Shooting of Young Michigan Woman Raises Similar Issues as Trayvon Martin Case
Early in the morning of November 2, 2013, 19 year-old Renisha McBride sought some assistance from a Dearborn Heights, Michigan home after a car accident. As her cell phone battery was dead, she had no means to contact help. When she approached the home, a man, still unidentified as he has not been charged, fired gunshots at McBride who died there at the scene. The prosecutor in Wayne County is reconsidering whether they should obtain a warrant to arrest the man who shot her.
Stand Your Ground law
This comes just months after the acquittal in Florida of George Zimmerman who was tried for the murder of Trayvon Mitchell. While Zimmerman himself never invoked the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law in that case, many observers believed that the initial refusal to charge Zimmerman rested on that law’s penalties, including a possible charge that the police wrongfully arrested someone “standing their ground” against a perceived threat.
But the Michigan case is distinguishable in that the alleged perpetrator was in his own home. Long before “Stand Your Ground” laws became instituted by different states, common law nationwide has recognized what is known as the “castle doctrine”. This doctrine gives citizens in their homes, and in some states, cars and workplaces, the right to protect themselves, other people and their property by force – in some instances even deadly force. In 2006, the Michigan legislature adopted a package of NRA (National Rifle Association)-sponsored legislation which expanded the right to self-defense. The questions in this case, if it is prosecuted, will involve whether the shooter had reason to believe the victim was a danger or was intending to break-in to his property and how her physical position outside the home should be considered. It will not be surprising if this case turns into another referendum on one’s right to defend themselves and when such a right can be invoked.
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