< < Go Back

By John M. Phillips,

from Folio Weekly,

What Wes Denham gets wrong about the law.

Wes Denham has written article after article about Stand Your Ground. Yet, he criticizes fellow media for its “hullabaloo” over the law in his most recent column [Crime City, “Stand Your Wallet,” March 12]. He further criticizes the deceased, their families and their lawyers. Let me offer some criticism of my own.

What I found when I researched Mr. Denham was that he was not a lawyer, police officer or probation officer. Even the books penned by him are ridiculed by lawyers and legal minds alike in reviews. This hardly qualifies someone in most cities to have a crime column.

Let me get to the point of my rebuttal. There were more than a dozen errors in Denham’s column, starting with his description of self-defense laws and Stand Your Ground. The battleground over one’s duty to retreat is not a “single sentence” and Stand Your Ground is not merely a criminal (or civil) immunity battle.

… since 2005, gun manufacturers have conservatively contributed well over $40 million to the NRA. Fear sells.

Backers of the bill, including father and son state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, and state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, wrote: “Consider an elderly woman in a dimly lit parking lot or a college girl walking to her dorm at night. If either was attacked, her duty was to turn her back and try to flee, probably be overcome and raped or killed.”

Except that is entirely untrue. The old
 law said:

The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force. The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.

If there was no means to avoid confrontation consistent with your own safety, you could freely stand and “shoot, stab, bludgeon, punch, kick or bite.” The elderly woman has never been required in this country to turn her back and run — ever. We did not have an epidemic of rape that this law resolved. And yet writers like Denham are allowed to insinuate that America was a nation riddled with women and children being hunted down and killed by their attackers because there was no right to “stand your ground.” It’s shameful. Worse yet, laws like Stand Your Ground empower prejudice.

More From Folio Weekly: