2013's #3 Most-Read: '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 Wed, Jan 1, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

" his killer's subsequent invocation of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. " I'm sure this claim was thoroughly discredited at the time of original publication but, just to make sure, Zimmerman's lawyer did not use the Stand Your Ground law in his defense. Most read but not necessarily most accurate.

kieth

Posted Wed, Jan 1, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Apparently this legislator is only able to delve into the surface of an issue. She might read between the lines before promoting legislation that "solves" other jurisdiction's problems.

When the Zimmerman situation first appeared on national news it was presented as a racist white man gunned down an innocent little black boy for no reason, just because he was “Walking While Black” through a swanky, gated condo community. And the cracker cops of his small Florida town waved this trigger-happy, paranoid, and self-appointed security guard on his merry way. First let me review the media coverage of this event because it is probably the basis of so much misunderstanding. Many furrowed brows among the media bent over the tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call, seeking to divine racial epithets from his barely-audible muttering. And, NBC News deliberately edited out the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman to describe the ethnicity of the person he was observing, and spread broadly the impression that he was race-obsessed. Later when the media discovered what Zimmerman looks like, his designation was changed, with nearly one hundred percent consistency, to “white Hispanic” by media outlets which had previously employed that designation three or four times in a century, at most.
We then saw a thousand reprints of the most infamously disingenuous photographic comparison in recent memory: a shot of 12-year-old Trayvon beaming happily, next to an equally outdated mug shot of a morose George Zimmerman. It took a long time for the media to cough up more recent photos of either one. You would have had to dig hard for factual information that came out much later that were indicators of the mind set of the two men. That Trayvon had marijuana in his system, and that he said on the phone that a “!@#$ cracker is following me.” One can only speculate on just why he was so sensitive to being observed, and the word “cracker” is considered synonymous in the black community with the word “nigger.”
Much of the following information was readily available to any media organization that cared to request it but the national media didn’t. At the time of this incident in 2011, Twin Lakes was experiencing a rash of burglaries and break-ins. Previously a family-friendly, first-time homeowner community, it was devastated by the recession that hit the Florida housing market, and transient renters began to occupy some of the 263 town houses in the complex. Vandalism and occasional drug activity were reported, and home values plunged. Twin Lakes is about 50 percent white, with an African-American and Hispanic population of about 20 percent each, roughly similar to the surrounding city of Sanford, according to U.S.Census data.
From January 1, 2011 through February 26, 2012, police were called to The Retreat at Twin Lakes 402 times. Crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin's death had included eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting. Twin Lakes residents said there were dozens of reports of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in their neighborhood. In September 2011, the Twin Lakes residents held an organizational meeting to create a neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman was selected by neighbors as the program’s coordinator, according to Wendy Dorival, the Neighborhood Watch organizer for the Sanford Police Department. During the six months leading up to the February 26, 2012 shooting, Zimmerman called the non-emergency police telephone line seven times. On five of those calls Zimmerman reported suspicious looking men in the area, but never offered the men's race without first being asked by the dispatcher
Three weeks prior to the shooting, on February 2, Zimmerman called police to report a young man peering into the windows of an empty Twin Lakes home. Zimmerman was told a police car was on the way and he waited for their arrival. By the time police arrived, the suspect had fled. On February 6, workers witnessed two young black men lingering in the yard of a Twin Lakes resident around the same time her home was burgled. A new laptop and some gold jewelry were stolen. The next day police discovered the stolen laptop in the backpack of a young black man, which led to his arrest. Zimmerman identified this young man as the same person he had spotted peering into windows on February 2.
Zimmerman had been licensed to carry a firearm since November 2009. In response to Zimmerman’s multiple reports regarding a loose pit bull in the Twin Lakes neighborhood, a Seminole County Animal Services officer advised Zimmerman to “get a gun”, according to a friend, rather than rely on pepper spray to fend off the pit bull, which on one occasion had cornered his wife. Although neighborhood watch volunteers are not encouraged to carry weapons, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee acknowledged that Zimmerman had a legal right to carry his firearm on the night of the shooting.
One incident prior to the shooting involved a black teenager stealing Zimmerman’s bicycle off his front porch. In another, two black men broke into an occupied house, trapping a woman and her infant son upstairs, whispering frantically to 911 dispatchers. Zimmerman contacted her after the incident, put a stronger lock on her sliding glass door, and told her to contact him or his wife, if she ever felt unsafe again.

Now for some of Martin’s activity prior to the shooting. Martin was suspended from school in October 2011 for graffiti after he was observed by a security camera in a restricted area of the school marking up a door with the word “fuck.” When he was later searched by a Police officer, looking for the graffiti marker, the officer found a dozen pieces of women’s jewelry and a watch in his backpack, which Martin said a friend had given to him. A screwdriver was also found, which was described by the school police investigator as a burglary tool. The jewelry was impounded and given to the police. Martin was also suspended when a marijuana pipe and an empty bag containing marijuana residue was found on him.

Posted Fri, Jan 3, 2:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Sherry Appleton can go to hell. I'm definitely going to remember her name when it comes time to make political contributions when she runs for re-election! This woman should not be allowed anywhere near a legislative session.

NotFan

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