Stand Your Ground And Self-Defense In Florida

Anger over deaths caused by guns is boiling in Florida this summer. And controversy over the “stand your ground” legal principle in the state’s self-defense law is reaching a frenzy.

Please, let’s all take a deep breath, step back, and think about this slowly and carefully. It’s important for us to get the issues and facts straight. Fortunately, the Tampa Bay Times has published on each of the past two days excellent front-page news reports regarding the shooting death at a convenience store in Clearwater and the resulting controversy.

I recommend that everyone read the following two stories from start to finish. Not just the front page but the jump to an inside page. The stories are available on the Times website.

STORY ONE –“IN STAND YOUR GROUND CASES, DOES IT MATTER WHO STARTED IT?” With the secondary headline, “Not when the provocation is verbal, experts say, as the McGlockton case may show.” By Kathryn Varn, Tampa Bay Times, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, starting on the front page and continuing on page 4A. Importantly, the Times also published on the front page four large time-lapse photos that show quite clearly what happened outside the convenience store. Those photos may be the most important evidence in the case. They were provided by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s  Office. Clearwater is a city in Pinellas County. Many additional photos are on page 4A.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who has a law degree, has investigated the shooting death at the convenience store, and he is one of the people at the center of the controversy because he has declined to arrest the shooter, citing the stand-your-ground principal of Florida law. The case is not closed however, because the sheriff has forwarded the case to the state attorney, who has the final decision on whether to charge the shooter and prosecute the case.

STORY TWO — ” ‘Lock him up, or give up your badge’ ” With the secondary headline, “Marchers, candidates and civil rights activists call for an arrest in a store shooting and the repeal of the state’s stand your ground law.” By Tracey McManus and Langston Taylor, Tampa Bay Times, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, starting on the front page and continuing on page 8A. The Times also published on the front page a large photo including the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump at a Baptist church service Sunday afternoon. All five Democratic candidates for Florida governor in the November election and one candidate for state attorney general attended the church service and spoke from the pulpit, according to the news story. It said about 400 people filled the church and an additional 300 demonstrated outside.

Also on the front page is a photo of Markeis McGlockton, the black man who died from the gunshot. Also, a photo of protesters marching in Clearwater to demand justice for the deceased man. Notably, the protest-march photo shows numerous signs with the words: “MICHAEL DREJKA: THE PEOPLE SAY GUILTY.” Michael Drejka is the white man who fired the fatal shot at the convenience store. On page 8A is a photo of Crump holding Mr. McGlockton’s five-year-old son as Crump speaks at the  protest rally.

I believe that the above two news reports, taken together, and the accompanying photos, provide a comprehensive overview of the facts and issues. If the Tampa Bay Times continues such comprehensive coverage of the controversy, I believe the stories taken together might earn the paper a Pulitzer Prize.

I have to study the reports carefully, and still I have difficulty understanding the fine lines drawn around the right of self-defense.

— John Hayden