Here’s What Happens in Florida When A Black Man Stands His Ground

Stand Your Ground: Don't try it if you're in Florida and you're Black.

Photo from Michael Giles’ family via a petition to commute his sentence on Change.Org. Click here to sign.

It’s an unfortunate fact that certain states’ “Stand Your Ground” laws are getting tested more and more these days. In fact, in Florida alone, deaths that are ruled as “justifiable homicides” increased 283% between the time the law was enacted and 2010. This is now a sad reality, but many people would claim that the law is a good one since it allows people to defend themselves when they believe their lives are in danger. Much like the Jim Crow laws of the past, however, “Stand Your Ground” is beginning to look more and more like a racially biased law disguised in the cloak of legal necessity.

An obvious case of “Stand Your Ground.”

In what is quickly becoming a rallying call against the racial bias of “Stand Your Ground” laws, a young U.S. airman, Michael Giles, was sentenced to 25 years in a Florida prison after shooting a man, who happened to be attacking him, in the leg. That’s right:  no death actually occurred in the incident, but Giles was sentenced to 25 years. What makes this even more disheartening is the fact that, in an unrelated case, a Missouri man only received 20 years for actually murdering a man who was only leaving a residence.

The Giles case began when the young man, who had just finished out a second tour in the Middle East, went to a nightclub with his friends. At the club, a fight suddenly broke out outside between 30 to 40 different individuals. The young man was not even part of the fight, but fearing for his safety since he couldn’t find his friends, he retrieved a gun from his vehicle, which he had a concealed carry permit for, placed it in his pocket, and went to find his buddies.

A random attack on an innocent victim

While searching for his friends, a stranger came out of nowhere and punched Giles to the ground. This assailant even admitted that he planned on punching the first person that he came upon. In an obvious act of self defense — what “Stand Your Ground” laws are supposedly for — Giles shot his assailant in the leg. Unfortunately, several fragments broke away from the bullet and injured two others.

The young father of three, who was looking forward to a promising career in the military, was quickly arrested, charged with second-degree attempted murder, and convicted of a lesser charge which landed him in prison for what equates to a life sentence. Somehow, Jack Campbell, a Florida assistant attorney general, was able to look at the jury with a straight face and say:

“There is no self-defense that is applicable based on the evidence that’s before the jury.”

Because an admission from the “victim” saying that he randomly attacked Giles doesn’t prove Giles needed to defend himself.

Oh, wait.

Are “Stand Your Ground” laws rotten to the core?

Sadly, Giles isn’t the first to fall victim to a system that seems to pick and choose when it will apply the “Stand your Ground” doctrine. In fact, public outcry occurred when Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother, was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot at her husband after the two had been engaged in a physical altercation. Even worse is the sad realization that there was a history of domestic violence against the woman who was defending herself. Fortunately, she will get a retrial, but when looking at Florida’s statistics related to the law, it’s not promising that a different verdict will be reached.

In fact, a recent article listing statistics related to Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law shows some disturbing trends. While around 70% of all individuals who use the defense are exonerated, the numbers prove that the law is more geared to protecting white individuals. This can be seen by the fact that 73% of people who kill an African-American and use the defense are freed. Conversely, only 59% of individuals who invoke the defense after killing a white person get the same treatment.

Anyone who isn’t blinded by some form of prejudice would literally have to be mentally defunct to not recognize the Giles case as an open-and-shut instance of “Stand your Ground,” but unfortunately, gun rights advocates aren’t screaming for his release. This task has been left to his parents, who are both veterans, and Americans who are demanding some form of justice. Sadly, Governor Rick Scott is ignoring demands for clemency, and this is even after nearly 80,000 people (as of Feb. 17) have signed a petition demanding action.

You can sign the petition here.