The Many Cases That Have Tested the Limits of 'Stand Your Ground' Since Trayvon Martin

Wayne Burgarello, who reportedly shot and killed an unarmed man in Nevada, is the latest of many defendants since the Trayvon Martin case to invoke the "Stand Your Ground" protection.

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Wayne Burgarello, who reportedly shot and killed an unarmed man in Nevada, is the latest of many defendants since the Trayvon Martin case to invoke a "Stand Your Ground" law. The Associated Press reports that Burgarello acknowledges the February 13 shooting on his property in Sparks, Nevada, but says it was self-defense  when he "killed a man and wounded a woman who had done meth and entered his vacant duplex."

Burgarello was arrested and charged with murder on Thursday and is being held without bail. Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the infamous Trayvon Martin case last summer, we've seen continued reports of "Stand Your Ground" cases, and no successful efforts to alter the laws, which exist in more than 20 states.

The discourse over whether "Stand Your Ground" laws beget more violence or are an effective check on crime (unsurprisingly) hasn't yielded a consensus, with some studies submitting that the laws cause more homicides and state task forces dedicated to reviewing the laws concluding that they're necessary. However, by sheer dint of statistics, justifiable homicides have nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010. Meanwhile, in recent months, some of the cases involving "Stand Your Ground" laws seem extreme.

In February, Cyle Wayne Quadlin and Kriston Charles Belinte Chee got into a fight in the middle of a Walmart in Chandler, Arizona. After sensing that he was losing the fight, Quadlin pulled out his gun and shot and killed Chee, who was unarmed. After declaring he had feared for his life, Quadlin was not arrested.

Earlier this year, ThinkProgress broke down 26 children and teens in Florida alone who had been killed in "Stand Your Ground" cases. They included a mix of instances in which the shooters were ultimately convicted, found innocent, or let go with charges. That list includes the death of Jordan Davis, known as the "loud music trial" and the most high-profile "Stand Your Ground" case since the Martin case. In the case, Michael Dunn, the shooter, was acquitted of first-degree murder, but was convicted on lesser charges, after firing into a car with four teens following an argument over the loudness of the music in the car.

There have also been several cases cases in which defendants were accused of setting traps for and killing intruders. Take, for instance, the killing of Diren Dede, a 17-year-old German exchange student in Missoula, Montana, who was shot and killed after he reportedly trespassed unarmed into a garage looking for alcohol. Prosecutors say Markus Kaarma fired blindly at Dede.

The night of the shooting, Kaarma and his partner, Janelle Pflager, left their garage door open. Pflager left her purse in the garage "so that they would take it," she told a police officer. She also set up a video baby monitor and installed motion sensors, prosecutors said.

After midnight, they heard the sensors trip. Pflager turned to the video monitor and saw a man in the garage. Kaarma took his shotgun, walked out the front door and to the driveway."

You can guess what happened next. Kaarma pleaded not guilty last week.

There was also a case in Minnesota in which Byron Smith tried and failed to use the "Stand Your Ground" defense after killing two unarmed teenage cousins, one male and one female, several minutes apart after they broke into his house on Thanksgiving Day last year.

Prosecutors said Smith's plan was set in motion on the morning of the killings, after Smith saw a neighbor whom he believed responsible for prior burglaries drive by. Prosecutors say Smith moved his truck to make it look like no one was home, and then settled into a chair in his basement with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns."

Smith's defense attorney said he will appeal.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.