The Legal Unicorn of the “Stand Your Ground Defense”

It never ends.  A shoot out at the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall resulted in the death of Kaleek Jones and the charging of Lamar Wilson (pictured above) with murder, and various other assorted bad things.

As it happens, Iowa is also the most recent state to adopt both “Stand-Your-Ground,” meaning that there is no duty to retreat before acting in self-defense if one is in a place they have a right to be and is not engaged in illegal activity, as well as civil and criminal self-defense immunity.  These positive changes became effective in Iowa on July 1, 2017.  This shooting occurred on August 27.

Naturally, the media gets it all wrong in reporting on this story.  The Daily Iowan newspaper, for example, reports:

Court documents obtained by The Daily Iowan said Wilson will use the “stand your ground” defense in his Nov. 7 trial. He also, according to the documents, will claim self-defense

My faithful readers will recognize, of course, that these statements amount to legal nonsense.  First, there is no such thing as a “stand your ground” defense, and one does not “claim Stand-Your-Ground.”  The relevant defense for an allegedly justified use of force against another in self-protection is simply self-defense, and “stand your ground” merely serves to lessen the number of elements that must be present in order for a use of force to qualify as lawful self-defense.  Relieved of the element of avoidance, the self-defense claim nevertheless requires the elements of innocence, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness.

The newspaper also reports:

The “Stand-Your-Ground” law allows individuals who feel they are in imminent danger to use deadly force against those threatening them.

To the extent that this statement has any relation to accuracy at all–and at best it’s a very distant relation–it was already true before Iowa adopted “Stand-Your-Ground.”

But it gets worse:

When a defendant uses “stand your ground” as a defense, he or she claims by using deadly force instead of retreating, he or she protected and defended others in attention to themselves.

I don’t even know where to begin disassembling this word salad of nonsense, but I do feel obliged to note that the “journalist” apparently doesn’t know how to spell “addition.”



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Andrew Branca

Andrew F. Branca, Esq. is currently in his third decade of practicing law, and is an internationally-recognized expert on the law of self-defense of the United States. Andrew is a Guest Lecturer at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, a former Guest Instructor at the Sig Sauer Academy, an NRA Life-Benefactor Member, and an NRA Certified Instructor. He also teaches lawyers how to argue self-defense cases as a certified instructor with the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) system in numerous states around the country. Andrew is also a host on the Outdoor Channel’s TV show “The Best Defense” and contributor to the National Review Online. Andrew has been quoted as a SME (subject-matter expert) on use-of-force law by the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and many other mainstream media, including nationally syndicated broadcast media. Recently, Andrew won the UC Berkeley Law School debate on “Stand-Your-Ground,” and spoke at the NRA Annual Meeting Law Symposium on self-defense law. He is also a founding member of USCCA’s Legal Advisory Board. In addition to being a lawyer, Andrew is also a competitive handgun shooter, an IDPA Charter/Life member (IDPA #13), and a Master-class competitor in multiple IDPA divisions.

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