The state of Iowa is fairly new to the Stand Your Ground game. It only recently passed the law, which simply states that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker prior to using lethal force.
Now, it seems the law will get its first test. Unfortunately for one man, it has entered the realm of the bizarre in how it’s being applied (emphasis mine).
Prior to Gov. Terry Branstad signing the SYG bill passed in April 2017 by the legislature into law, Iowans needed to make a reasonable effort to retreat from a perceived danger before using deadly force, unless they were in their homes or reasonably believed themselves to be in immediate danger of death or severe injury.
The facts in the Ped Mall shooting case weren’t in dispute. Wilson admitted shooting the three men who confronted him on the Ped Mall in the earlier hours of Aug. 27. The prosecution did not dispute that those three men were armed. But in a pre-trial hearing, Judge Paul Miller ruled that whether the SYG law applied in Wilson’s case would only be considered in a post-conviction hearing, if he was convicted.
Since the legislature did not specify at what stage in a criminal proceeding a SYG defense should apply, Miller relied on the 1989 Iowa Supreme Court ruling in State v. King to make his decision. In that case, the defendant claimed a state law providing immunity to anyone reporting a case of child abuse should apply to her, because even though she was the person who injured the child, she was also the person who brought the child to the doctor for treatment. The trial court judge in that case ruled that the immunity claim would not be considered until after the jury’s verdict. The state Supreme Court upheld that decision.
I’m sorry, but that’s just weird.
If the facts are as presented here, it sounds like a slam-dunk case of self-defense. After all, if three armed men confront me, I’m not likely to assume they’re merely there because they want to invite me to afternoon tea.
As the original source linked above noted, there is a profound inconsistency in how Stand Your Ground laws are applied. Sometimes law enforcement uses the law to not forward the case to a prosecutor, other times prosecutors use it to justify not prosecuting, and so on. There’s no real rhyme or reason.
Of course, there’s a reason for that profound inconsistency.
When an investigator looks at the facts, he may easily be able to tell that it’s an instance of Stand Your Ground and that there’s no reason to forward the case. In others, the investigator may not be so sure and will send it on so an actual attorney can take a look. Still, other times, judges see where a case should never have come to trial, so they dismiss it.
Even non-Stand Your Ground related self-defense cases go through similar inconsistencies.
That said, having a trial first and then a hearing to determine if a Stand Your Ground law applies goes beyond the ridiculous. Why waste taxpayer money on a trial when a hearing may invalidate it in the first place? Why not have the hearing first so as to avoid the hassle of a trial if it’s determined to apply to the defendant?
Honestly, this makes no sense at all. Absolutely none.