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Time to re-think Mich. 'stand your ground' type laws

Updated: Friday, March 7, 2014
Time to re-think Mich.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Once again, the world watches with fascination and apprehension as yet another Stand Your Ground case unfolds in the state of Florida.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says that while it's easy to cast Florida in an unfavorable light, it's also easy to forget we have almost the identical law here in Michigan.

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It's not a stretch to think that eventually, we're going to wind up one one or more cases that will mirror what has been happening in the state that often seems to operate like a third-world country.

Michigan, along with 20 other states, has a stand your ground law very similar to Florida's. Both were designed primarily to protect homeowners from lawsuits from home invaders or carjackers who wind up getting shot or wounded.

Both laws say a person has no duty to retreat, and that force may be met with force, including deadly force, if that person reasonably fears his or her life is in danger.

They sound so reasonable.

But in Florida there have now been at least 200 violent confrontations that resulted in death or injury--all of them involving people who said they honestly believed their lives were in danger.

The best known is the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case of two  years ago.

Zimmerman said he felt the teenager was beating him up, prompting him to shoot.

Trouble is Zimmerman invoked the law after following an unarmed Trayvon Martin--after the police told him not to.

Zimmerman was not protecting himself in his home. He was outside on a sidewalk. Zimmerman was acquitted.

Software developer Michael Dunn unloaded his weapon at an SUV  parked at a gas station, killing one of the teenaged occupants.

An argument started when Dunn asked them to turn their music down. Dunn later said he feared for his life and that he was honestly convinced he saw a shotgun pointed at him.

There were no weapons found in the car.

Dunn was acquitted of the most serious charge of murder, but convicted of four other charges that might net him 60 years behind bars.

Then there's the case of the retired cop who shot and killed a man in a movie theater because he was using a cellphone.

Turns out the guy was calling his babysitter. The ex-cop says he felt his life was in danger.

And back in the news is the woman who while being threatened by her ex-husband, a man who'd beaten her before, went out to the garage, pulled a handgun, went back into the house, and fired one or two warning shots to scare him away.

She did not shoot him. But in a confusing turn of events, the stand your ground law--though invoked--isn't being applied.

She may do 60 years. And curiously, she's black.

Just four of more than 200 cases in Florida.

It makes one wonder if people who can so easily and legally pack heat these days aren't just a little paranoid and emboldened by a law that seems more fitting for an Ian Fleming novel than in real life.

Yes, your honor, I pulled the trigger because I was scared.

Well, maybe that's not good enough.

These laws, here and all over the country, were passed by well-meaning legislators who, I'm sure, believed they were doing what was best for their constituents.

But we all know there's a famous road that's paved with good intentions.

Michigan's stand your ground legislation, built on the idea that a man's home is his castle, was signed into law eight years ago by then Governor Jennifer Granholm.

She now says she would support narrowing the law and repealing those provisions that allow people to essentially take their castles into the streets.

Legal experts say the very name of the law may encourage a kind of vigilantism, and may also convey to a jury the state has in some way endorsed the use of deadly force.

Right now, without some spectacular case held to their heads, would be a good time for our state legislators to review the law, to look at it against the backdrop of what's been happening in Florida, and to make it a little narrower, a little more restrictive, a little one size fits all.

After all, as adults, we have long recommended to our kids that it takes more guts to walk away from a fight than to engage.

Not to say there aren't times when you have to defend yourself, but we already have the right of self-defense.

When it comes to the drama of stand your ground, maybe a little of the advice we give our children would work just fine for ourselves.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 30, 2015 18:13 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014 as a big burst in consumer spending was offset by weakness in other areas.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December period, down from sizzling gains of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Consumers did their part in the fourth quarter, pushing up spending by fastest rate in nearly nine years. But businesses investment, trade and government spending weakened.

For the year, the economy grew at a moderate rate of 2.4 percent. But economists believe 2015 could be a breakout year for growth, with consumer spending boosted by strong employment gains and falling gas prices. Many expect growth above 3 percent this year.

EMPLOYMENT COST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace in six years last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. That's the biggest gain since 2008. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent.

Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace.

The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health.

US-CONSUMER-SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month.

Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years.

The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that strong job growth and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PILOTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have approved a single labor contract. That's a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers, which merged in December 2013.

The multiyear deal gives pilots a 23 percent pay raise retroactive to Dec. 2.

The pilots' union said Friday that the contract was approved 66 percent to 34 percent, with 95 percent of eligible pilots casting a vote.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A jury of six men and six women is continuing deliberations in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated all day Thursday without reaching a verdict. They returned to a federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to keep working.

The jurors must decide whether Toyota's design of the 1996 Camry had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous. If they find there was a defect, they must decide if it directly caused injuries to those hurt or killed when Koua Fong Lee crashed into another car in 2006.

Lee spent 2 1/2 years in prison before being released after reports suggested some Toyota cars had sudden acceleration problems.

GERMANY-BMW-SECURITY FLAW

BERLIN (AP) -- German automaker BMW says it has fixed a security flaw that made 2.2 million of its vehicles vulnerable to break-ins.

The company says the problem affected BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce models equipped with its ConnectedDrive technology, which allows drivers to access certain car functions with a smartphone.

German automobile club ADAC, which discovered the flaw last summer, says hackers could have used a fake cellphone base station to intercept network traffic from the car and lower the windows or open the doors. There are no reports such a break-in ever took place.

BMW spokeswoman Silke Brigl said Friday that hackers wouldn't have been able to start or stop the engine.

Brigl said the problem has been fixed with an automatic update and customers don't need to take any action.

POM JUICE-RULING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court says many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The conclusion was reached by the Federal Trade Commission.

The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products.

POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products.

RUSSIA-FINANCES

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says his country's economic crisis is forcing athletes to scale back their training plans for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

Training camps abroad can be crucial in acclimatizing athletes for Rio de Janeiro's tropical conditions, but they are rapidly becoming unaffordable after the ruble lost almost half of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months.

Nagornykh tells Russian agency R-Sport that, with the ruble's value low and the Sports Ministry's budget facing cuts, athletes should stay in Russia rather than train abroad "in order to spend less of the currency reserves."

Officials will select priority sports and athletes for scarce funding, Nagornykh said.

The measures affect athletes for the Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics, he added.

OHIO STATE-ROYALTIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' national championship victory.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes.

Retailers say the team's special story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries.

Licensing officials also attribute increased sales to the fact Ohio State hadn't won a championship since 2002.

More than half of each dollar that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program also receive portions of the revenue.

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