Carl Hiaasen is a gifted writer of fiction. It’s too bad that he applies his fiction writing skills to op-eds, such as in his recent rant against Florida’s “stand your ground” laws.
Hiassen mentions the recent Michael Dunn trial (Dunn was convicted of most charges), the George Zimmerman trial (Zimmerman was acquitted) and the pending Curtis Reeves trial, as he attacks the law.
After describing a slanted version of events in these three cases, Hiaasen whines:
This is life in Florida — guns everywhere, and laws that favor the trigger- happy. Shoot first, then cry self-defense.
Kids playing rap music too loud? Lock and load. Some guy texting at the movies? Teach him some manners.
Don’t walk away from an argument when you can end it with a bullet. Stand your ground and hope you get the right jury.
Welcome to Planet NRA.
There’s Hiaasen’s frothing rant… and then there’s reality.
“Stand your ground” wasn’t used by George Zimmerman’s defense during his trial. Zimmerman’s defense was a straight and entirely conventional self-defense case based on case law and common law hundreds of years old. Zimmerman claimed that Trayvon Martin sucker punched him, mounted him, and began beating him. He claimed Martin would not stop, even when a witness (John Good) yelled at him to do so. He then drew and fired a single shot to stop the assault. The forensic evidence supported Zimmerman’s case. The use of force expert who testified in the trial stated that he would have shot long before Zimmerman did. In the end, he was acquitted.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense mentioned “stand your ground” in the Zimmerman case. It simply wasn’t relevant.
In the Dunn trial, Michael Dunn claimed that he got in a verbal altercation, heard threats, thought he saw a gun, and then fired at the presumed threat. Dunn’s defense rested on traditional self defense claims, but the testimony and physical evidence evidence was not in line with a valid claim of self defense.
He was deemed guilty of multiple counts of attempted murder, but the jury declared a mistrial on the more serious charges of murder as prosecutor Angela Corey overcharged yet another case in her increasingly sad career. Dunn may face a retrial, and if the charge fits the crime this time (manslaughter seems far more reasonable that first degree murder, based on the facts of the case), he will likely be convicted of Jordan Davis’s death, as well.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense mentioned “stand your ground” in the Dunn case. It simply wasn’t relevant.
Curtis Reeves will have his day in court soon enough. Much like Marissa Alexander (another Angela Corey debacle), Reeves left the scene, and later returned with a weapon. Reeves does not have a stand your ground case, just as Alexander’s claim was twice rejected by courts.
Is “stand your ground” a good law, or a bad law, or a decent law that could use some fine tuning? I’ll leave that for legislatures to decide.
What I do know is that the citizenry is poorly served by pundits who apparently dislike a law, and then bend reality past the breaking point to blame that law in cases where it was never relevant, like the cases of Zimmerman, Dunn, and Reeves.
If you’re going to continue focusing on fiction, Mr. Hiaasen, perhaps you could be so kind as to present it as such to your readers.