tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 31, 2013 8:00am-10:01am EDT
>> of the expanded use of deadly force. we have a large audience in the room today. at the outset, i want to note the senate rules prohibit any signs of ap to brace which would include outbursts, clapping or demonstrations. if there's someone who wishes to be witness to this hearing and can't attend in this room, there is another room available, room 226 in the dirksen building. i'll provide opening remarks and then giving senator cruz an opportunity before we turn to our witnesses. the debate over stand your ground laws raises fundamental questions about self-defense in the be united states of america. in recent years we've seen a dramatic increase in laws expanding the situation in which
a person can legally use deadly force in response to a perceived threat. florida passed the first of this new wave of stand your ground laws in 2005. prior to 2005, florida law held that a person outside his home could not use deadly force and then claim self-defense if the person could have safely avoided the confrontation. this, quote, duty of safe retreat, closed quote, sought to prevent public disputes from escalating into violence. but the gun lobby pushed to change florida's law so people could shoot someone who threatened them without first trying to avoid a confrontation. florida wasn't the first state to adopt the stand your ground principle, but florida's 2005 law expanded the principle in several dramatic new ways.
first, the law grants criminal and civil of immunity for use withs of deadly force -- for uses of deadly force in stand your ground situations. second, it replaces a defendant's burden of proving reasonableness with a presumption of reasonableness when the defendant shoots anyone who intrudes upon his home, por of of. or -- porch or vehicle. third, it even i allows the use of deadly force when a threat is not imminent. the gun lobby wanted to spread florida's law across the nation, so the national rifle association went to alec, the american legislative exchange council, and asked for their help. now, alec is an organization that brings corporate lobbyists and state legislators together for concernses. they draft model bills, and then today work to get them enacted. in 2005 alec adopted model legislation that was nearly
identical to florida's law. they then began promoting it in statehouses across the country. within a year 13 more states passed similar laws. today 25 states -- not counting florida -- have passed a law based in whole or in part on the alec model. alec called the enactment of these laws one of, quote, alec's successes, closed quote. cnn described alec as being, quote, behind the spread of stand your ground laws, closed quote. "the wall street journal" said alec was, quote, a key advocate for them. now that alec-style stand your ground laws are in effect for over half of the united states, we are seeing their national impact when it comes to public safety and civil rights. this is what we will learn from our witnesses today. these stand your ground laws have led to increases in homicides and firearm injuries
including 600 additional homicides per year. with no deterrent effect on crimes like robbery or assault. this point was made in several studies including recent research from texas a and h university -- texas a&m university. second, these stand your ground laws have allowed shooters to walk free in shocking situations. shootouts between rival drug gangs, drug deals gone bad and more. this point will be made effectively by the testimony of david le bon, president and ceo of the association of prosecuting attorneys. third, in some devastating cases the laws have emboldened those who carry guns to initiate confrontations which have ended up killing unarmed children. the testimonies of sybrina fulton and lucy mcbeth about
the devastating losses of their sons make that point more effectively than i ever could. finally, these stand your ground laws increase racial disparity thisour criminal justice system. -- in our criminal justice system. in stand your ground states, nearly 17% of homicides involving white shooters and black victims were ruled justified compared to 1% of homicides with black shooters and white victims. at my request the congressional research service analyzed fbi data on justifiable homicide before and after the 2005 wave of stand your ground laws and found that racial disparities clearly increased. i'll be putting this crs memo in the record. it is clearly time for stand your ground laws to be carefully reviewed and reconsidered.
whatever the motivation behind them, it's clear these laws often go too far in encouraging confrontations that escalate into deadly violence. they are resulting in unnecessary tragedies, and they are diminishing accountability under our justice system. i'm pleased at the efforts to reconsider these laws are now underway. one of the legislators who drafted florida's law joined with some of its chief opponents in a bipartisan effort to change the law. they've been passed in a state senate committee in florida. there's more that needs to be done, but we seem to be moving past the question of whether stand your ground laws should be fixed. now we should be looking at the best way to fix them. i urge other states that have stand your ground i laws to revisit them as well. to the extent that stand your ground laws were passed based on the alec model, i would note that few who are connected with
alec appear wedded to that model today. i reached out to every company and organization that has been publicly listed as a member or sponsor of alec since 2005 simply asking them, do you support the stand your ground bill? 140 of them responded. only one said, yes. even alec, through a connecticut state representative and its chairman, mr. discopoe, made a statement to the press that alec no longer has a policy on stand your ground laws. it is also important that congress review stand your ground law because of the way proposed federal legislation implicates those laws. just this past april 57 senators voted for a gun lobby amendment that would allow a person who receives a conceal/carry permit in one state to carry his gun in every state. even if the person would be
disqualified from getting a permit in the other states because of criminal convictions, inadequate training or other factors. congress should think carefully about how proposals like this would mix with stand your ground laws. today we have before us a distinguished lineup of witnesses who will talk about the impact of stand your ground laws on public safety, civil rights and american families. in ways can -- and ways that we should work to fix them. i look forward to their testimony and now recognize the republican member, senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to the witnesses who have come here this morning. thank you to everyone who has come to join this hearing on a very important topic. i'd like to talk about three different issues concerning stand your ground legislation. the first is the difference between serious efforts to stop
violent crime and efforts to advance a political agenda. i have spent much of my adult life working in law enforcement and emphatically agree that law enforcement should be vigorous going after violent crime, protecting the incident, protecting those who are preyed upon by violent criminals. indeed, one of my most significant criticisms of in this administration's enforcement of justice is that they have not made prosecuting gun crimes a priority. many 2010 over 48,000 -- in 2010 over 48,000 fugitives, felons and other purchasers attempted to illegally purchase a firearm, and yet out of over 48,000, this administration prosecuted only 44 of them. in my view, atlas utterly -- that is utterly ip defensible.
we should be going after, investigating and prosecuting each of those cases. let me reiterate, out of over 48,000, this justice department prosecuted only 44. likewise, the prosecution of violet gun crimes -- violent gun crimes has dropped significantly from a high of over 11,000 in 2004 to a low in 2012 of 7,774 which is a 29% decline. if we were to put action to all of the rhetoric given about stopping violent crime, we would again put priorities to prosecuting those who commit crimes with guns. unfortunately, there are many in washington who seem more driven by advancing a political agenda than actually putting in place common sense steps to stop violent crimement -- crime. and that leads to the second
point i want to make which is that in our federalist system, criminal law is primarily given to the states to enforce. and state self-defense law is not in our constitutional system the responsibility of the federal government. federal government doesn't have the jawrs diction, doesn't have the constitutional authority to determine what the substantive criminal law should be b in each of our 50 states and, indeed, it is quite fitting with the founders' design that each of those 50 states would make different judgments based on the values and mores of their citizens. if if it's not within congress' jurisdiction to legislate substantive state criminal law, it raises whether there may perhaps be a broader political agenda behind the hearing instead. the third point i would make is that self-defense is a bedrock liberty. of every american. and i would note this is not a
new concept. indeed, the u.s. supreme court in district of columbia v. or heller stated it has been central to the second amendment right. now, some who get their news from the the modern news media may believe that was a new creation of the modern court. i would note that that idea has been around from the founding of this nation. indeed, justice harlan for a unanimous supreme court in 1895 stated the following, quote -- he was not obliged to retreat or consider whether he could safely retreat but was entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack on him with a deadly weapon in such a way and with such force as under all the circumstances he at the moment honestly believed and had reasonable grounds to believe was necessary to save his own
life or to protect himself from great bodily injury. the declaration of independence begins with the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness given by our creator to each of us. and if an individual is confronted by a violent aggressor, the right of self-defense is an inherent right in each of us. and the notion that critics of these laws put fort that if -- put forth, that if you're attacked on the street by a violent attacker, you're obliged to turn and run rather than to defend yourself, is a notion that is contrary to hundreds of years of our jurisprudence and to the rights that protect all of us. i would note, also, that the chairman suggested a racial disparity. look, the problem of violet crime in this -- violent crime in this country is enormous and, tragically, minority communities bear much of the cost of violet
crime. minorities find themselves at times aggressors, but often victims of violent crime, and i would note in florida the data show that african-american defendants have availed themselves of the stand your ground defense more frequently than have anglo defendants. according to press reports, 55% of african-americans have successfully invoked the stand your ground prosecution compared to a 53% rate in the anglo population. this is not about politicking, this is not about enflaming racial tensions although some might try to use it to do that. this is about the right of everyone to protect themselves, to protect their family. and i will tell you given a choice in a confrontation between a violent aggressor
attacking an innocent civilian, i for one will always, always, always stand with the innocent civilian. now, we have a system of justice to determine if that is the facts in any particular circumstance, but notably the stand your ground defense only applies when it is a violet adepress -- violent aggressor attacking an innocent bystander. this is a rule that only applies to protect innocent victims from violent aggressors, and find the notion that we say if you and your family are attacked on a public street you don't have the right to defend yourself, i find that an astonishing proposition and one that i certainly hope members of the u.s. senate will not advocate. >> turn to our first witness panel. i want to welcome congresswoman marsha fudge, luis gutierrez and congressman louie gohmert. thank you for being here.
you'll each have five minute toss make a statement, and if you have a written statement, we'll include it in the record. marsha fudge is currently serving her third term. in 2012, congressman fudge was unanimously elected by her colleagues and serves as the chair of the congressional black caucus in the 113th congress. member of the house committee on agriculture where she's ranking member on the committee's department of oversight and work force. congressman fudge, please proceed. >> thank you very much, and good morning. thank you, chairman durbin and ranking member cruz. i would just say it is interesting that the ranking member believes in states' rights when it favors his position. you cannot have it both ways. either the justice department is overprosecuting perps who buy with guns illegally in states, and if they are, then they should also be over stand your ground laws.
i'd like to focus on three issues that have serious implications to the public safety of our country. stand your ground laws and racial profiling. on february 26, 2012, a young man lost his life, in my opinion, due to racial profiling. earlier this year, trayvon martin's killer, george zimmerman, escaped the grip of justice. the three issues that i highlight today all map fest themselves -- manifest themselves in the senseless death of too many young men including jordan davis who was killed for playing music too loud in his car. the american legal system made them martyrs. i thank sybrina fulton and lucia mcbeth for being here today. i fully understand the right to defend one's sellful from violent as an established principle in our legal system. however, stand your ground laws eliminate all responsibility to
retreat and peacefully end an incident. these laws permit and, quite frankly, encourage individuals to use deadly force even in situations where lesser or no physical force would be appropriate. at the urging of al he can and nra, the first stand your ground laws was enacted in florida in 2005. since then 22 other states have activated similar laws. they actively lobbied states for those who carry firearms. ultimately, this effort fosters a wild west environment in our communities where individuals play the role of judge, jury and executioner. in my home state of ohio, house bill 203 would with expand the concealed-carry law to permit the use of lethal force wherever an individual is legally permitted to be while removing the tooth to retreat. the duty to retreat. this change to current law would bring ohio in line with other stand your ground states.
proponents of stand your ground laws often allege that these laws deter crime. however, the opposite is true. according to a study by the university of texas a&m, states with stand your ground laws have seep an 8% increase in homicides. the enforcement of stand your ground laws too often rely on the decisions of those with cultural biases on whether a person's life is in danger. not surprisingly, these decisions have had a disparate impact on african-americans. the urban institute's justice policy center found that in stand your ground states 35.9% of shootings involving a black shooter are justified. these numbers should make all of us uncomfortable, mr. chairman. racial profiling continues to make communities of innocent
individuals fear a system designed to protect them. under new york's unconstitutional stop and frisk policy, metropolitan 90% -- more than 90% of all those stopped by police were either black or latino even though these groups only make up 52% of the city's population. given the underlying taint of racial profiling in both our culture and criminal justice system, it is troubling to see more states trend forth enacting stand your ground laws. the center for american progress shows the intersection between stand your ground laws and weak state gun permitting laws. while every state has concealed-carry law, they differ on eligibility requirements. there must be a strong, uniform standard to allow an individual to carry a deadly weapon. weak concealed-carry standards combined with stand your ground laws and racial profiling are a
recipe for danger. we must continue to work with the department of justice to monitor and evaluate the impact of these three issues, and until these inherently biased laws are repealed, we have a responsibility to advocate and to education. our work will not be complete until we insure that no one has to live with the fear of death based on his race or his age or a that is justified under stand your ground laws. i look forward to the day when every american can live knowing that the arc of justice bends toward fair and unbiased laws. i yield back. >> thank you, congressman. next up is my colleague, congressman luis gutierrez from illinois. he represents the illinois 4th district, immigration task force and leader in an effort to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. he serves on the house judiciary committee. thank you for joining us today.
>> thank you, chairman durbin and ranking member cruz. thank you for the opportunity to testify on this extremely important issue. , i extend my condolences to the families who lost loved ones. ms. fulton and ms. mcbeth, i am deeply sorry for your loss, and i appreciate your presence here today, and as one dad to another, i say to mr. martin that i, too, feel your pain and thank you for being here. as a parent, i was shocked by the death of trayvon martin, and the fact that no one was even arrested after it happened. an unarmed teenager was pursued by an armed adult in the neighborhood where he was staying, shot to death, and nobody was convicted of a crime. i respect the verdict and the judicial process, but i have deep concerns about the expansion of self-defense laws, the proliferation of guns, the weakening of gun laws and how this affects public safety. the case of trayvon martin, like sandy hook massacre, should have
sparked a response from our nation's lawmakers. mr. chairman, i, too, #kw-d hearings on this matter as a member of the house judiciary committee but received no response from the chairman. examining the stand your ground laws and whether they make our communities safer or less safe is critically important as a larger examination of the impact of gun violence on america. sadly, we lose a classroom full of kids every day to gun violence across this country, and there have been no hearings in the house. so, senator durbin, i applaud you for your leadership and for holding this hearing. the fundamental problem is americans are so afraid of other americans that they feel they must arm themselves. the gun lobby is pursuing to reshape our laws, to make this practice more socially and legally acceptable. special interests are relaxing our laws resulting in an escalation of the deadliness of these confrontations. i have never believed that allowing more guns will mean less gun violence.
we must confront the deadly combination of rampant fear of one another and easily available guns. we must examine shoot first or stand your ground laws in this context. in 22 states stand your ground laws expand the use of deadly force outside your home to any place you have a legal right to be. we seem to have made a decision that it is acceptable to use a weapon on another human but have failed to have a serious conversation about under what circumstances. under shoot first laws, a person is presumed to have a reasonable fear of death that justifies the use of deadly force in places. in some states there is also immunity from criminal prosecution and even arrest. i grew up in chicago in a very different era when scuffles broke out, it was up to us to protect ourselves, but no one had clocks -- glocks, and no one had ar-15s back then. new concealed-carry laws and shoot first laws are a recipe
for more dead sons and daughters. the gao estimated last year that approximately eight million permits for concealed weapons were issued in the u.s. illinois has become the 50th state to allow concealed weapons. as a father and a grandfather of a 10-year-old, i strongly oppose proposals to allow national reciprocity for concealed weapon laws issued by states with fewer safeguards than those in my own state of illinois where my grandson resides. we must take every reasonable precaution to insure that individuals who are violent or a public threat do not have easy access to webs. that's -- weapons. that's why i've introduced legislation to ban cheap, junk guns used in the commission of crimes. but legislation is only part of the solution. in chicago we continue to develop strategies to reduce violence and target at-risk
youth. teaching our kids how to resolve conflicts without pulling a trigger makes more sense. instead, the gun lobby is pursuing shoot first laws and claiming they deter crime. truth is, researchers at texas a&m found shoot-first states have an 8% increase in homicides relative to other states translating to 600 additional parents, children and friends killed every year. moreover, the laws exacerbate the mistrust of the police among minority communities. there is a widespread feeling in poor and working class communities that the police are there to protect people from them, not to protect them from other people. that trust further deteriorates under shoot first laws when communities question whether racial stereotypes or biases will enter into a subjective determination that someone had a reasonable fear. when we allow people to take the law into their own hands, when
police hesitate to make an arrest, when a young person of color is killed or if we turn cops into immigration agents, public safety suffers. engaging in this dialogue is a critical first step. congress should guide this discussion, carefully monitor the application of these laws and watch out for racial disparities. i want to thank senate durbin for his -- senator durbin for his leadership and for his service to illinois and for the opportunity. and last, mr. chairman, i would ask end stand your ground in illinois, an editorial in the "chicago sun-times", be added to the record. >> without objection, i should say, it'll be added to your testimony. thank you, congressman gutierrez. our next witness is congressman louie gohmert. he represents the 1st congressional district of texas. he's in his fifth term in the house, he serves as vice chair on the subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security. he's also a member of the committee on natural resources.
congressman gohmert, please, proceed. >> thank you, chairman durbin, minority -- ranking member cruz, members of the committee. i'm before you as someone who has a heavy heart for every victim of crime, especially violent crime. i humbly come before you today as someone who has been involved in successfully prosecuting murder. i've defended a man who happened to be african-american of murder which he was acquitted using self-defense having killed a naked man. i've successfully appealed appropriately and have gotten a a capital murder conviction reversed in which the defendant happened to be african-american. i presided over many murder trials as a judge, as a chief justice. i reviewed murder trials on
appeal. so i'm somewhat familiar with the process involved with murder and assault in trials. though i've won an award for a law review article i wrote, won best brief award along with others, perhaps the highest commendation i've ever had came from now-senator ed markey who after a house hearing approached me and said he wanted to pay me a compliment, that if he were ever arrested, he wanted me to defend him, and he said that was a compliment. i took it as such. now, regarding the issue of self-defense, as my friend, senator cruz, pointed out it was in 11895 the court said, justice harlan, a person was not to blaminged to retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground. this concept's been around for a long time. some feel there should be a duty to retreat before deadly force
can be utilized for self-protection, but some have found that without a duty to retreat there are fewer assaultive crimes with due deference to texas a&m. in most places a deadly weapon does not necessarily have to be present if the victim is in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm, worded in different ways. that idea of being able to stand one's ground without first retreating has been combined as part of the law of self-defense in at least 22 states. it might also be noted that these 22 are not necessarily states in which runaway murder rates abound as they do in some locations where self-defense is more limited or where gun control laws are most extreme as in washington, d.c. or chicago, illinois. florida and other states have used their right to be the
source of police powers which was secured to them under the tenth amendment of the constitution because those powers were not delegated to the federal government and were, therefore, reserved to the states and the people. that is why states have the right to have their own penal codes, to enact their own laws of self-defense, which laws get tweaked from time to time as necessary. in some states the doctrine of protecting one's home affords more protection to the homeowner than in other states. however, unless the uniform military cold -- uniform code of military justice or other federal nexus is clearly present, all this is up to the state legislatures to make these determinations as they see fit for their citizens. without a federal nexus, such laws are up to the individual states. the idea that states are less intelligent or less able to
discern their citizens' needs is a mistake of federal proportions. only a congress that has the spending of over 150 percent more than it brings in would have the nerve to tell state governments that balance their budget every year that the state does not know how to properly govern their people. with only a few exceptions, most states are doing quite well with legislating in the arab criminal law without our interference. it's only the federal government that has an estimated 5,000 or so criminal laws that have overcriminallized this country. hopefully, when i'm hear again for a hearing, we can fervently work toward eliminating or correcting the thousands of federal laws that have sometimes put people behind bars for things that most americans have no clue would be against the criminal law. so, senators, i humbly implore you, let's leave state criminal haw to the consideration of the
state legislatures, though we in congress would probably be well served to take advice from the states that are still sovereign. thank you. >> thank you, congressman gohmert. and i want to thank your colleagues, congressman gutierrez and congresswoman fudge, for their testimony as well. we appreciate your being here today, and we're going to proceed to the second panel. as you depart, thank you again. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> i'm sorry, if i can ask you all to, please, stand. it's customary to administer the oath before this committee. if you would, please, raise your right hand. do you affirm the testimony your about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? thank you. let the record reflect that the witnesses, all witnesses on the second panel answered in the affirm ty. affirmative. each witness will be given five minutes for an opening statement. of course, any written statement they'd like to submit for the record will be admitted without objection. our first witness is sybrina fulton. ms. fulton is the mother of trayvon martin. her son was shot and killed at the age of 17 on the night of february 26, 2012, in sanford, florida. she and trayvon's father, tracy,
have cofounded the foundation to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of victims and to provide support and advocacy for those victims. ms. fulton is a graduate of florida memorial university. thank you so much for coming here today, ms. fulton and, please, proceed with your testimony. >> thank you so much for just taking the time to listen to what not only i have to say, but the rest of the people that's testifying as well. by nature, i'm a mother of two boys k -- and i still support both my sons. although trayvon is not with us, it's very important that i try to make a change for not only my oldest son which is still here on earth, but also trayvon. it's unfortunate, what has
happened with trayvon, and that's why i feel like it's so important for me to be here. so that you all can at least put a face, what has happened with this tragedy. trayvon had recently turned 17 years old. he had only been 17 for three weeks. we celebrated his 17th birthday on february 5th, and he was murdered on february 26th. so he had only within 17 for three weeks. it's very hurtful to know that trayvon was only simply going to the store to get snacks, nothing more, nothing less. it's important to keep that in
mind, because teenagers like to be independent at times, and-simply going to get a drink -- and he was simply going to get a drink and some candy. that tells me right there his mentality. that tells me that he was not going to get cigarettes or bullets or condoms or other items of that nature. he was going to get a drink and candy. trayvon was minding his own business. he was not looking for any type of trouble. he was not committing any crime. and that's important to remember, that the things that surround the tragedy that happened are most important. at the time that this happened
to him, he was on a telephone call with a young lady from miami. that shows his mentality. that shows that he was not looking for trouble. he was not the criminal that some people have tried to make him out to be. he was not the criminal that the person who shot and killed him thought that he was. he was simply on the cell phone talking to a young lady in miami with candy and a drink. as i think about this as a mother finish and i think about how many kids walk to the store and how many kids now feel that they cannot be safe in their own community, i think about what kind of message we are sending as parents, as lawmakers, as
elected officials, even as grandparents and aunts and uncles, what kind of message are we sending if our kids -- because, remember, these are our kids in our communities -- don't feel safe? don't feel safe simply walking to the store to get candy and a drink. so i just wanted to come here to talk to you for a moment the let you -- to let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground, because it did not, certainly did not work in my case. the person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today, and this law does not work. we need to seriously take a look at this law, we need to
seriously speak with the state attorneys' office, the police departments, more attorneys. we need to do something about this law when our kids cannot feel safe in their own community. thank you. >> ms. fulton, we're sorry for your loss and thank you for your courage in coming today. as well as to trayvon's father, thank you very much for being here. our next witness is professor ronald sullivan. he's a clinical professor of law at harvard law school where he serves as faculty director of the harvard criminal justice institute and the harvard trial add advocacy workshop. he previously served as director of the public defender -- [inaudible] in the district of columbia. he received his ba from morehouse college and his law degree from harvard. professor sullivan, thanks for being here and plead proceed. >> thank you very much. good morning, chairman durbin
and ranking member cruz and members of the committee. let me also join the chair and others in sharing and offering my con doll senses for your -- condolences for your loss, ms. fulton. in order to properly understand stand your ground laws, we must first appreciate the broader context in which they exist. first and most important, sanctity of human life is a central and animating value in our legal system. this, i trust, is not a particularly controversial claim. dating back to our laws, judeo-christian origins, interpreters and courts alike have recognized that human life is sacred, and those who would extinguish human life carry a heavy burden in order to justify such an act. stand your ground laws, like all self-defense laws, require this heightened showing of necessity. the particular version of stand your ground laws which began with florida's 2005 law differs drastically from other stand
your ground laws and from the common law of self-defense in three important respects. first, these laws remove the common law duty to retreat. this as the result of emboldening of individuals to escalate confrontation as opposed to an alternative rule which would deescalate confrontation and the duty to retreat implies a duty to safely retreat. second, these laws shift the legal presumptions regarding reasonableness of one's sphere. the actor is presumed to be reasonably in fear of imminent death if he's in his home or automobile, and this presumption abrogates the need for someone who is responsible for a homicide to affirm tyly demonstrate the messty of taking another -- the necessity of taking another human life. third, these laws provide immunity from l criminal arrest and civil liability. this has the unintended effect of encouraging the very sort of vigilantism that normal ordinary law prevents. in my written testimony, i
discuss these issues at length. i also analyze the extent empirical evidence, and i conclude that the data is not sufficiently robust to make a causal claim in either direction. so to say that stand your ground laws increases or decreases the incidence of crime, i think there are correlations there. i haven't found strong causal evidence. but the weight of the evidence strongly points to the conclusion that stand your ground has had little, if any, impact on homicide reduction and the promulgation of these laws appears to correlate with an increase in certain types of violent crimes. now, time does not permit me here to go into more detail, but i'll make some observations about the trayvon martin case. mr. zimmerman's acquittal was made possible because florida's stand your ground laws and its concealed weapons laws conspired to create the perfect background
conditions for his exoneration. these lawed permitted mr. zimmerman to disregard the clear director of a 911 dispatcher and then stand his ground when young trayvon reasonably sought to defend himself. and all because i strongly suspect that mr. zimmerman could not apprehend any lawful reason for a young black male to be walking through his middle class neighborhood. to mr. zimmerman, martin's blackness served as crude proxy for criminality. now, this unfortunate outcome sends a twofold message. first, it tells floridians that they can incorrectly profile young black children, kill them and be protected by stand your ground laws. but second, this decision sends an even more ominous message to young black children. so i consider myself fortunate to live in a jurisdiction that does not have stand your ground laws. but what if it did? i have an african-american son who is just shy of his 13th
>> thank you, professor sullivan. our next witness is david labahn. gives the president and ceo of the association of prosecuting attorneys, national association representing elected deputy and assistant prosecutors. previously was director of the american prosecutors research institute and executive director of the california district attorneys association. he was also a deputy district attorney in orange and humboldt counties in california. is a graduate of cal state fullerton and received his jd from western state university. please proceed. >> good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member, members of the subcommittee, thank you for a limited that's why today. my name is david labahn. eight years ago national organization to represent and include appointed and elected as well as deputies and assistant. on behalf of apa i am pleased of
the opportunity to address the issues surrounding this vast expansion of self-defense repurchase stand your ground. as prosecutors we seek to do justice for victims and hold offenders accountable. especially in cases where life has been finally ended whether by firearm or other deadly means. since 2009 apa has tried to legislate progressive standard ground and assistant prosecutors to enforce these expensive new laws. i've attached to my testimony our statement of principle for guarding stand your ground law's, which have raised a number of troubling intense concern. prosecutors and professional associations have overwhelming opposed stand your ground law's when they're in their respective legislatures. the concerns expressed include the limitation or even elimination of prosecutors ability to hold violent criminals account for the expert even with his opposition many states have passed stand your ground law's. many laws include provisions that diminish or eliminate the common law duty to retreat, change the burden of proof regarding reasonable so as to associate up but civil and criminal immunity.
expand the realm by which by the acts can be committed with the justification of stand -- self-defense -- they have undermined standard police procedures can prevent along for from arresting and detaining criminals, stymied prosecutors deterrent for prosecuting people who claim self-defense even when killing somebody in the course of unlawful activity. and some state courts have interpreted the law in the form of immunogenics which transfer the role of the jury over to the judge. moreover, because these laws are unclear, there has been inconsistent application throughout the states and even within respective states. prosecutors, judges, police officers have been left to guess what behavior is legal and what is criminal. even with the best efforts implement these broad measures, defendants, victims families and friends, investigators, prosecutors have been forced into a case-by-case analysis with no legal certainty as to what they can expect once a life
has been taken. stand your ground law provide safe harbors for criminals and prevent prosecutors from brittney cases against those who claim self-defense after unnecessarily killing others. for example, in figure 2008, a florida case, drug dealer killed two men in two separate incidents. the first drug-related, the second over retaliation. he was engaged in unlawful activity, prosecutors had to indicate that both were justified under florida's stand your ground law. unfortunately, this example is not an omlt to a recent study concluded a majority of defendants shielded by stand your ground law's had arrest records prior to the homicide at issue. stand your ground expansion began in 2005. it is our position that, lost officially protected peoples rights to defend themselves, homes and others. the proper use ensure that lawful acts of self-defense were not prosecuted and i've not seen evidence to the contrary. after reviewing the history of the florida provision, the very case used to justify the broad measure is involved the arrest
or prosecution. the law-enforcement community respond properly to the shooting and the homeowner was never arrested or charged because of his lawful exercise of self-defense. because provisions of stand your ground law's barry, i will attempt to summarize some of the provisions which have caused prosecutors difficulty new from enforcing the law. many states have extended stand your ground protection to people who are in a place with have a right to be and not engaged in unlawful activity. cacan a drug to defend his open-air drug market? if an individual is a felon to see a variety to another with a firearm? and nearly is rarely granted and criminal law with few exceptions existing or to encourage cooperation with law enforcement and the judicial system. the legislation should remove the immunity provision. third, the replacement of presumption with inferences to eliminate many of the dangerous effects. this coupled with an objective rather than subjective standard will improve accountability while protecting the right of self-defense. the statute should be amended to
prevent an initial aggressor from planning self-defense. some lost love person to attack another with deadly force and the use stand your ground to justify killing the person. finally, we recommend the lobby limited so that stand your ground cannot be raised when -- statute should be managed to read that stand your ground should be applicable against the law officer only acted with the course and scope of his duties. taken together i believe these forms to the various stand your ground law's will help minimize their detrimental effects and restored the building of investigators and prosecutors to fully enforce the law, promote public safety law respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families. thank you, chairman, for holding this hearing and as i've been sitting here, i do want to reflect the decisions to take life is one of the most solemn decision any person can raise or
be faced with. it should not be taken lightly, or the policy should not encourage one to violate take the life of another. once that event occurs and having prosecuted cases and data with victims families here, both lives are forever changed, the individual who chooses to make a decision to take life as well as the victim's family. thank you. >> thanks. our next witness is ilya shapiro. previously he was a special assistant, advised multinational force in iraq on the rule of law at issue is and was an attorney in private practice. mr. shuja received an undergraduate degree from princeton, a masters from the london school of economics and law degree from university of chicago law school. declared for a judge in fifth circuit court of appeals. please proceed. >> try to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the right to armed self-defense. it's most appropriate that this hearing was originally scheduled for september 17, marking the
anniversary of the constitutions signing but on that day public schools have to teach about our founding documents. my organization, data, which isn't publicly funded silver is constitution day by releasing our supreme court review. in reality every day is constitution day so please excuse me if i have to leave early to travel to the national constitution center in philadelphia to discuss the constitutional issues attending the debt ceiling debate. stand your ground mr. minister misunderstood. all it does is allow people to defend themselves without having a so-called duty to retreat. that concept has been part of u.s. law for over 150 years. about 31 states depending on the account now have some type of stand your ground doctrine. the vast majority in common law before legislation -- legislated any action. some like california and virginia maintain it without any legislation. of the 15 states that it hasn't stand your ground since 2005, a majority have democratic
governors including jennifer granholm, janet napolitano, and kathleen sebelius. louisiana and west virginia past a more democratic control of both houses. even florida suppose would controversial law passed the state senate unanimously and split democrats in house. when eleanor strengthens its law in 2004, state senator barack obama cosponsored the bill that was been unanimously approved. conversely many so-called red states impose a duty to retreat and even a more restrictive state courts have held that retreat is a required when preventing serious crime. indeed, is a universal principle that a person can use force when she recently believed its message to defend against an imminent use of unlawful force. where there's no duty to retreat as in most states, she is for the adjustment in using deadly force if she recently believed its message to prevent death or great bodily harm. a florida law is no different. it's not an easy defense to assert, and it doesn't mean you can shoot first and ask
questions later. these laws are not a license to be a vigilante or behave recklessly. they just protect law-abiding citizens from having to leave the place where they are allowed to be. that's why this debate is here. in ancient britain, a duty to retreat greatly reduce blood feuds. the king of the duty of protection to his subjects. that's obviously not part of our tradition. despite what gun prohibition is claimed, but no retreat rule had deep roots in american law. at the supreme court and dizziness 1895 case of beard versus united states, and faces -- that's controversial. a mother can have your wallet and make you leave a public place. among those harmed by the duty to retreat our domestic violence victims who turn on their essays and. feminists support stand your ground and point out that you could have run away may not
work. stand your ground laws are designed to protect law-abiding citizens. that's how we have the capital doctrine which essentially all states recognize. most extend the doctrine public spaces will. it's bad enough for an innocent person to find herself threatened by a criminal but divinatory but whether she can retreat, lest she these losses is too much to ask. as the progressive justice oliver wendell holmes wrote in the 1920s of brown versus united states quote detached reflection cannot be demanded in presence of an uplifted knife. nearly a century later we shouldn't demand more of crime victims. of course any self-defense role there's the potential for injustice. for example, in a two-person altercation, one may be dead and the other dubiously claims self-defense. these cases like trayvon martin's, implicates the self-defense justification generally. if george zimmerman were the aggressive and has no self-defense rights at all.
if trayvon attack is imminent in question was someone recently believed he was in danger but not what he could have retreated. if zimmerman provoked the confrontation he lost the protection of stand your ground law. in short, hard cases make skewed policy debates. while anti-gun lobbyists have used trayvon martin to pitch all sorts of gun control laws, what they really targeted is the right to armed self-defense. with stand your ground law's, yes, prosecutors need to show evidence to counter claims of self-defense, not simply argue that the shooter should have retreated. for those who value due process which should include historically mistreated minorities, that's a feature, not a bug. finally, i should mention one episode that contribute to the sensation surrounding this debate. the attempt to intimidate or decisions with any touchy american legislative exchange counsel. accordingly i submitted with this statement chairman durbin's letter to that effect and the response by kate is present.
thank you for having me. i welcome your questions. >> thank you, mr. shapiro get our next witness is john lott. is the president of the newly formed organization, crime prevention research center. a producer in research or a teaching position at the university of chicago and yale among others go and yale among others go pick is and yale among others go pick is the chief economist at u.s. sentencing commission from 1988-1990. is currently weekly columnist and contributor for fox news.com. he received his ph.d in economics from ucla. mr. lott, please proceed. >> thank you very much, chairman durbin and ranking member cruz, and other distinguished members. stand your ground law's -- i apologize. thank you very much for being here. stand your ground laws help people be able to defend themselves. it's the people who are most likely to be victims of violent crime primarily poor black to benefit the most from having the option to be up to protect themselves. but lost an part of this
discussion so far is the reason why states have adopted these laws. requiring people to retreat as far as possible, creates confusion, creates doubt in can make a more difficult for people to be able to go and defend themselves. in florida, blacks made about 16% of the population but they account for 31% of the states defend its invoking stand your ground law. black defendant invoke the statute justify their action are actually acquitted almost eight percentage points more often than whites. the campaign to pay tribute is put together very detailed data on stand your ground cases, up through july 24 of this year, beginning 2006, the newspaper collected 112 cases. the information that they had that often constitutes their shocking finding is that 72% of those who have killed a black person face no penalty compared to 59% of those who killed a
white person, 80% of those who killed hispanics were also not convicted. what one needs to remember in this is that the vast majorities of these crimes are within raise. so, for example, 90% of blacks who were killed in stand your ground cases invoke, will in the stand your ground were killed by other blacks. in the case of whites, 85% come in the case of hispanics it was 100%. the basic point is that if you're going to concentrate on the fact that relatively few people who kill blacks are going to be convicted using stand your ground defenses, you have to realize that almost all those people who are not being convicted are black. 69% of blacks to raise the stand your ground events were not convicted. that compares a little bit less than 60% for whites. 80% of hispanics who raise the stand your ground defense are not convicted. if blacks are supposedly being
discriminated against because they'roftheir killers are so oft facing any penalty, wouldn't it also fall that blacks are being discriminated in favor of when blacks claim stand your ground? the problem also is not all these cases are the same. blacks are killed in confrontations where 13 percentage points more likely to be armed than whites. by 43-16% margin, lacks killed again killed by other blacks, were also more often in the process of committing another crime. they also were involved in cases where it's much more likely to have a witness present. if you go and run regressions where you try to account for all the factors that are brought up in the tampa bay tribune data set would you find is that white defendants are more likely to be convicted by black defendants,
and people invoking stand your ground law's who kill blacks were also more likely to be convicted and those who killed whites. what you find when you look at it, and for sure this is the case, the people initiate the confrontation were more likely to be convicted. and when there were eyewitnesses they were less likely to be convicted. armed individuals and when more than one person was killed were also much more likely to result in convictions. the urban institute report that was brought up earlier i think actually shows actually what has been quoted here. one of the important things just to mention, john roman the road this noted stand your ground law's abuse to -- well, he said they appeared to access that racial differences but he acknowledges his data like details available in the tampa bay tribune data. quote the data here are not completely address this problem because the setting of the
incidents cannot be observed. and if you go through his paper which is fine, he has no data, no informatiinformati on on whether not an eyewitness saw the confrontation, no evidence, no data on whether there was physical evidence. he has no evidence on a whole range of things in order to try to factor those into account. the big thing if you look at his study, the central finding is to look at table three. and what you find is that when blacks are, stand your ground laws, their situation in terms of conviction rates actually fall. if you look at the texas a&m study that was mentioned they do not account for any other gun control law. if you're going to look at stand your ground law's wedding of right to carry, the number of people that permits will be important. when you account for those things the results disappeared if you're talking about canceled doctrines with people able to get quick access to guns is going to be important. and again nothing about gun laws or state historic laws are
accountable in the studies come and when to do that the results also disappear. >> thank you, mr. lott to our final witness is lucia mcbath. ms. mcbath is the month of jordan russell davis who was shot and killed on november 23, 2012, at a gas station in jacksonville, florida. ms. mcbath and jordan's father have become advocates for dissing gun violence. ms. mcbath is a national spokesperson for an organ station known as moms demand action for gun sense in america. she recently started to walk with the jordan scholarship foundation providing assistance for graduating high school student. ms. mcbath is a graduate of virginia state university and before you say a word i would like to thank all the members of the panel for their patience and the rescheduling of this hearing. with a chance to meet windows previously scheduled. glad we did have those moments together. so please proceed with your testimony. >> thank you. good morning, chairman turbine and audit members of the
subcommittee. my name is sheila mcmath and i think it would opportunity dispute before this great institution today. i was raised in a family steeped in justice and confident and the triumphant goodness of humanity. my mother was a registered nurse and my father, who served in the u.s. army dental corps, was also are over 20 years president of the naacp for the state of illinois. he worked actively with president lyndon baines johnson in the signing of the civil rights act of 1964. if he could see me today, testifying in front of the united states senate, he would be beaming with pride and amazed at how far his daughter had come. until he came to understand what brought me here. i appear here before you because
my son jordan was shot and killed last november while sitting in the backseat of a friend's car listening to loud music. the man who killed him opened fire on for an armed teenagers, even as they tried to move out of harm's way. that man was empowered by the stand your ground statute. i am here to tell you there was no ground to stand. there was no threat. no one was trying to invade his home, his vehicle, nor threatened him or his family. there was a vociferous argument about music, during which the accused, michael dunn, did not feel that he was treated with respect. you're not going to talk to me
like that, he shouted as he sprayed the car that jordan sat in with bullets, killing him instantly. when jordan's friends tried to back the car away, mr. dunn aimed his handgun and fired off several more rounds, nine total, pierced the car. there are any number of ways this interaction might have gone, but there was only one way it could've ended once again entered the equation. in florida, over 1 million people carry concealed weapons. additionally, 10 to 15,000 more floridians are approved to carry guns in public every month, faster than any state in the nation.
nationally, florida has some of the loosest permitting requirements. automobile glove boxes are becoming modern-day gun boxes. in his glove box, michael dunn kept a nine mm semiautomatic gun along with two loaded magazines. once he had unloaded his gun at my son and his teenage friends, he immediately went back to his hotel, ordered a pizza and slept. he left the scene and made no attempt to call police. he retreated, but only after he killed my son. the next morning he was arrested two hours away. those are hardly the actions and motives of someone who was quaking with fear. some will tell you that the argument was about music, but i
believe that it was about the availability of guns and the eagerness to hate. people like mr. dunn feel empowered to use their gun instead of their voice to reason with others. now i face the very real possibility that my son's killer will walk free, hiding behind a statute that lets people claim of threat where there was none. this law declares open season on anyone that we don't trust the reasons that we don't even have to understand. they don't even have to be true. in essence, it allows any armed citizen to self deputized themselves and establish their own definition of law and order. it lets one and all defined on criteria are right and wrong and
how justice will be carried out. even the wild west had more stringent laws covering -- governing the taking of life than we have now. stand your ground defies all reason. it goes against the sound system of justice established long ago on this very hill. my son was named for the jordan river. in the bible, that river symbolized the crossing to freedom. it's watersmart the final steps to liberation and offered up the holy stream that baptized jesus. its name seemed a fitting choice for a boy born at the end of the 20th century, a time when black people in this country had finally come into their own. jordan was named for a change in the tide, a decision to try
harder and do better. he was my only child. he was raised with love and learning and a clear understanding of right and wrong. i have been without jordan now since thanksgiving weekend 2012, without him last christmas and on his birthday in february. i never got to take his prom picture or see him graduate from high school. i can tell you all about him, about his easy smile, his first girlfriend, and his plans to join the marines. i can tell you how he loved his dad's humboldt, and have it both rooted for the new york giants. but you can never really know my boy.
because an angry man who owned a gun, kept it close at hand come and chose to demonstrate unbridled hatred one balmy evening for reasons i will never understand. these laws and powered his prejudiced beliefs and subsequent rage over my sons own life, his liberty and pursuit of happiness. there will be made no sense made of any of it, unless i and the families of other victims speak out to assure that this kind of predatory violence and. it was 50 years ago that my father shook hands with eleanor roosevelt. she assured him of the validity of his struggle and the promise of better times. she, as he did, believed that this nation was righteous to the core. that we as a country would never stop thriving to do better.
and that's what made us better. honorable men and women of the senate, you can prove them right today. with your help and women is to bring our laws back toward the true tenets of justice, you can lift this nation from its internal battle in which guns rule over right. you have the power to restore hope to a nation crying out for justice. and i pray that you hear the will of the lord. thank you. >> thank you, ms. mcbath. will now turn to questions for the witness and each member will have seven minutes. i'll start. ms. fulton and ms. mcbath, thank you for your courage to come here today.
i find it hard to understand those who defend stand your ground, by arguing that african-americans should celebrate these laws. the notion that somehow this is to the benefit of african-americans or minorities in this country just defies the stories we have been told by both of you. innocent children, children, killed in the name of self-defense. win in neither instance was there evidence of aggressive or violent conduct i these victims, these young men who were shot down. professor sullivan, you've heard these arguments made. too much of the panel and a member hear about this notion that somehow african-americans should view this as a positive thing. on stand your ground. what would you respond? >> i would agree with your statement that senator durbin, it's not a positive thing or
anyone where citizens of the united states are running around shooting each other, whether the perpetrator is african-american, whether this victim is african-american, it really doesn't matter. we do not live in the wild, wild west era any longer. private law enforcement has a deleterious effect on our country and we should leave it to trained police officials to engage in this sort of behavior. >> mr. labahn, your testimony, i read over last night and again this morning, and i was particularly moved by one section of it that i would like to repeat. you stated by expanding the realm in which violent acts can be committed without justification of self-defense, stand your ground law's have negatively affected public health and undermined ask you toward a and law enforcement officers to keep the kennedys safe. even going to talk about a specific -- communities safe. you mention in your testimony a
29 year old drug dealer named china smith killed two men in two separate incidents. the first drug-related, the second over retaliation for the first. though he was engaged in unlawful activity in both instances, selling drugs during the first shooting come using an illegal gun and the second. prosecutors had to conclude that both homicides were justified under the florida stand your ground law. unfortunately, you going to say this example is not an anomaly. a recent study concluded the majority of defendants shielded by stand your ground law's hat arrest records prior to the homicide issue. mr. labahn, if we called is what is a prescription and the national association of criminal defense attorneys, maybe some people would have understood, and see where they're going. but in your case you represent the profession of those who prosecute criminals and you were same stand your ground law's are not working for the benefit in
defense of america. tell me why you come to that conclusion. >> senator, i think you gave that example and i could give the committee additional examples, and even more recent cases. but i'll start by the way with a question by the national association of criminal defense lawyers but on behalf of apa we were close with the defense bar and this is one of the areas that the two of us are diverge. why? because this is good for the defense. when i testified down in florida as a defense lawyer on the commission. he clearly -- this is good for the defendants -- >> excuse begun using the defense was regarding the stand your ground laws were good for criminal defendants? >> good for criminal defendants. othat the role of the caramel defense attorney is to get their client off from a criminal action. however, the role of the prosecutors to seek justice. on behalf of colonel defendants, this is a good law. look at the ambiguities that are here, look at the specific examples. you talk about here's a drug
dealer in an open air drug market. unfortunately, at the time of the guilt he was not selling. if you been selling drugs in would be an unlawful activity but he was just an illegal place he had a right to be and he was not selling at that moment, therefore he had a right to defend himself. the second piece was, as i mentioned, -- [inaudible] someone is a convicted felon, they have no right to possess a firearm. you think ahead and stand your ground and use, especially by the florida decision, use that firearm and be free and not be held accountable. these stories are unbelievable. january 2012 another florida case, the victim -- again, the victim of the shooting did something wrong, no question about that, in the situation the car being burglarized. they go ahead, they chase, they yell at them can't get out of my
car. chased them down and nice to them to death. never reported, never called 911. never said anything about it. and then when confronted, said i was defending my property. the taxi for example, november 2007, the case that was broadly disseminate out to the country your a gentleman looks and see his neighbor's house being burglarized, calls 911 to report it, 911 urged him to stay in ask and we'll get them, we will take care of it. no, instead he goes head and shoots both of those, and i believe they were juvenile, dead. then goes ahead and exercise is stand your ground. that went in front of the harris county grand jury. a harris county grand jury found that to be stand your ground. the movement here to create these assumptions and to give immunity, immunity is crazy,
that's not what it should be. they should be an affirmative defense and that has caused these problems so yes, on behalf of prosecutors these acts have done nothing but causes difficulty. >> it appears this is an invitation for confrontation, that historically and i think her presser sullivan raised this point, did you could safely retreat, that was your duty, except in your home, the castle doctrine made it clear distinction when it came to your home, in that circumstance. but the new law, the stand your ground laws are an invitation to confrontation and presumption of reasonableness, and civil and criminal immunity. now i understand the state of florida is debating about changing these laws. could either at the testified about how they would change their law and what they are raising is a reason for a change the? >> i think they're raising is a reason for a change the fact that the law reduces absurd results. so one of the things that they
are thinking about changing is clearly establishing the principle of first aggressor, and whether first aggressor's can avail themselves of the law. duty to retreat if i can come is important because i've heard comments today that are plenty wrong with respect to what historically duty to retreat meant. and you said it, safely retreat but it did not mean stand there foolishly and be brutalized because of some law. if it's unsafe to retreat, nowhere in our history as an individual required to retreat. rather, only if it's safe to retreat. this is just the norm of good judgment, to exercise good judgment, a norm that prevents the sort of vigilantism that we see in these many cases that were cited. finally, i think florida, to
answer your question, should tweak the immunity provision. because my point is that immunity along with a change in presumption, conditions a certain response in people. that is, people who know this law behave in a way much more aggressive, frontiersmen like way, that they would not but for the broad, expansive protection of these laws. quite different from historical self-defense laws, and even quite different from the stand your ground iterations historically. 2005 marked this extreme difference in the way that these laws were written. >> thank you, mr. labahn. >> responded to your questions about florida, the other significant thing that florida is doing that has passed out of the committee is the entity provision. they're working on the civil portion to say that if somebody creates, kills a number of
people in stand your ground that they should not be civilly immune, especially hitting an innocent bystander because i think it's significant as i shared, i testified and now they're stepping forward and changing what is a flawed law. one of the comic. william nixon was unable, the second -- prosecutor out of florida. he was unable to attend today but he had been the initial one. is closing, i think is a very, very important. that was his, shall we have a duty to act recently towards one another? that was the law before stand your ground and which is why the law should return. the bottom line is this is an unnecessary law which makes it easier for the worst criminals to get away with some of our most heinous crimes. so yes, that's what on behalf of prosecutors i stand for change. >> senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. at the beginning i'd like to into into the record a statement from the senior senator from texas, senator cornyn. >> without objection. >> i would like to thank each
member of the panel for being here. and in particular, ms. olson and ms. mcbath. thank you for being here. thank you for sharing your stories. every parent understands the morning you're feeling. and it is always a tragedy when a child loses his life to and please know that we are all feeling your loss, and express our very sincerest condolences. much of the discussion this afternoon as concerns the tragic circumstances of the trayvon martin case. and none of us in this hearing room were there that night. none of us knows precisely what happened. we do know that there was a violent altercation between and
hispanic men and an african-american teenager, and we know at the end of that confrontation, the teenager was dead. what exactly occurred that night no one in this room likely will know for sure. but we do know something. we know that our system of justice has a process for ascertaining what happened when there is a violent confrontation, particularly one that leads to the loss of life. and that process is a jury tri trial. and a jury of mr. zimmerman spears heard the evidence in that case. he was prosecuted in that case. and the jury rendered its conclusion. we don't know if the jury was right or wrong but we do know that the jury system is the only
system that our judicial system has for ascertaining what happened, particularly when you have a one on one confrontation, it can be particularly difficult to determine what the facts are. but we also know that the subject of this hearing, the stand your ground law's, was not a defense that mr. zimmerman raised. so this entire hearing, the topic of this hearing is not the issue on which that trial turned. and sadly, we know that some in our political process have a desire to exploit that tragic, violent incident for agendas that have nothing to do with that young man who lost his
life. we have seen efforts to undermine the verdict of the jury, and more broadly, to exclaim -- to explain racial tensions which i think are sad and a responsive. i recognize that for the family you are simply mourning the loss of your son, and i understand that, but there are other players who are seeking to do a great deal more, based on what happened that florida night. i would note additionally that the chairman of this committee a moment ago made i thought a remarkable statement that to the effect that no one could reasonably believe that stand your ground laws protect those in the african-american communities who are victims of violent crimes.
i think that's a remarkable statement on many, many fronts, including the fact that a great many african-americans find themselves victims of violent crimes, and have asserted this defense to defend themselves, defend their families, defended their children. but i also find it remarkable because the assertion that no one recently could suggest this benefit of the african-american community is drawn into remarkable relief when one keeps in mind that in 2004, a state senator in illinois by the name of barack obama cosponsored an expansion of illinois laws, providing civil and unity for those who use justifiable force to defend themselves. so the notion that stand your ground laws are some form of veiled racism may be a convenient political attack, but it is not borne out by the facts
and it would be around for a u.s. senator to use the power of his high federal office at the cutthroat or against his enemies and i certainly hope this senate hearing does not become an avenue to suppress her speech. a final point i'd like to make. by its definition, stand your ground law does not apply to aggressors. it explicitly excludes aggressors. i would note this mcbath, on that night he lost her son, the defense would not apply, would not even arguably applied. it is a defense that only, only, only applies to those who are picked to her potential that goes about their violent
aggressors. indeed, it is only triggered when there is quote, and imminent attack that could cause death or serious bodily injury. so this is a doctrine that by definition does not apply to aggressors. it only applies to death or serious bodily injury is at risk. the question all of us have to ask is that in a confrontation, between a violent aggressor and a potential at the civic to come a potential innocent victims seeking to protect herself, herself or her children, with whom do we stand? i for one believe we should stand with the innocent against aggressors. that is why the right to self-defense has been so critical for time immemorial. so i hope we will not see the constitutional rights of innocent citizens sacrificed because of political agendas of some.
thank you. >> i ask the patience of my colleague from connecticut since the senator from texas has raised some personal issues. i'm going to respond to them. let me be specific when i say this. don't take my word for it. take good testimony of hilary shelton at the naacp washington bureau in which he states as part of this record, few issues have caused as much banks to raise as many deeply held concerns among our members and the communities we serve as bad as stand your ground laws. these glass in the application path that they resulted in no less than the murder of people who are doing nothing more than walking down the street. the statement and the record by hillary shelton of the naacp. this continued reference to inflaming racial tensions my friends, we've heard this before, over and over again. we have problems with the issues
of race in america that we have to face squarely. and people are discriminated against, whoever, wherever in america, the thought of committee of the constitution civil rights and human rights is not going to back away. the second point i would like to make is this. there are many victims when it comes to stand your ground laws. i will concede that i ask those who are publicly identified as supporters of this organization if they supported the "stand your ground" law. only one out of 140 that responded said they supported it. i'm not going to enter the names of these organizations in the record for the very point that is made by the senator from texas. i don't want to establish in a chilling effect on political participation, but it's reasonable to ask the members of america nation if they agree with the organization's agenda. agenda which mr. piscopo, now the chairman from the state of
connecticut has said that they no longer stand by. so i'm not going to venture any names into the record where that very reason. listen it noteworthy at 540 organizations contact me, only once did they supported the agenda items "stand your ground" laws. that is fact. senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank the chairman for having this hearing. it is not only a legitimate, but a necessary hearing. it is profoundly important that we face these issues of human rights, which hopefully are matters of constitutional rights. i want to thank every one of the witnesses, all of you for being here today, most especially ms. ms. fulton, ms. mcbath for
your firsthand experience, which is so important because we cannot theoretical and rhetorical debates here, but what really matters is what happens to the stock turns the law. industry, in the courtroom, when they are explained to juries. i say that as a prosecutor. my fellow prosecutors would often say to me, but the most difficult for them in prosecuting the cases and the judge try to explain the law to a jury. how do you explain "stand your ground" in the complex, challenging, often emotionally charged time when a jury has to decide whether a person's liberty should be taken away and sometimes even a person's life
as a result of the alleged commission of a serious current. and so, i must say, mr. labahn, your testimony has special meaning to me because the members of your association are the ones who take these cases, this married a fact, sometimes contradictory and try to present them to a judge or jury in a way that results in justice. and you used one word that i think is profoundly important, ambiguity. the "stand your ground" as opposed to self-defense, even as i sit here, i wrestle with what the distinction sire in real life and how they are explained to juries. and that's why i agree with senator durbin at the ambiguity
of these doctrines can encourage violence and confrontation. the apparent approval that it may give to people who feel that they've been insulted and maybe threatened, not physically, but verbally, seems to me can result in acquittal or not conviction and thereby encourage violence. so maybe you can peek to how in the courtroom this doctrine of "stand your ground" has a practical impact. >> thank you, senator. and here i am in front of what one formal attorney generals, the two former attorney generals, so have to be built on
my blog, especially as you talk about the courtroom. first of all, what this law does is place either its murder or nothing. you talked about the ambiguity. someone chooses to take an action and chooses an intentionally chose another. it's usually the role of prosecutors with homicide in that killing is a manslaughter, is a murder? are there special circumstances? but when you put this come about the presumption and the man the provisions there, you create a situation where difficult to determine even at the final stage of a kind of a crime it is. especially as it relates to florida, you are put into that box. if either murder or nothing. secondly, there's been discussion here about the aggressor. i would like the committee to look at chapter 776.041 of the florida statute and why "stand your ground" did apply in the
trayvon martin case. it did because 776.0 for once his use of force by aggressor. clearly within that statue, they allowed in the person reasonably believes. so the subject is believed, by mr. zimmerman, that he was an animated danger, that therefore justified use of force, which goes directly to a one of jurors said. the jury said, as he talked about the courtroom, the jurors followed the law. the law says you can is that reasonable force under the florida and if you believe you are reasonably an imminent threat. so yes, it's incredibly difficult and ambiguity is never good. the other tests we use use of ambiguity is how many appellate decisions, but a particular statute. all of the dallas state legislators how many criminal statutes get past, how much appeal against reverse. "stand your ground" is one of the most appealed, especially as
it relates to the homicide cases. that is why i say the ambiguity is incredibly apparent. just look at maxis if you want to see all the different ways this has been appealed. >> in your experience, mr. labahn, do the members of your organization overwhelmingly share your view? >> they do. that's why point to the statement of principles. the difference between the legislative branch as well as the executive branch. my members of the executive branch. once the legislature steps forward and passes a law, we must do everything we can to seek justice in most cases, just like what occurred in florida. even without opposition, they are enforcing it. >> in your experience, to the overwhelming majority of police officers share this view? >> again, the officers working at the other associations, yes. they're very sincere. that's why tax-cut justified killing an officer.
indiana flipside around and basically encourages us to talk about public policy to take an officer's life unless u.s. citizen belief that officer was following -- a horse in the scope of employment. again, that is craziness. >> so police officers feel these last may in effect represent a threat to them? >> for both a threat to them they might be serving a search warrant going into a home, with their plainclothes, nonuniform. i believe the georgia cases directly on point with that one. the requirement is to be actual knowledge instead of an officer doing their job. that's a problem for police officers. officers don't know what to do when you have a statute that is you can't arrest, you're supposed to investigate. what does that? >> you see up well in your testimony when you say prosecutors and a quarter of prosecutors, judges, police officers and the very citizens
have been left to guess what behavior is legal and what is criminal, which i think is the point about ambiguity. >> and there should not be ambiguity in something like murder, senator. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. shapiro, i know you have to leave. thank you for your testimony in being here today. senator graham. >> thank you, mr. chairman. one of the observations about this whole debate is how diverse the state seem to be in terms of arriving at the same conclusion, where you have michigan, nevada, new hampshire, pennsylvania with "stand your ground" laws and you have a lot of southern states. i guess the point i'm trying to make it seems to me democrats and republicans come at a penny you're from, seems to embrace these laws. eight democratic governors have signed into "stand your ground" law. i hope this doesn't turn into republicans are forward and democrats are against.
it seems to be a pretty diverse mix of views about whether or not this is good public policy. mr. sullivan, from the federal point of view, there are remedies available to the federal government is based in an injustice that the state level. is that correct? like in any case, the trayvon martin case, the case in illinois, the justice department. if they chose pursue federal action, is that correct? >> absolutely. >> t. agree with attorney general holder's decision not to pursue a federal civil rights case in the trayvon martin? >> idea. based on this standard that needs to be satisfied order to move forward with a case like that. the federal government would have to demonstrate that the moment that the violent
encounter, mr. zimmerman behaved as he did as a function of racial animus. and i am not sure that there is sufficient evidence there for the federal government to go forward. i tend to agree with that case. with the decision on that basis and also a more prudential basis that the federal government should be cautious and exercise discretion and going in and of setting the verdict. >> i agree with you. i hope i'm not hurting your reputation in the legal command key. >> even enhance my reputation, senator. >> i think that's a pretty reasonable view because i think there's a lot of pressure being applied to the attorney general and quite frankly the president. you know, we are talking about trying cases in political arenas is probably not a good idea, having the speak up, mother
speak up about losing their children, that is very appropriate and i hope we'll listen and learn while we can. if you are defending a case like the trayvon martin case, which you have done similar things have a defense? >> it have to be a little more specific. >> is there anything wrong about the defense in that case? anything unethical? >> i'm not going to charge a fellow lawyer with unethical behavior without knowing more. i was deeply troubled by the caricature of trayvon martin as the personification of the stereotype. trayvon martin is the. trayvon martin is criminal. i was deeply troubled by that overlay over the criminal justice system. whether that violated florida's rules of conduct, i don't know.
i haven't studied them with any detail in order to make that sort of claim. that i would not have done. i will say -- >> have you ever defended a person accused of rape? >> i have. >> have you ever question the? >> i have. >> you seem like a fine young man. i'm trying to sit there and then as a parent, listening to all this in court how i would feel. but i've been a defense lawyer. and you know, the person expects you to vigorously defend the interest of the client. that's why we have rape shield laws. we are trying to get the balance between how far can you go in attacking the victim to protect the rights of the accused. in terms of the racial implications of that case, i
think they are obvious that it seems to be from an object to his point of view, that "stand your ground" laws tend to apply, what most violent crime is within the community itself. is that correct? >> that's exactly right. >> i'm trying to come to grips with the idea that somehow this law that has the racial injustice about it. i mean coming to think it does, mr. sullivan? >> i think the impact of the law as they despaired racial tilt and that troubles me profoundly that "stand your ground" was used in this particular case if i can just amend with vinegar cruz said. it's not entirely correct to say that "stand your ground" was not part of your case. mr. zimmerman did not avail
himself of the minty portion of "stand your ground." however, the judge and start it which included if you feel you were around then see had to quo, stand his ground and used daily force in response. i made sightedness written testimony that did not provide to the jury instructions. "stand your ground" was front and center in this case, just not doing a good of "stand your ground." >> mr. lott statistics were compelling. i claimed to be an expert in this area. from a politician's point of view commodious people like governor granholm, governor joe mentioned, somebody actually know. i don't believe that the time they signed peace and to love that they felt that is what they were doing. can you understand how someone
would turn to a different conclusion? >> i don't mean to claim that legislatures kaman said the we can prejudice minorities in writing these laws. because this is a human enterprise, juries are human being, unfortunately this country has sometimes. the last express themselves and various sorts of ways. in terms of statistics, i've spent a lot of time, probably bored your staff senseless in terms of reading the statistical lives there. now, with all respect to my friend, you asked 10 economists with responses in terms of what it the data means. there's a lot of noise. i will say there's a lot of noise in the data. but when you do see examples like jordan and trayvon, my only
point to this committee and the american public is that those are individuals. they are not data points. they're not statistics. they were living and breathing citizens whom we should care about. and to the degree that the law produces perverse results and i submit to you that this result with trayvon martin is perverse, we don't know what's going to happen in a mcbath case. to the degree is even a possibility, it's something we should look at. >> well said. i guess the point about trials having been in the court a few times. if you believe mr. zimmerman -- that mr. martin was on top of this zimmerman inflicting punishment, that would be a different view. if you believe he was just walking to get candy and a photo, which he obviously was coming you wonder how can i maybe be dead because of that? this is so complicated.
the one thing i don't want us to do as politicians is to take away the ability of when it is your day in court to avail yourself of a novel design that's been recognized. the question remains has begun to fire? >> senator, thank you for allowing me because this is what i was feeling and wanted to present. there's been a lot of discussion of justice harlan beard versus united states. that is clearly an objective standard. if you look and say in a way, with such force as in all circumstances, he at the moment honestly believed it had reasonable rounds to believe are necessary to save his own life and protect himself from great bodily injury. that's why they spent so much prosecutor opposition to this sort of direction. the florida law, and they stand by the verdict as you said.
as many times there's a disappointment applet handles the court. based upon the blog as they drafted it, there is a sub check. what did he believe that that time is occurring versus it being objective as well as immunity and that's when you get troubled. that's also in 2007 i was director of the american prosecutors research institute, we published the council dr. melanie dance. in that piece we were concerned about the racial implications because when you go to but that person believes and when you have a heterogeneous population, you don't know what that person believes about another individual, especially by their skin, their age, whatever that ip. because it's subjective coming you go ahead and believe thereunder due danger. thank you for letting me -- >> i would like to make a couple comments. one is if you actually look at
the data, look at the tampa bay tribune dated there. account for the factors and cases. you find minorities, both blacks and hispanics are much more is festal and raising "stand your ground" defenses than wi-fi. there's another point that needs to be made. and that is the ambiguity. it is one type of ambiguity has been discussed, but there's also the ambiguity that having to face the person who's acting in self-defense. what is the appropriate amount for them to go in retreat on the having to go and defend themselves? the issue here might be who do we want to have to deal with that ambiguity? when somebody is facing quick decisions they have to make in terms of life and death, do we want to make them have to bear the burden to figure out at that time how far they are going to have to retreat and then make them realize they may be second guessed. i have an appendix that shows
the number of cases where they were second guessed in cases where legislatures than others thought second-guessing was wrong there. they make it so somebody who really needs to act as self-defense is stopped from doing so and that's endangering the safety of the dolls. finally, mr. labahn, when he was talking about being able to go and have your "stand your ground" law, even though he may have been the initial aggressive air, she misses part of the law that he quoted. it goes onto say you can use it, but then opposed strict restrictions on how you can use it in that case. it says subset is not available to the person who evokes the use of force against himself or herself unless a here she exhausts every reasonable means to escape such a danger other than the supports and which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
or in good faith a person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force. there's a bottom line is pretty simple. "stand your ground" is somebody initially provoke somebody else, then they are required to retreat. >> i want to think this panel for the testimony. once again thank ms. fulton and ms. mcbath. thank you for reliving painful moments that we can put this whole hearing into context. i think the witnesses for the testimony. there's a great deal of interest in this hearing as you can see from the audience. large organizations have submitted for today's hearing including the naacp, the leadership conference of civil and human rights, the american nurses association, center for media democracy, america's
essential hospitals, turn defenders, pediatrics, it against him and violence, naacp legal defense and education fund, the newtown action alliance, moms demand action and many, many more that will be included in the record without objection. i'd also like to say when solicitation was sent out for those members, publicly listed numbers to tell their status or position on this, volunteering if they wish the information. some ask that their statements be made part of the record and they will let their request. those that did not make the request will not be included. again, i want to create any chilling effect in participation of american politics. it's important to preserve all of our constitutional rights to do so. but that is important to do if the members stood by the policy decision that was stated. the hearing record will be open for one week to accept additional statements. britain questions must also be submitted by the close of
business. we will ask witnesses to respond to those questions promptly to complete the record. if there are no further comments from the panel or my colleagues, i think the witnesses were attending it collects for participating and figuring stands adjourned. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> today's senate session is coming up next to a later time, members will debate now watt, and north carolina democrat to head up the federal housing finance agency which would oversee the federal housing administration. at noon, the senate will both come toward booker, former newark, new jersey mayor won a special election in october to replace frank lautenberg who died in june. following the swearing-in, senators will take about on whether to go forward with the nomination of mr. watt and 60 those are necessary to do so. after eight hours would follow. the vote is expected to be close to the senate also turned to judicial nomination. patricia mallon from the d.c. circuit court of appeals. 60 those to be necessary to move
ahead with the nomination. several republicans said the d.c. circuit courts workload is not justified the addition of another judge. and now, live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span 2. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal lord, thank you for the total access you have given us to approach your throne in prayer. today, equip our senators to do your will, helping them to grasp the wonder of your purposes.