The case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot to death by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, has provoked Michigan lawmakers to attempt to rid the state of a law similar to the one Zimmerman initially used in his defense.
On Thursday, Democrats in the state House announced a bill to repeal Michigan’s “stand your ground” law, which currently protects citizens who use deadly force in self-defense. As the law stands, if a person believes he is at risk of being subjected to deadly force, great bodily harm or rape, he can use deadly force without first retreating. Many states have some version of the law on the books.
“We have seen the destruction that ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws have had in Florida,” said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Here in Michigan, we don’t need to wait for a similar disaster before we get rid of our version of that dangerous law.”
“While people have a right to protect themselves, they also have the responsibility to only use deadly force as a last resort,” she added.
Introduced by state Rep. Tim Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe), the new bill seeks to repeal the current self-defense act. It has several other Democratic sponsors and will now go to the judiciary committee.
The original Michigan self-defense law was enacted in 2006 and signed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who now supports the repeal effort, according to the Detroit News. It builds on the “Castle Doctrine,” which protects homeowners’ use of deadly force on their own property in some circumstances.
While justifiable homicide cases, both in private and public spaces, don’t occur in huge numbers in Michigan, the cases can provoke questions about the consequences of the law and the way it is interpreted. And justifiable homicides seem to be on the rise, though accurate numbers are difficult to come by.
According to the Free Press, numbers vary depending on who’s recording the crime statistics, with different stats from the Michigan State Police and the FBI. MSP data showed no more than four justifiable homicides in the decade leading up to 2006, but the number climbed steadily to 16 in 2010, according to the Detroit News.
At odds with those numbers, Fox 2 reports Detroit alone had 19 justifiable homicides in 2010 and 34 in 2011.
Clinton Township Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Marcil told CBS Detroit he had seen claims of self-defense go up significantly since the “stand your ground” law was enacted.
Democrat lawmakers who want to repeal the law say it encourages violence in favor of “common law,” which requires people to make an effort to flee before using force if they believe they are in danger. But others, including some Republicans and gun-rights advocates, believe the law doesn’t promote violence or crime. Instead, they say, it protects individuals from it.
The Michigan version of the “stand your ground” law is not quite as protective of defendants as Florida’s law. According to the Free Press, the key difference is in Florida, cases can be dismissed before even going to trial.
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