Earlier this month, a 21-year-old African American approached the home of his step-father’s ex-girlfriend in Jefferson County, Alabama, and ended up dead. The woman who lived in the home said she shot him out of fear for her safety, and as a result, no charges will be filed against her under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law — the same law that gained notoriety after the tragic killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The woman, whose name was not released, said she was out walking her dog when she saw a man run by her home and went inside to get a gun. When she came back out, a man she believed to be the same person was walking down her driveway. She told him to stop, and that she had a gun. But he kept approaching. She shot and he died.
Unfortunately, little else is known about the case, and likely never will be now that the inquiry has ended with the state’s Stand Your Ground law. The woman said she could not identify the man and feared he was planning to attack her. She said she had particular fear because her boyfriend had been recently robbed, according to Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls. The man, Demetrius Antuan Thompson, had no criminal record. He had no known motive for an attack or break-in.
Under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law, the woman had no duty to retreat, and it didn’t matter that she voluntarily came outside with a gun. Even if she only feared second-degree assault (intent and execution of serious physical injury), she was authorized to use deadly force. ”This is a tragic situation, but legally she was justified,” Falls told AL.com.
This is the second case this month in which an individual who fatally shot another will escape any criminal liability under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law. Another was cleared by a jury after shooting dead a man who hit him with a socket wrench. Even the prosecutor who charged him said, “we felt Scoggins could have just driven away. That he was in no immediate danger.”
Alabama is one of at least nine states that passed the aggressive ALEC and NRA-backed “Stand Your Ground” statute that authorizes unfettered deadly force in self-defense, and one of 21 with a similar law that imposes no duty to retreat when facing an “attacker” in any place where one is lawfully present, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Even after the outrage and movement for reform that followed the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin more than a year ago, not a single state has successfully repealed or scaled back one of these laws. Earlier this month, a New Hampshire repeal effort that passed the House was blocked by the Republican-led Senate after four months of debate. And even in Florida, a task force dedicated to review the Stand Your Ground law declined to make any changes in spite of several empirical studies associating these laws with an increase in homicides, a disproportionate impact on African Americans, and no deterrent effect.