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Will Black Friday shooting defendant plead Stand Your Ground?

Another apparently-unarmed, African-American teenager was recently killed in Florida, and the defendant is again expected plead self-defense to murder charges. Unfortunately, many in the press have seen the lure of painting this incident as a re-run of the George Zimmerman case, and that could lead to a dangerous miscarriage of justice.

The basic facts appear to be that the defendant, a 47-year-old South Patrick Shores man, attended his son’s wedding on the day after Thanksgiving. On the way home with his own fiancée, he stopped at a Jacksonville Gate gas station and parked next to a pickup with four teens inside. His fiancée went inside, and the man apparently got into an argument with the teens over loud music. That dispute ended with shots fired and a 17-year-old African American boy dead.

The man and his fiancée fled the scene, according to witnesses. He later told police that he had intended to report the incident and turn himself in the next day. Unfortunately, police detectives arrived at his house at 4:25 a.m. the next morning.

He told police that the argument was getting hot when the deceased shouted “you’re dead” and reached down to grab something. The defendant says he thought it was a shotgun and, in fear of his life, grabbed his pistol from his glove box, unholstered and loaded it, and fired. "I was so afraid that I didn't have time to think,” he said. “I only reacted."

His family says he’s simply not the sort of person who could have done this without it being self-defense. His 21-year-old daughter has already received death threats.

Police did not believe his story. They say he fired 10 shots and that no other weapon was found at the crime scene. They paint him as an enraged, out-of-control killer who fired a 9mm pistol at four innocent teens whose music was too loud.

A criminal court will have to determine the truth of what happened, and trial is scheduled for February. Whatever that truth may be, we cannot allow this case to become a stand-in for the Zimmerman trial. Those outraged by that verdict, by Stand Your Ground, or by the deplorable treatment of African-American teens in Florida in general should remember, justice is not served in kangaroo courts.

Source: USA TODAY, “Another Stand Your Ground showdown?” Rick Neale, Florida Today, Dec. 16, 2013

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