Florida's Ubiquitous Castle


The focus on the Trayvon Martin case allows an opportunity to consider Florida's expansive notion of self-defense -- one which increasingly has found itself on the law books around the country. The law has proved some trouble, and not simply for young black boys and their families.

Shortly after 2 a.m., three vehicles were headed south on East Lake Road -- one driven by Brandon Baker, the second by Seth Browning, and the third by Brandon's twin, Christopher Baker. Browning told deputies that he had become concerned about Brandon Baker's driving. In an attempt to get his tag number, Browning followed him onto the frontage road. The third car followed the other two. 

The vehicles came to a stop, and Brandon Baker got out of his Chevy pickup and aggressively approached Browning's car, deputies said. Browning responded by using pepper spray on Baker and his brother, who was also approaching Browning's car. Deputies say Brandon Baker reached into Browning's vehicle and punched him, and he in turn pulled out his gun and shot Brandon Baker. Browning called 911 and stayed at the scene until sheriff's deputies arrived. 

He wasn't on duty at the time, but he is authorized to carry a gun through his employer, the Sheriff's Office said. Christopher Baker was not injured. A passenger in his car -- Amy Marcellus, Brandon Baker's girlfriend -- also was not injured. She remained inside the car during the incident, deputies said.
I can't tell from the story whether the shooter (Browning) was arrested. The story says: 

"Investigators questioned the accused gunman at length Tuesday but did not press criminal charges against him. He told deputies that he acted in self-defense."
There's an ongoing investigation, and I wouldn't be surprised if Browning is ultimately charged. I'm not highlighting this story to condemn the police, but to point to something that immediately becomes apparent should you google "Stand your ground" and reading about the associated shootings. What you find is people with very little incentive to de-escalate. The feeling running through a lot of these pieces is "We are in a confrontation which I don't believe to be my fault. I feel threatened by you, therefore I have the right to shoot you."

It's not like the Stand Your Ground defense always works. ("Judge denies Orr's 'Stand Your Ground Claim.' Notes victim's 75 stab wounds.") Judges enjoy discretion, and in some of the cases I've seen aren't particularly keen on it. Nevertheless, it seems like the law, while endorsing the right of self-defense, should really push the point that deadly force is a last resort. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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