By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The shooting of a teenager in Florida has raised questions about self-defense laws like the castle doctrine or Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground Law.
Mississippi’s law differs significantly from Florida’s, which allows people to meet a reasonable fear of harm with deadly force in public.
Phillip W. Broadhead, director of the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law and a clinical professor of law at the University of Mississippi, said Mississippi’s law is more restrictive.
“In the Mississippi Code, there is a section talking about justifiable homicide and duty to retreat,” Broadhead said.
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman. Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground Law has been used as a justification by Zimmerman, who claims he was acting in self-defense and does not yet face charges.
Unlike Florida, in Mississippi, anyone feeling threatened in a public place has a duty to reasonably retreat before meeting the threat with force.
“As a part of self-defense, you have to establish that the aggressor has the immediate means by which to accomplish death or great bodily harm,” Broadhead said. “The whole benchmark of this law is whether or not the person using deadly force to repel the attacker is reasonable. If the aggressor is a mixed martial arts fighter, you may be justified in shooting.”
Broadhead explained that reasonableness of the person using deadly force to repel attack is judged by a jury.
The law changes when it concerns a person’s home, business, vehicle or place of employment.
In those places, when there is an aggressor, the victim has no duty to retreat, and the jury is not permitted to consider a failure to retreat as evidence that the attack was unreasonable.
“The reasonableness of the force you use is key,” Broadhead said.
As the debate over the reasonableness of the force used by Zimmerman, half-Hispanic and half-white, against Martin, who was black, continues nationwide, a Tupelo woman will host a 2:30 p.m. rally today at Ballard Park.
Kimberly Parks, a mother of two boys, said she wants the community to voice concerns about Martin’s death and call for justice.
“We just want people to know that here in Mississippi, we’re taking a stand for justice,” Parks said. “We can’t have our innocent kids getting killed just walking down the road.”
“I think that people are really confused,” Parks said. “When you look at standing your ground, does that mean you can follow anyone who looks suspicious?
“I think it’s very important for people to understand the law. We just want to see justice served. We want to take the stand that no matter what color you are, if you’re for right, you’re for right.”