Sorry Domestic Violence Victims, S.C. Prosecutors Don’t Have Your Back!

SC-SYG

Over 20 states have passed some version of Stand Your Ground laws authorizing individuals to use deadly force in self-defense.

According to FindLaw.com, “Florida passed the first such law in 2005, generally allowing people to stand their ground instead of retreating if they reasonably believe doing so will “prevent death or great bodily harm.”

However, prosecutors in South Carolina, a Stand Your Ground state, don’t believe that Stand Your Ground laws should apply in the cases of women who claim they feared for their lives when confronted with intimate abusers – in other words, victims of domestic abuse.

Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd of Charleston, the lead prosecutor in a Stand Your Ground case currently under appeal, told The Post and Courier that

(The Legislature’s) intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers. We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with (its) wording and intent.

As ThinkProgress reported last week,

Most recently, Kidd raised this argument in vigorously pursuing a murder case against Whitlee Jones, whose screams for help as her boyfriend pulled her down the street by her hair prompted a neighbor to call the cops during a 2012 altercation. When the officer arrived that night, the argument had already ended and Jones had fled the scene. While she was out, Jones decided to leave her boyfriend, Eric Lee, and went back to the house to pack up her things. She didn’t even know the police officer had been there earlier that night, her lawyer Mary Ford explained. She packed a knife to protect herself, and as she exited the house, she says Lee attacked her and she stabbed Lee once in defense. He died, although Jones says she did not intend to kill him.
 
On October 3, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson sided with Jones and granted her Stand Your Ground immunity, meaning she is exempt from trial on the charge. In response to Kidd’s argument that individuals could not invoke Stand Your Ground to defend against violence in their own homes, Nicholson said that dynamic would create the “nonsensical result” that a victim of domestic abuse could defend against an attacker outside of the home, but not inside the home – where the most vicious domestic violence is likely to occur.

Amanda Marcotte at Slate.com elaborated, writing: “Perhaps Jones could have done more to avoid the confrontation with Lee. She could have tried to get her things at a later time, when tempers had cooled or when Lee wasn’t at home. But, as Nicole Flatow at ThinkProgress points out, South Carolina has allowed other people to argue self-defense under ‘stand your ground’ in much iffier situations. ‘The law has been used to protect a man who killed an innocent bystander while pointing his gun at several teens he called ‘women thugs.'”

The question of whether someone should have less right to protect herself against someone she knows than against a stranger is at the heart of this case, as Knapp explains.

The crux of Kidd’s appeal, though, is rooted in the wording of the statute itself.
 
It says that people should be expected to fear for their lives if someone is breaking into their home, their car or their business. Most people in those situations can defend themselves. But if people share their home with the target of their force, they don’t have that “presumption” of fear, the law says.

The problem, as Marcotte continues, is “that many women who live with abusers are, in fact, living in fear. Research shows women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a man they know than a stranger. In this specific case, neighbors called 911 mere hours before the killing because they feared for Jones’s safety.” As ThinkProgress adds,

Women are dying at a rate of one every 12 days from domestic abuse in South Carolina, a state “awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered … a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse.”

Clearly Stand Your Ground laws are problematic on a variety of levels, but if states insist on legislating them – they should insure they are applied fairly and they certainly shouldn’t grant people more rights when confronting strangers on the street than women who are confronted with the horrors, and often fatal end result, of domestic violence at home.

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