. "This is the act of someone who isn't going to let them get away."
      The burglars were stealing donated food the church planned to give away, Collins said.
      "You don't take a gun to protect some old doughnuts," he said. "Those are not the actions of a reasonable person."
      Big Lake is about 59 road miles north of Anchorage.

Jack Tant:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
          LEDGER-ENQUIRER ; A1
January 11, 2002
JIM HOUSTON, Staff Writer

      Columbus bike shop owner Jack Tant was found not guilty Thursday of the murder of a 15-year-old boy he shot as three youths attempted to burglarize his business.
      The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated 80 minutes acquitting before the 74-year-old businessman, rejecting District Attorney Gray Conger's plea for a conviction on either murder or manslaughter.
      Tant smiled after the verdict was read in the packed courtroom, ending the four-day trial and the 18 months of uncertainty with which he has lived since the June 16, 2000, incident.
      "I haven't had any fear from the start," said Tant, surrounded by his family and defense attorney Mark Shelnutt shortly after the trial ended. "I wasn't worried about it. I had a feeling it would come out good.
      "But it shouldn't even have gone to court," he added.
      Tant said he'll be back at work today at his bicycle and lawn mower repair shop, "doing the same thing I've been doing."
      Shelnutt said the verdict reflects what really happened that evening at Tant's 1742 Benning Drive business.
      "He went up to check on his business and was attacked by intruders. It's nothing more than that," the defense attorney said. "I think when the jury heard all the evidence, they saw that's what happened." . . .

Cases Supporting Civil Immunity Legislation

The Baltimore Sun
February 10, 2004
Byline: Stephanie Hanes

The Baltimore Sun
March 27, 2001
Byline: Jeff Barker

CBS News
October 26, 2012
Byline: Barry Leibowitz

WISN (Wisc.)
September 28, 2006

April 29, 2011

February 2, 1983

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