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Entries in Stand Your Ground (5)

Thursday
Jun142012

Man Found Guilty for Killing Neighbor in Texas 'Stand Your Ground' Case

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A jury has convicted a Texas man for murdering his neighbor during a confrontation over loud music two years ago, rejecting a claim that he was within his rights to fatally shoot the man under Texas' version of a "Stand Your Ground" law.

Raul Rodriguez, 47, faces up to life in prison for the killing of Kelly Danaher, 36.  Sentencing is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

"I'm just glad he can't hurt anybody else," Danaher's wife, Mindy, said.  "I love my husband, and I miss him so much ... and he helped all of us get through this today."

It took the jury less than six hours Wednesday to decide between self-defense and murder.  Jurors, apparently agreed with prosecutors that Rodriguez, a retired Houston-area firefighter, was a trigger-happy neighborhood bully.

"He felt like he had ultimate control, control to determine who lives and who dies," Donna Logan, Harris County Assistant District Attorney, said.

Rodriguez recorded the argument in May of 2010 when he killed Danaher, an elementary school teacher, and wounded two other people.  The 22-minute homemade video was the key to the trial as Rodriguez's lawyers argued it was self-defense under Texas' version of the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, which is also at the center of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

It was after midnight when Rodriguez, complaining to police via telephone that the music was too loud, walked up to Danaher's driveway with a flashlight and gun.

In the video, Rodriguez can be heard talking to a 911 operator, saying, "I'm running the video camera right now and I'm talking to you and I mean, I'm scared to death here."

In the unfolding confrontation between Rodriguez and several unidentified men, one yells, "Tell you what, pal, you just pulled a gun on the wrong [expletive], OK?"

When one of the party-goers saw Rodriguez's gun, he suggested he is getting his own.  "When I go in that house and come back," he warned, "don't think I won't be equal to you, baby."

"It's about to get out of hand sir, please help me.  Please help me, my life is in danger now ...," Rodriguez told police over the phone.  "Now, I'm standing my ground here.  Now, these people are going to try and kill me."

Seconds later, a fight about loud music ends with the crack of gunfire.

"Look, I'm not losing to these people anymore," Rodriguez said.  "I'm just totally going to stay back, because they're drunk, they're ..."

Rodriguez is interrupted by wild laughter, and then the sound of gunfire, before the tape stops as Rodriguez is tackled to the ground.  In addition to the shot that killed Danaher, Houston Fire Capt. Ricky Johnson and Marshall Stetson received multiple gunshot wounds after the camera stopped recording.  Rodriguez, a father of six, walked away from the incident unharmed.

"This has eaten me up for two years," Johnson said.  "Hopefully, now I can begin to heal from it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Bloomberg Blasts NRA over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the nationwide reform or repeal of Stand Your Ground laws Wednesday at an event in Washington, D.C. to announce the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign.

The campaign is intended to prevent killings like that of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and Bloomberg blamed the National Rifle Association for the Florida law that many feel empowered George Zimmerman to shoot the unarmed Martin.

“In reality the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name, vigilantism,” he said. "The NRA should be ashamed of themselves. This has nothing to do with gun owners' rights. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.”

Bloomberg, who was joined by civil rights leaders and Florida State Sen. Chris Smith, said the laws had undermined the justice system and have done harm to public safety.

“They justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results,” he said.

ABC News reached out to the NRA for comment, but it has yet to respond.

Two dozen states have enacted laws similar to the one in Florida, and while the laws vary from state to state, most grant varying degrees of immunity to anyone who uses deadly force in self-defense.

Bloomberg cited statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to show an increase in justifiable homicides after the Stand Your Ground laws went into effect.

In Florida, he said, justifiable homicides increased from 12 per year to 36 per year when the five years before and after the passage of the law were compared.

Bloomberg was also joined by former Army Major Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets.org. Soltz said that U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan had a higher standard of when to use deadly force than Americans who lived in states with Stand Your Ground laws.

“There is no shoot first law for our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. We cannot just shoot somebody because they have a hijab on in Iraq and kill them and say we’re scared. Everybody in Iraq has a weapon and all U.S. forces are always scared,” Soltz said. "This is a legal protection in these states that is actually afforded to Mr. Zimmerman that is not afforded to our troops in combat. Unless I’m wrong I didn’t think Florida was a war zone.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar262012

Lead Prosecutor in Trayvon Martin Case Says Gunman Could Walk

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The lead prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case tells ABC News that convicting his alleged killer, the neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, could prove difficult.

"The 'Stand Your Ground' law is one portion of justifiable use of deadly force," veteran State Attorney Angela Corey said.  "And what that means is that the state must go forward and be able to prove it's case beyond a reasonable doubt… So it makes the case in general more difficult than a normal criminal case."

Zimmerman allegedly shot and killed Martin on the night of Feb. 26, after following him for several minutes.  Zimmerman told police Martin looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie, and when he confronted him, the two fought -- ultimately resulting in a single bullet to Martin's chest.

Zimmerman claimed self defense all along, and this weekend the lawyer counseling him, Craig Sonner, told ABC News that he was likely to invoke Florida's controversial 'Stand Your Ground' law in his defense.

The law allows people to use deadly force if they feel their life is seriously endangered.  Sonner said Zimmerman felt "one of them was going to die that night," when he pulled the trigger.

Corey, a veteran prosecutor known for her zealous defense of victims' rights, was hand-picked by Florida Gov. Rick Scott for the job.  But she faces other challenges in the case.

While Martin was barely 17 years old, when it comes to justifiable homicide, his size -- about 6-foot-3 and 150 pounds -- makes him an adult in death.

But with the Department of Justice and the FBI investigating this case as a possible hate crime, Corey might want to pursue that as well.

"So it would depend on which charge if any we're able to file," she said.  "Before we would be able to determine, one, if this is a hate crime, and two, whether or not that would enhance the crime."

Corey's team is again looking into accusations that the Sanford Police Department bungled its investigation.  Possible police missteps include failing to administer a toxicology exam on Zimmerman, not impounding his car and failing to contact key witnesses -- like Martin's girlfriend, who was talking to the teen by cellphone and heard most of the scuffle with Zimmerman unfold.

ABC News has learned there is tremendous pressure from local and state authorities for an arrest.

Corey said parts of the investigation might only take a few more days to complete but charges, if they ever come, could be weeks away.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar262012

Attorney Says Zimmerman Will Use 'Stand Your Ground' Defense

ABC News; Orange County Jail(NEW YORK) -- The attorney counseling George Zimmerman, who allegedly shot Trayvon Martin as he was walking home from a store with a bag of Skittles in Sanford, Florida, says if charges are filed, Zimmerman will argue that he acted in self-defense and that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law applies.

Attorney Craig Sonner said the public is only hearing part of the story, and when all the facts come out, it will be clear that Zimmerman acted in self defense.  A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing the case on April 10.

"George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, and had an injury to the back of his head, he was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening," Sonner said.  "This was a case of self defense."

When asked why Zimmerman went after the unarmed black 17-year-old, even though a 911 dispatcher told him not to, Sonner said, "Those are questions that will be answered."

Sonner said the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, under which a person who feels threatened is not required to retreat and can "meet force with force" if attacked, will be applicable in the case.

Sonner insisted that Zimmerman is not a racist, pointing out that he and his wife mentored for two black children for free.

"When I asked this mother [of the mentees], who trusted [Zimmerman and his wife], and she's an African-American, if she trusted George Zimmerman, she said she did, and I asked her if there was anything that caused her to believe that she was a racist, and she said, 'Absolutely not.'  And I said, went further, 'Did you ever hear him use racial slurs in any time that you'd been around him?'  And she said, 'no' as well," Sonner said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar252012

Trayvon Martin's Death Puts Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law Under New Scrutiny

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Police in Sanford, Fla., have become the target of anger and protest around the country for failing to arrest George Zimmerman after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

But Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law may have given them little choice.

That law grants immunity to anyone who uses deadly force, inside or outside his home, if he can reasonably claim he was defending himself.

When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had grass stains on his back and an injury to his head. He said he'd gotten them fighting Martin off. Recordings of 911calls would later raise questions about his claim of self-defense, but with only one survivor from that deadly encounter, police at the time had only Zimmerman's story to go by.

Stand Your Ground "really ties law enforcement's hands," says Florida law professor Elizabeth Megale, "because immunity is defined so broadly." Immunity, she says, does not just mean you can't be prosecuted. It means you can't be detained.

For defense attorneys, Megale says, Stand Your Ground "is a dream."

Not surprisingly, Florida State Attorney William Meggs sees it differently. "It is a dream alright, a bad one. It's a nightmare," he says.

Florida in 2005 became the first state to pass a Stand Your Ground law. It was backed by the National Rifle Association, supported by legislators from both parties and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. Twenty other states have followed with similar laws of their own.

The laws expand on the so-called Castle Doctrine, which allow a person to defend himself with deadly force inside his own home (or castle) without first having to retreat. Stand Your Ground eliminates the need to retreat, even outside your own home, so long as you reasonably believe you are in danger.

Combing press reports and state records, The Tampa Bay Times found 130 cases in Florida in which Stand Your Ground was invoked. In more than 70 percent of the cases, someone was killed. But only 28 of the cases went to trial, and only 19 resulted in a guilty verdict.

State Attorney Meggs says because of Stand Your Ground he just lost a case in which a young man was shot to death and the killer went free. "This was a totally unnecessary shooting," he says. It began with a drunken argument in a bar which was resumed later that night on the side of the road. One man was walking, and the other was a passenger in a car. The car stopped, the argument began again, and the man on the side of the road leaned into the car window and was shot to death. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the shooter was "standing his ground."

"We have solved a problem with the Stand Your Ground Law that didn't exist," says Meggs. "The people who are using this law are not law abiding citizens. The people who are using this law are thugs and gangs and drug dealers."

At least one Florida legislator has called for a reexamination of Stand Your Ground. But the law's author, State Rep. Dennis Baxley, says the problem is not with the law, but with how it's being applied.

Baxley says George Zimmerman "is on very thin ice" using Stand Your Ground as a defense in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. "There was nothing in this statute ever intended to protect somebody who was pursuing or confronting other people."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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