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'Stand Your Ground' in Washington? Not under this bill

In the wake of a tragedy in Florida, a Democratic lawmaker from Poulsbo hopes to clarify the law here.
Rep. Sherry Appleton

Rep. Sherry Appleton

Washingtonians could face new rules for self defense, including a duty to retreat if possible, under a bill proposed in advance of this year's legislative session.

The bill, HB 1012 sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, would make two changes to Washington's justifiable homicide law, which regulates the use of deadly force. First, it would make deadly force only justifiable if a safe retreat were impossible. Second, it would remove language allowing homeowners to kill simply to defend their property. Instead, under the proposed law, killing would be legal only if the intruder posed an immediate physical threat to a person.

Even Appleton says the bill will have a hard time in the upcoming Legislature. But she is tackling an area where events elsewhere, particularly shootings in Florida, have raised exactly the issues Appleton hopes to address.

With hundreds of cases where self-defense is claimed every year, and up to a dozen where justifiable homicide is considered, the bill would definitely have an effect, said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecutor's office.

"It would be a substantive change," Goodhew said.

Currently, Washington is in a gray area compared to states with clear Stand Your Ground laws. In those states, Goodhew said, the law specifically says a person being attacked does not have to retreat, and is justified in using violent force even if a possible safe retreat exists. In Washington, the law does not address whether a person must consider retreat in the face of an attack. Instead, juries in self-defense trials are often simply reminded that defendants are not obligated to try to avoid using force by retreating.

The bill would also have an effect on many cases even before they went to trial, Goodhew said. Today, when deciding whether to charge someone claiming self-defense, prosecutors consider not only the justifiable homicide statute but the principle of proportionate force, which holds that deadly force is not justified in preventing a property crime. The two, however, don't always agree, as the current justifiable homicide law allows deadly force against burglars, even if they don't pose an immediate physical threat to any person.

By adding the requirement of a threat of injury to the homicide law, Goodhew said, the bill would remove some ambiguity from the decision.

Appleton, originally from Florida, said she was motivated to propose the law by the killing of Trayvon Martin in her home state, and his killer's subsequent invocation of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. In the still-unresolved case, Martin's killer claimed self-defense after he approached Martin and followed him down the street, confronting Martin despite being told by dispatchers not to. The teenage Martin was unarmed.

"It just broke my heart for that young man," Appleton said. "If you put yourself into that position," she said of Martin's killer, "you shouldn't be able to just shoot somebody. It's called common sense."

While the bill contains no references to firearms or any type of gun control, Appleton acknowledged it was in large part aimed at curbing gun violence, since guns are the most common method of deadly self-defense.

A gun gives its owner the power to do serious damage, Appleton said. Rather than restrict gun ownership, Appleton said she wants to make sure the power comes with a responsibility to think about how to avoid using it. When faced with a potentially violent situation, Appleton said, "it's about looking for an alternative. To me that makes sense."

Even before Christmas, Appleton said, she had received a handful of phone calls in opposition to the bill. Appleton, first elected in 2004, said she had never started getting calls on a bill so soon after it had been submitted, well before the Legislature started its session and even before a digest summarizing the proposal had been published.

With no co-sponsors yet, Appleton said she's not even sure the bill will make it to a general vote. If it does, she said, she expects a fight.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 8:01 a.m. Inappropriate

There are few people more pathetic as those who think it's better to put me in prision for failing to run out the back door when evil comes in the front.

Goforride

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

While Rep. Appleton might get all teary-eyed at the thought of bad people getting what they deserve, she is mis-characterizing Washington's use of force law.

In Washington, someone may use whatever force is necessary to stop the completion of a felony. That is not the same thing as a "stand your ground" law.

Fear not, citizens. Washington has one of the most liberal deadly force law and one of the most liberal pistol carry laws and yet the misuse of these two laws is virtually non-existant.

Gun killings are virtually always scum suckers who know or are least acquainted with each other, or drunken spouses/domestic partners.

People simply aren't mowing down people who are stealing their car's stereo.

Goforride

Posted Sun, Jan 6, 4:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Goforride -

The case being cited is the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida, where the 2 people were total strangers to each other. Changing a law because of this case would be ill-advised because so many things are just 'off' in this case.

Few things add up in this case, with Zimmerman saying Trayvon confronted him and beat him up, while Trayvon was simultaneously on the phone with his girlfriend saying he was afraid of this guy who was stalking him. He was clearly trying to make his way as fast as possible to his apartment.

The Florida 'stand your ground' law is more aptly named the 'legalized murder' law because you can essentially kill any unarmed person and then claim you 'felt' threatened, which is exactly what Zimmerman is claiming in this case. If Zimmerman had minded his own business and just obeyed the police dispatcher and kept his distance, none of this would even be an issue. But he chose to pursue this unarmed kid and kill him. This isn't self-defense in any way. It was Zimmerman aggressively running after someone and then drawing his gun and shooting him. That used to be called murder in the 1st degree.

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 11:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Regardless of the law, if someone poses a real menace to me, I will do what I think best in order to protect myself. I'll let a lawyer deal with the technicalities later. That's because if someone is threatening my safety or property, I won't have the luxury of researching, in the RCW, which of my rights are respected by government this year and which are sacrificed to the criminal class. Laws like this only create more victims out of law-abiding citizens.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 1:23 p.m. Inappropriate

While there is no SYG statute in Washington, there is a long history in court decisions upholds a similar concept. Case law specifically rules out the necessity of retreat.

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Why, precisely, does the law need to be changed in Washington State?

I don't care about Connecticut of Florida or any other story, what has happened in WASHINGTON STATE that makes this legislator want to meddle with the law the way it stands?

Sometimes I think our money would be better spent to pay the politicians to go on vacation.........out of state.

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 3:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Stand your ground has nothing to do with the Newtown shootings.

If she's implying that the Trayvon Martin case has some relevance to Washington State, would it be too much to ask to wait until all the facts of that case play out?

As in.......a trial?

Zimmerman may well prove justified in shooting Trayvon......or maybe not.

It would be nice to have the trial in court, rather than in the press.

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 7:27 p.m. Inappropriate

My theory about burglars is shoot first and take your chances with a jury.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Jan 5, 2:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Stop the insanity of 'common sense' restrictions from legistlators who wouldn't know a right vs. a privilege if their career depended on it.

uberhoo

Posted Mon, Jan 7, 12:01 a.m. Inappropriate

"including a duty to retreat if possible" ... what is Appleton thinking?

That we're a bunch of looney Washingtonians who just love to shoot to kill intruders even if it wasn't reeeally reeeeallly necessary?

Ms. Appleton, perhaps rough & tumble Poulsbo is a little more irresponsible than the rest of Washington, athough all I can think that Poulsbo is famous for are beautiful views and lots of RV's.

Honestly hon, Washingtonians are not as **bad** as you are trying to make us out to be.

Now go get us some ferry money. Ferries serve more than 2 million riders every year. Your misguided bill serves no one.

Posted Mon, Jan 7, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you, Ms. Appleton, for demonstrating so conclusively the hidden agenda behind forcible civilian disarmament: the imposition of mandatory pacifism and the reduction of us all to an alleged "equality" of compulsory victimhood.

After all, if self defense is outlawed -- and that is surely Ms. Appleton's ultimate purpose -- then the cowards who refuse to defend themselves are suddenly elevated to model citizens, while those who dare fight back are reduced to criminals.

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a stupid proposal from a stupid woman. What in hell is she doing in the legislature?

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

In this story, Mr. James is shamefully perpetuating the myths about the Zimmerman case that the media spread right after it happened. Like the 911 tape that was carefully edited to make Zimmerman seemto make racist remarks. A "racist" who despite his European name (for which he was immediately stereotyped)in the real world turns out to have both significant African American as well as Hispanic heritage. Now Mr. James summarizes the case saying "Martin's killer claimed self-defense after he approached Martin and followed him down the street, confronting Martin despite being told by dispatchers not to. The teenage Martin was unarmed." As a supposed journalist, Mr James should have bothered to do even five minutes of research and included facts that have come out since the original media hype. For example it turns out the dispatcher did not "tell him not to" do anything. He was instead assured that the police did not "need" him to get any more information. Second, while Martin was indeed still a teenager, he was a 6'1'' football player and taller, stronger and more athletic than Zimmerman; hardly the helpless little tyke presented at first. Finally, you don't need to carry a gun to be armed with a deadly weapon under the law. Martin was using the edge of a concrete sidewalk to attempt bash Zimmerman's head in after first violently attacking him, breaking his nose and knocking him to the ground. Slamming someone's skull on the edge of a concrete sidewalk (just like kicking someone in the head with a boot) is assault with a deadly weapon. It will all come out in the trial. Meanwhile, Ms. Appleton (supported by her gullible media friends like Mr. James) is recycling since-discredited hysterical distortions of an incident 3,000 miles away for personal career purposes, instead of the public good. Shame on both of them.

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Zimmerman was harassing an individual and subsequently shot him. Zimmerman had no reason to be in contact with the harassed individual in the first place.

The lesson from this incident is that, if one is walking down the street, and starts being questioned and harassed out of the blue by someone; then one should stand ones ground and shoot the questioner, before the questioner shoots.

jhande

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 1:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Why does this woman want to make honest, law abiding citizens run away from criminals? She's telling me that I'm not allowed to stand up for myself, that if someone accosts me with a knife while I'm in a place where I have a legal right to be, I have to run away. Why should that be the case? If people don't fight back against criminals, doesn't that embolden them?

Even if George Zimmerman hadn't been severely beaten, he still would not have been able to get away. He's a pudgy and out of shape man who appears to live a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Trayvon Martin was a child who was going to become an astronaut (according to his parents) which means that he likely kept himself in tip-top condition, and Zimmerman couldn't get away even if he'd wanted to.

Do you want to turn this state into the UK where they lock up people who defend their lives and property against those who try and steal it?

Go to Detroit or somewhere this sort of liberalism is welcome.

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 4:24 p.m. Inappropriate

GOOD NEWS!

This stupid woman withdrew her stupid legislation. Apparently, her constituents weren't amused, and let her know it.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 8:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Bleeding heart liberals, always seeking to go soft on criminals and come down hard of innocent law-abiding citizens.

LewWaters

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 6:26 p.m. Inappropriate

I think the relevance of the Martin-Zimmerman case is whether anyone has a right to initiate an altercation and then claim self defense. I learned at a fairly early age that if I picked a fight with someone and lost, I really didn't have any reasonable grounds for a complaint. If Washington law allows picking a fight with someone and then killing them in supposed self-defense, it needs correction.

Steve E.

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 6:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Dead on arrival.

BHirsh

Posted Tue, Jan 15, 1:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, Trayvon might have had illusions of becoming an astronaut, but apparently, his history to the date of his death was not really angelic. Hey, what's happened to the commencement of an actual trial.

As for Stand Your Ground, you'd have to be a moron to turn your back and run away from someone who was threatening you. And deciding whether someone is willing to crack your skull in order to take your big-screen TV is not something you want to give the benefit of the doubt to -- and you don't want someone you nab in the act to feel confident of rolling out a copy of Ms. Appleton's Bill as a not-even-go-to-jail card.

An anecdote: Up in Innis Arden, I believe it was, a fellow came home and found a couple of teen-agers ransacking his house. They threatened him with a baseball bat, but he was able to retrieve a gun, upon which they all split pell-mell. The fellow fired at one just as he was disappearing over a hedge and whacked him totally.

Well, Norm Maleng declined to prosecute the fellow, even though the deceased was in full flight. I had occasion to speak with a member of the Prosecutor's Office and asked him about it. The response, "No one has ever accused Norm of being consistent. Don't know if the kid's family ever filed a civil suit.

kmeyer

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