Legal expert: Miss., Fla. gun laws have parallels but differ

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

OXFORD – When a Tupelo man was shot and died outside a neighbor’s house in June, questions arose over Mississippi gun laws.

The case continues under investigation, but it’s expected to be presented to an October grand jury, a District Attorney’s Office spokesman said last week.

Meanwhile, the Tupelo case and the controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman in Florida put self-defense issues into the spotlight.

Phillip W. Broadhead, director of the University of Mississippi’s School of Law Criminal Appeals Clinic and a professor of law, sees parallels and differences in the two cases.

He voices concern that Mississippi’s seven-year-old “Castle Doctrine” law and new gun law may bring about tragic, unintended consequences.

“Florida statutes have created this Wild West-type situation where people act on their own without waiting for the police to get there,” says Broadhead.

A week ago, a Florida jury acquitted neighborhood watch man Zimmerman in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

Broadhead terms the case “living proof there are problems allowing citizens to do the police’s work.”

The longtime attorney says he’s worried that Mississippi may face similar difficulties with its new open-carry gun law and its “Castle Doctrine.”

The “Castle Doctrine,” passed by the Legislature in 2006, expands the scope of self-defense laws.

Castle Doctrine laws, or “castle laws,” are based on very old English common law, which recognized that someone’s home is a place where they should be free from illegal trespassing or violent attacks. As such, the laws gave residents the right to defend their home (their “castle”), from violent attacks or intrusions, to the extent of using deadly force if necessary.

It provides, Broadhead notes, justification for “excusable homicide” and self-defense by giving a resident the right to use deadly force when they fear for their safety on their immediate premises.

In the Tupelo case, a man and his children were sleeping when the adult heard a noise on his deck shortly before 5 a.m., police say.

The police report, which did not release the home-renter’s name, states he told them he opened a door, told the man outside to leave and then fired a shotgun, fatally wounding the other man, when he claimed he saw the outside man advance toward him.

Police await toxicology and other reports from the state crime lab before preparing the case for the next grand jury.

Self-defense law
Broadhead says the “Castle Doctrine,” which comes from Florida, requires proof that the shooter was not the initial aggressor and was not engaged in an unlawful act.

“The Castle Doctrine gives you the presumption that your fear was reasonable,” he explains.

It applies to a person’s home, car, business or the area immediately around those, including a porch.

It’s different from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which states that if someone has a lawful right to be in a place, they have no duty to retreat and a right to repel an assault.

Broadhead says that while Zimmerman’s defense did not stress his rights under “Stand Your Ground,” the trial’s judge instructed the jury of his right to defend himself against an assault.

“That really was the heart of this case,” he said of the trial, which caught the attention of the nation because of its extensive media coverage and the accusations of racial profiling that surrounded it.

Now, the former public defender says, he’s concerned that Mississippi’s new open-carry gun law, passed by the 2013 Legislature, may have its own unintended consequences. The law permits most adult residents to carry a gun in public places so long as it’s not concealed in a place which allows it. Its sponsors say it simply clarifies a right already enshrined in the state constitution.

A legal challenge has hung up its implementation, but Attorney General Jim Hood says he’ll ask Monday for a state Supreme Court ruling.

Broadhead notes that he strongly defends constitutional rights to possess guns, and yet, “When a person carries a gun, it’s forseeable that it will be used with the consequence death. Is that acceptable?” observes Broadhead, who admits he wore a concealed weapon for years as a public defender, even when it wasn’t on the law books.

The law hasn’t been tested yet, he knows, and he wonders out loud where the boundaries will lie.

“The rule of law has protected public safety,” Broadhead notes. “This is brand new territory.”

Some media to blame
Broadhead blames ratings-driven TV news show hosts, like CNN’s Nancy Grace, for whipping up public opinion over issues that trials like Zimmerman’s actually never focus on.

“They have to talk about stuff that’s taken out of context or not even admissible to a jury, and it’s the reason why there’s an outcry now,” he says.

He also says the outcry is fueled by people’s own bad experiences with law enforcement.

Martin’s supporters have asked the U.S. Department of Justice and President Obama to take another look at the case.

“What the jury knew is not what the public knows about this case,” Broadhead adds.

He says the Zimmerman trial’s prosecutors promised the jury they could prove many issues against Zimmerman. Public displeasure with the verdict was an unintended consequence when prosecutors failed to live up to their promises.

“When a grown man with a firearm kills a black teenager, that’s unacceptable on its face,” he says. “But when a judge tells the jury that he has the right to stand his ground, to repel an assault, what else is a jury to do?”

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com

  • Steve

    1. There is nothing controversial about the Zimmerman acquittal unless you are a left-wing nut bag trying to incite racial hatred.

    2. If you wait for the police to get there, all they can do is draw a chalk outline around your dead body. When seconds count the police are only minutes away.

    • Kevin

      Oh, so based on your No. 1, Americans should have the right to shoot people down indiscriminately. We should have purges like that recent movie, according to your twisted right-wing nut-job viewpoint.

      On No. 2 in the case of Brad Nance, who was shot in Joyner community, had the shooter called the police they would have found that Nance was unarmed. Moreover, facts in the Zimmerman case show that Martin was only armed with skittles. So that really shows that you don’t know anything about either case, but you offer an opinion nonetheless. And we know what your opinion is–SHOOT ‘EM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT.

      You’re a sad individual with no compassion. If somebody shot your wife or kid because they felt “threatened” by their presence, I bet you’d think differently. But until then, you cannot think differently. You’re clouded by your ideological blinders that dictate to you that guns and death are good and that life and respect for fellow individuals are bad.

      • Steve

        Well.

        You’ve obviously got me nailed. (Wish I had a “dripping with sarcasm” emoticon)

  • d1comment

    No “expert” with an opposing view could be found…?

    • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

      Are you kidding? Just call me a left wing nut and you will not stop hearing from me. Capital punishment for not being respectful to an an adult is a little over the top. That goes for acting like a thug, with a smart mouth, too. What society have you known that be be of law. Oh yea, I know 400 years of slavery an 100 years of Jim Crow will be all are you can come up with. But oh yea, you gotta be black to receive that kinda punishment.

  • SaltilloFarmer

    If the black boy had acted with respect, toward an adult, he would still be alive.
    Acting like a Thug, with a smart mouth, and bad attitude, cost him his life.
    We all have the right to stand up for our selves. Zimmerman was standing up for his community and himself .

    • RBR17in14

      Saltillo Pesticide Huffer is right, y’all. Them blah boys best be respectful of portly, weak, nearly-thirty-year-old man-babies/wannabe cops with a history of pedophilia and assaulting women. Them kind of guys deserve the utmost respect. Maybe even do a soft-shoe routine for them if they confront you on the street. But yous a thug so you deserve what you get. I know that cause you were wearin one of nem hooded sweatshirts an nobody but thugs wear them. You show that man you ID–but careful–those types of men are total cowards who crave confrontation as means to draw a weapon and shoot unarmed ni-CLANGs (a shame we caint lynch em no mores cuz of the LIBRULZ taken over this country–but this’ll do); then have ignorant rubes donate money to financially support a famil–er, defense fund. Ya know, I’m gonna start a Paypal up right now for mine. I want a new four wheeler and get this dang double wide paid off, and since I don’t feel safe on these streets no more I might gotta stand my ground–no what I mean? Look forward to y’all patriots heppin’ a guy out. RTR!

  • Diva

    In Amory, the Police Chief will literally run, run, run out to warn the
    thief of the issue of a person trying to protect their own property from
    theft, the thief, a millionaire in the situation, would be warned that
    by stealing water and lights from the property by running a water hose
    and an electrical cord from, where he had stolen a $4168 shed from a
    legitimate estate owner and defrauded a 2nd estate by making a purchase
    of property before a probate notice was ended, will be rewarded in
    Monroe County Justice Court with the shed because he was a former
    business partner of the Judge! The homeowner will be required by demand
    to pay the use of the stolen water and lights by the City Utilities
    department, because the owner of the property is made to sign a lease
    agreement by the City of Amory to be a bond for turning the lights,
    water, sewer on the property in the first place. Some lawyer can get a
    bundle of money on this one!

  • DoubleTalk

    As long as one doesn’t live in or be subjected to robbery, beatings etc they don’t see the importance of being able to defend ones self. Notice after some legislators got mugged walking to their cars, some laws were passed some years ago. Most do not live a shielded life from bad.

    I have not seen or heard any dispute that Martin had 4 minutes to go home. Instead he waited and ambushed Zimmerman and paid the price..It is absurd to take the position one should wait until the point of death to defend themselves from anyone, much less because of age and/or skin color.

    The unintended results are a product of false news reporting and political reporting. How many have seen a strange car, person etc regardless of color in their neighborhood and not watched to see what they were up to ?

    Stand your ground and Castle Doctrine type laws do not bring back the Wild West. They hold folks accountable for their actions against others. Notice the change in attitude of some reporters that got beaten by black mob groups post Zimmerman verdict ? Yep, when it happens to you or yours.

    If you were being attacked, would you want to be placed in a position to have to calculate while being beaten how far you have to let it go on ? I doubt your attention would be focused on calculating.

    Will there be some rash decisions made ? Probably so. Yet if the police had come and found it necessary to shoot Martin, the outcry would be the same-racial.

    I have not heard anyone associate marijuana use and the desire for sweets or hunger. Martin had TCH levels and had sweets. Some have told me marijuana use caused them to be angry. Others report being mellow. Who knows.

    Bottom line, respect others and their property and you will most likely be ok. Otherwise take what comes. Martin had a history of violence that wasn’t allowed to be given to the jury. The whole trial was conducted to try and get any conviction. It and media ignore Martin was a grown person, regardless of age, mentally and physically. I’d hate to be in a position where I had to let someone because of age or color beat or kill me.

    If this guy is a legal expert and is teaching this kind of ideals, no wonder the country is in the shape it is. Let him take a beating, have his house plundered, wife broken into or worse, not have the money to move and see if he maintains the same ideas.

    I agree, sad one lost their life, especially at an early age. But don’t expect a free pass to do things like this and not suffer the consequences.

    • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

      You state “false news reporting and political reporting” Where does your fats of the case come from?

      • DoubleTalk

        I’ll mention the altered audio tape from the beginning of the incident. The motions and rulings on differing things throughout the trial on others. If one had watched any of the live courtroom proceedings one should have seen these. I’m sure Zimmermans Attorney will detail these things in his lawsuit against the State and probably Martins family and others that sought to exert public pressure to deny him of a fair trial. If Holder wants a real 1983 Civil Rights case – he should pursue those acts which were taken against Zimmerman.

        Regardless if one likes the outcome, prostituting the Justice system hurts all somewhere down the line.

        • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

          You are missing one fact, a dead unarmed teenager shot in the heart. Shot by a man that had no identification other than a loud mouth & gun, the same man that committed perjury to the court that tried him. Yes, Justice was served by our laws as was O.J. so G.Z can have his gun back and pursue a life as O. J. has.

          • DoubleTalk

            Maybe I should ask, where do you get your facts of perjury ? Are you forgetting that aprrox 500 murders, 1,800 forciable rapes, 14,500 robberies, 25,500 aggrevated assaults, 40,000 burglaries, 172,000 larceny-theft, 42,000 violent crime, 224,000 property crime, 123,000 other assaults, were “reported arrest” for those under 18 years of age “your teenager” in 2011 ?
            Maybe a teenager in years – but teenagers commit serious crimes. They are grown physically and mentally.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            Why is Travon Martin on trial?

          • Americasgone

            Because he violently assaulted another human being.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            Of course, you saw it!

          • Americasgone

            You obviously didn’t follow the court case. Brief yourself on what happened and then come back and talk to me.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            I Followed the court case from the day it made he papers. GW saw somebody he believed should not be there and he called 911. His job was done. But he loaded his gun and followed the person. What happen at the scene we have no evidence except GW story, the looks on his head, and some screams from a phone that was not identified and a dead teenage with a bullet in his heart. His clothes were not kept for evidence, no the corner remember doing the autopsy only his records which he never thought he would be question about because no investigation was ongoing to be done. Maybe I did not follow as close as you did but my conclusions are different than mine.

          • DoubleTalk

            Zimmerman has had his trial – now its Martins turn for his actions. Time about fair play. If Martin, family and hate mongers have nothing to ffear-let them testify !!! Thats what they said about Zimmerman.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            “Judge Lester revoked Mr. Zimmerman’s bond on June 1, and he was returned to jail when prosecutors said that he and his wife had misled the court about how much money they had during the April bond hearing. His wife, Shellie Zimmerman, 25, was later arrested on perjury charges.” Quoted from the NYT

          • DoubleTalk

            So you admit Zimmerman did not commit perjury. If anyone did it was his wife and he got his bond revoked for anothers actions. Go figure that one. Even if he had answered, it was a defense fund setup for his lawyers-not his money. Some folks can’t see the forest for the trees.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            ” he and his wife

          • DoubleTalk

            Oh no. Your changing your story and I’ll bet you are sitting at home, comfortable, no broken nose or head, no blood and not being grilled. I don’t remember it being reported both but if both did, it still wasn’t Zimmermans money. It was a legal defense fund to his attorney’s.

          • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

            This was as in the NYT. It was as I recall from Cable news. yes I am home and very comfortable.

  • Winston Smith

    Seems to me that it was Martin who turned the confrontation violent in the first place. Should Zimmerman have followed the kid after 911 told him not to? No. But that doesn’t give Martin the right to attack him. That situation could have ended with a simple conversation instead of a gunshot.

    • Kevin

      So ‘stand your ground’ applied to Zimmerman, the shooter, and not to the victim?

      There’s a phrase that sums up your post and it’s called “blame the victim” and gun nuts like you are very good at doing that.

      • Winston Smith

        My point was that had Martin turned around and asked why this strange guy was following him instead of attacking a stranger who ended up being armed, he’d still be alive. Martin quit being a victim in my eyes the second he chose to attack somebody.

      • Americasgone

        “Trayvon” wasn’t a victim. He was an assailant.

        • TWBDB

          I’m sure you’d feel differently if this were your son

  • Kevin

    So based on Mississippi’s Castle Doctrine, ordinary residents who are armed have more discretion to use deadly force than do members of the law enforcement community. When a law enforcer has to use their firearm in the line of duty, there’s reports to be filed, interviews and investigations to be done, I think the officer may even go on paid leave immediately (at least in some larger municipalities), and even see a therapist. But when a nut-job with a shotgun shoots his neighbor outside of his house, there’s hardly any consequences except other nut-jobs on the Journal’s website posting back-slapping congratulations to the shooter: “you gotcha one.” They think it’s like hunting or something.

    I may be a liberal tree hugger type, but I know one thing that no gun-nut can argue with and it’s the simple fact that the guy who shot Brad Nance in Tupelo was afraid of his own freaking shadow, just like Zimmerman was afraid of a 17-year old kid armed with skittles. Gun nuts are scaredy cats. They live in total fear of their surroundings and everyone around them, especially if somebody is black and wearing a hoodie, or if somebody is white, has tatoos and dreadlocks. And this is really sad. The folks on here congratulating the guy who shot and killed Brad Nance and those congratulating George Zimmerman are really sad, sad people who are afraid and they hide behind their guns.

    Point of the post is: if you’re afraid of somebody–call the police. It’s their job to shoot people; it is not your job as a resident/citizen to enforce laws. Call the police; it’s a lot easier than killing folks yourself. You may not find it as enjoyable, but it’s better than enforcing the law on your own.

    • http://weird-harolds.com/ Weirdharold

      Amen!

    • countrydawg

      And thus the grossness of wingnuts cheering for Zimmerman: they only
      give a poop about his “heroism” because he shot someone, and the
      crossections of wingnuttery are celebrating that because:

      1. Guns are magic wands of moral certainty.
      2. All black kids are suspicious.
      3. Lone vigilantes are romantic. Cops following procedure are inefficient bureaucrats.
      4. Libruls sided with the black kid, so the shooter must have done something right.

  • TWBDB

    How would you respond if the media had presented the case like this – – ” A 17 and 30 year old, both male, both about 150 lbs, end up in a fist fight in Sanford, FL. The 17 year old was whooping the 30 year old’s ass when the 30 year old pulled a gun from under his jacket and killed the 17 year old.” That’s what happened in the moment. Both had every right to be where they were apparently; both were dressed in what could be considered to be ‘thug’ attire, both minority demographically, one was the adult.

    • LeftinMS

      Except one person was the primary initiator of the conflict. There was no reason for GZ to follow TM in the dark with a loaded gun. If GZ was so concerned about his safety that he had a loaded gun with him, then he should not have initiated the confrontation to begin with by following TM. Police constantly tell crime watch members “call 911, do not engage”. The 911 operator told him not to engage.

      • TWBDB

        There’s no debate, Zimmerman admits to pursuing Martin and ultimately placing himself in an ‘at risk’ situation counter to the instruction of a 911 operator. Martin posed no threat to Zimmerman at all until Zimmerman placed himself in the circumstance. A brilliantly bright spot light and a camera from the driver’s seat of his vehicle would have served as an excellent alternative: both would be alive.