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U.S. Civil Rights Commission Holds Stand Your Ground Briefing in Orlando

Photo of Trayvon Martin’s parents  by David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Trayvon Martin’s parents by David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law continues to draw national attention. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a briefing on it Friday in Orlando.
Experts from the meeting draw different conclusions – sometimes from the same data.

Racial Disparity

Urban Institute Fellow John Roman says a white person who shoots a black person is ten times more likely to be declared justified than the reverse. Roman asks: could non-racial factors explain that? "The answer is, if you look at other disparities across the system, is these disparities are so much bigger than other disparities in terms of sentencing and death penalty and arrest rates and stop and frisk that it's really hard to believe that that's true," he says.

Reexamining the Data

John Lott is head of the Crime Prevention Research Center. He says Roman is extrapolating based on data from minority-heavy urban areas. "If I were to go and take data from like Liberty City in the Miami area and then compare that to the state averages, you could say, 'That's not a very useful comparison, John.' I want to make sure that the two groups I'm comparing are the same."

Lott says African-Americans disproportionally invoke Stand Your Ground in their defense – so it actually protects them. And, the people who most need a weapon to defend themselves are the most vulnerable.

Who Will Stand Up For You?

One panelist was Attorney Benjamin Crump. The lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family is now representing that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Crump says everyone should care about those teens. He says, "If you don’t speak up, you don’t do anything – when it happens to your child, God forbid, don’t expect anybody to come and stand up for you."