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.

=====================

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 September 12, 2014 17:23 GMT

RETAIL SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Auto buying drove U.S. retail sales higher in August, a possible sign that steady job growth in recent months is leading to accelerated consumer spending.

The Commerce Department says seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.6 percent compared with the prior month. Sales are up 5 percent in the past 12 months. July sales were also revised upward from flat to a 0.3 percent increase.

Motor vehicles accounted for roughly half of the August increase. Buying also picked up at restaurants and for furniture, electronics, sporting goods and building materials.

Those gains were partially offset by falling sales at gasoline stations and department stores.

The figures suggest that Americans' reluctance to spend has faded somewhat. This could boost overall growth because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economic activity.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stockpiles held by U.S. businesses rose by a moderate amount in July while sales increased at the fastest pace in three months.

The Commerce Department says stockpiles increased 0.4 percent in July, the same increase as in June, while sales increased 0.8 percent, the best showing since a similar rise in April. Sales had advanced 0.6 percent in June.

The July increase in stockpiles was in line with economists' expectations. They say the solid gains in business sales will give businesses confidence to boost their restocking efforts to meet the rising demand. Inventory increases spur more orders to factories and stronger economic activity.

The July increase in inventories pushed total business stockpiles to $1.75 trillion, up 5.9 percent from a year ago.

YAHOO-SURVEILLANCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Yahoo's free email service could have cost the company an extra quarter of a million dollars a day.

The government called for the huge fine in 2008 if Yahoo didn't go along with an expansion of U.S. surveillance by surrendering online information. The company regarded that step as unconstitutional.

At stake, according to the federal government, was national security.

The director of national intelligence at the time, Mike McConnell, says in a court document supporting the government's position that international terrorists were using Yahoo to communicate over the Internet.

The outlines of Yahoo's secret and ultimately unsuccessful court fight emerged when a federal judge ordered the unsealing of some material about the court challenge.

CREDIT CARD THEFT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Justice Department officials are pressing Congress for a new law to help them prosecute criminals overseas who traffic in stolen credit cards.

It's part of an effort to combat an increasingly lucrative crime that crosses national boundaries.

Authorities say the current law is too weak because it allows people in other countries to avoid prosecution if they buy and sell stolen card data entirely outside the United States.

The Justice Department is asking Congress to amend the law to make it illegal for an international criminal to possess, buy or sell a stolen credit card issued by a U.S. bank no matter where in the world the transaction occurs.

Leslie Caldwell, the Justice Department's top criminal official, says it would be a simple fix.

UNITED STATES-RUSSIA SANCTIONS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is sanctioning Russia's largest bank as part of a new round of financial penalties aimed at punishing Moscow for its support of separatists in Ukraine.

The U.S. is also expanding sanctions targeting Russia's energy and defense sectors. The U.S. penalties come hours after the European Union enacted its own sanctions on Russian banks, arms makers and the country's biggest oil company.

Friday's penalties prohibit persons in the U.S. from providing equity or debt financing of longer than 30 days to Sberbank of Russia. The bank is Russia's largest financial institution and accounts for approximately one-quarter of Russian banking assets and one-third of its banking capital, according to the Obama administration.

The West is moving forward on sanctions despite a fragile cease-fire between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists.

EUROPE-RUSSIA-GAS

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Poland's state pipeline operator says it has resumed full deliveries of gas to Ukraine.

Gaz-System S.A. had halted the deliveries on Wednesday after Poland noted a sharp drop in gas deliveries from Russia this week. Germany and Austria had also reported a drop in Russian gas deliveries.

The company said Friday that it was now able to resume deliveries to Ukraine. That suggests gas flows from Russian supplier Gazprom are back to normal, but there was no immediate confirmation of that from Poland's state gas company, PGNiG.

The spat between Poland and Russia came amid concerns that Moscow is ready to use its energy exports as a political weapon over the crisis in Ukraine.

GREECE-BUDGET TARGET

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's finance ministry says the country's budgetary position is much better than anticipated.

It says that its surplus, once debt and interest payments are excluded, in the first eight months of the year is double the amount targeted under the country's international bailout program.

Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said Friday that the primary budget surplus in the January to August period was 1.95 billion euros ($2.52 billion) against the target of 962 million euros.

Greece has promised rescue creditors to maintain a balanced budget, meeting a key requirement for them to consider further financial help for the country.

Greece is widely expected to emerge from a six-year recession this year. Still the country's economy is about a quarter smaller than it was and unemployment stands at around 27 percent.

FORD-RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford is recalling about 74,000 older-model gas-electric hybrid SUVs in the U.S. and Canada to fix a stalling problem.

The recall covers Ford Escapes from the 2005 through 2008 model years and Mercury Mariners from 2006 through 2008.

The company says the coolant pump for the hybrid system could fail, causing electronics to overheat. That can shut down the engine, increasing the risk of a crash.

Ford says in documents filed with government safety regulators that it has no reports of crashes or injuries from the problem.

Ford is expected to start the recall on Oct. 27. Dealers will replace the coolant pump for free.

CHEMICAL LOBBYING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The powerful chemical industry is putting its lobbying muscle behind legislation that would establish federal standards for compounds used in products from household goods to plastic water bottles. But the industry-favored bill would also make it tougher for states to regulate chemicals.

Many states already have acted on their own -- and that's what's gotten the industry's attention.

The American Chemistry Council, a trade group, spent nearly $6 million on lobbying in the first half of the year, the most recent reporting period.

There's widespread agreement that the current law needs an overhaul. But a big sticking point is the role of the states in regulating chemicals.

Regulation of chemicals took on new urgency after a crippling chemical spill in West Virginia last January contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents.

OBAMA-AMERICORPS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton are joining forces to mark the 20th anniversary of the AmeriCorps national service program.

The two presidents are presiding over a ceremony at the White House where hundreds of new volunteers are also being sworn in for duty.

Clinton signed the bill that created the program in 1993. He says the program works because volunteers "kept your promise to get things done."

Obama is announcing new steps to encourage employers to hire AmeriCorps volunteers. The White House says several private and nonprofit employers have already signed up for the effort.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement