Stand Your Ground and Vigilante Justice

Trayvon Martin is merely the worst case of some one avoiding justice through Stand Your Ground. He is, by no means, the only. To wit:


Greyston Garcia was charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Pedro Roteta, 26, whom he chased for more than a block before stabbing the man. 

The incident took place on Jan. 25, when Roteta and another youth were behind Garcia's apartment at 201 SW 18th Ct. According to police, Roteta was stealing Garcia's truck radio. Garcia, alerted by a roommate, grabbed a large knife and ran downstairs. 

He chased Roteta, then stabbed him in a confrontation that lasted less than a minute, according to court documents. The stabbing was caught on video. 

Roteta was carrying a bag filled with three stolen radios, but no weapon other than a pocketknife, which was unopened in his pocket and which police said he never brandished. 

After initially denying involvement in the man's death, Garcia admitted to homicide detectives that he attacked Roteta even though "he actually never saw a weapon." 

Garcia claimed Roteta made a move that he interpreted as a move to stab him -- so he struck first.
Yesterday the judge tossed the case against Garcia. The investigating officer was stunned:

Miami police Sgt. Ervens Ford, who supervised the Garcia case, was floored when told Wednesday of the judge's decision. Ford called the law and the decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom a "travesty of justice." "

How can it be Stand Your Ground?" said Ford, a longtime homicide investigator who on his off-day on Monday plans to attend a rally in the Trayvon case in Sanford with his two teenage sons. "It's on [surveillance] video! You can see him stabbing the victim . . ." 
In the case of Martin we have--as long as there areno immediate witnesses--presumably the right to bait a fight, kill the "assailant," and then escape on self-defense. In the case of Garcia we have the right to essentially kill anyone who harms our property or person, if we claim we perceived them to be menacing us with potentially lethal violence.

Then there is this case:

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.
I can't escape the the thought that if Baker had, himself, been carrying he might be alive today. He conceivably could have shot Browning--noting that he had been followed for several miles, and then pepper-sprayed him, when he tried to investigate. 

What we have in Florida--and doubtlessly in other parts of the country--is the state relinquishing a crucial aspect of meting out justice. The logic here militates toward getting a gun--even for people who don't like guns. The logic incentivizes an armed citizenry where the beneficiary of justice is simply the last man standing. Your side of the story is irrelevant if you are dead.

Perhaps that is the point. I have no idea. 
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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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