By Michael Bryan
If you aren't living under a rock, you are familiar with the killing of Treyvon Martin by George Zimmerman, and the controversy over Zimmerman's arrest and prosecution for the killing due to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
You may not be aware that the geniuses of the Arizona legislature also created a "Stand Your Ground" law here in Arizona in 2006:
13-418. Justification; use of force in defense of residential structure or occupied vehicles; definitions
- A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a person is justified in threatening to use or using physical force or deadly physical force against another person if the person reasonably believes himself or another person to be in imminent peril of death or serious physical injury and the person against whom the physical force or deadly physical force is threatened or used was in the process of unlawfully or forcefully entering, or had unlawfully or forcefully entered, a residential structure or occupied vehicle, or had removed or was attempting to remove another person against the other person's will from the residential structure or occupied vehicle.
- B. A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force pursuant to this section.
- C. For the purposes of this section:
- 1. "Residential structure" has the same meaning prescribed in section 13-1501.
- 2. "Vehicle" means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is designed to transport persons or property.
Brilliant stuff. It is, however, marginally more sane - and certainly more limited - than Florida's law. At least Arizona's law only eliminates a duty to retreat in the context of a residence or an occupied vehicle. Florida's law does not limit the circumstances, except a person needs to believe they are in danger of death or great bodily harm.
Just because our law is less stupid doesn't mean that Arizona's law hasn't caused tragedy. For at least one Arizona family, it already has.
On April 3rd of this year (more coverage, and TV news report on YouTube), a mentally disabled man, Daniel Atkins, Jr., was walking his dog in Phoenix when he was shot dead at the drive-thru window of a Taco Bell by Cordell Jude, who was in his vehicle with his pregnant girlfriend.
This the story from Jude's statements and the police report:
Jude had to brake fast in order to avoid hitting Adkins, he told police.
"Watch it!" he said Adkins yelled and added an obscenity. Adkins then moved to the driver's side door and swung an object that Jude describes in the police report as a bat or pipe. Jude's girlfriend also told police that Adkins swung what looked like a bat or a pipe . Nothing hit Jude or the car, the report says.
Jude then pulled his Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handgun from where he carried it — inside his sweatpants on his right hip, the police report says.
"Holding the gun in his right hand, with the barrel pointed toward Adkins, Jude racked the slide of the gun, loading a round into its chamber," the report says. "Jude stated that as Adkins raised an arm as if to swing at him again, Jude shot him once in the torso."
Adkins died, holding his dog's colorful green leash, in his right hand. The officers who responded to the scene found the dog still at his side. They did not find a pipe, bat or other weapon.
Jude said he didn't drive away from the confrontation because the dog was in the way. He told police he feared for his life and the lives of his girlfriend and their unborn baby. In response to a follow-up question by investigators, Jude said he did not think Adkins would have killed them, but he thought Adkins was trying to hurt him.
Jude has not been charged in the case, but the police report suggests that 2nd degree murder charges would be warranted. The case remains under investigation.
Without the Arizona "Stand Your Ground" law, there would be no question that Jude's shooting of Adkins was unjustifiable as self-defense. Because Jude was in his vehicle, however, he had no duty to retreat before what he percieved as serious force. Ultimately, he may be changed, and he may be found not to have been justified in shooting Adkins, but that is small comfort to the parents of Dan Adkins, whose son was shot dead holding nothing but a dog leash by a trigger-happy motorist protected by an absurd Arizona statute, who remains free.