The purpose of “Stand Your Ground” laws is to protect people from being convicted when acting in self-defense. By removing a duty to retreat, the idea is that people who act in self-defense won’t be prosecuted for acting when faced with a threat.
That’s the theory, at least.
Unfortunately, while “Stand Your Ground” can be used as a defense, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to court, as one man in Iowa is finding out.
A judge on Monday denied a request by a Cedar Rapids man to receive protection from prosecution under Iowa’s “stand your ground” law after he and another man shot at each other earlier this year.
Michael G. Hodges, Jr. of Cedar Rapids claimed he should not have to go to trial after he and Zevon L. Johnson of Urbandale shot almost simultaneously at each other early in the morning Jan. 28 outside Pub 217, a bar and restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Hodges, 23, shot and injured Johnson, 21, in the encounter, while Johnson’s shot missed Hodges.
Patrick Grady, Iowa’s sixth judicial district’s chief judge, denied Hodges’ claim to dismiss the case against him, writing that Iowa’s law lacks a procedure to determine whether Hodges should receive immunity before going to trial.
“This court is without authority to declare as a matter of law that Hodges is immune from any further prosecution,” Grady wrote in his denial.
Security video shows the two men exchanging gunfire early Jan. 28 outside Pub 217, according to a criminal complaint from the Linn County Attorney’s Office.
“Both defendants are seen simultaneously raising their guns and firing at each other while just a few feet away from each other,” the complaint states.
Hodges went to the police and even turned over his weapon. He has a valid concealed carry permit and had reportedly been harassed by Johnson and his friends for some time prior to the fatal altercation.
Johnson, however, didn’t have a permit and it was later learned that his firearm was taken from his mother’s vehicle, making it basically a stolen gun.
Now, Hodges will go to trial for attempted murder.
Johnson had also tried to claim he was standing his ground, but eventually pled guilty to a lesser charge. He was sentenced to one year of probation and will have his record expunged if he keeps his nose clean.
I’m sorry, but I think Hodges shouldn’t be prosecuted. I can’t help but see Johnson’s guilty plea as an admission he was the aggressor, meaning Hodges was defending himself.
That said, we live in a world where things aren’t usually so cut and dried.
It’s my hope that if what Hodges has said is correct, he will be exonerated at trial. It’s a shame we have to see things like this, but law-abiding gun owners can still have to deal with such situations despite laws designed to prevent some of this. The thing to remember is that it has prevented some of this. Stand Your Ground laws have prevented numerous people from being prosecuted for defending their own life.
It just can’t stop every prosecution.