Florida Jury’s Split Verdict Shows “Stand Your Ground” Problems


In failing to acquit or convict Michael Dunn of premeditated murder of a teenager in a dispute over loud music, a Florida jury may have run headlong into the reach of the state’s contentious self-defense law, says the New York Times. In 30 hours of deliberation, the panel wrangled with a question that cuts to the heart of self-defense claims: “How does a juror know when using lethal force is justified, where nothing is straightforward, memories are hazy or contradictory and perception counts as much as fact?”

“This trial is indicative of how much of a problem Stand Your Ground laws really do create,” said Mary Anne Franks, an associate law professor at the University of Miami. “By the time you have an incident like this and ask a jury to look at the facts, it's difficult to re-create the situation and determine the reasonableness of a defendant's fear.” One problem, Franks said is term reasonable, which is “squishy.” One person's reasonable is another person's overreaction. Getting 12 jurors with contrasting world views to agree is not a simple task — especially in Jacksonville, which is 30 percent black, but is a conservative city.

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