Florida legislators considering changes to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should pay attention to the morality play taking place in a courtroom in Oslo, Norway, capital of a peaceful European country of five million.
Eerie similarities exist between the “necessity” defense to a charge of murder, as is being asserted in that Scandinavian courtroom, and the one that may be asserted in Florida by George Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
In Oslo, an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sociopath named Anders Behring Breivik, 33, is attempting to justify why he slaughtered 77 fellow citizens, including many teenagers, on July 22 last year. He admits that he committed the killings after preparing for months by playing violent video war games, meditating and taking steroids.
Among the laws in play at his prosecution for murder and terrorism is Section 47 of the Norwegian criminal code. Breivik has entered a plea of “not guilty,” and is relying on this law to assert a defense of “necessity.”
Section 47 provides as follows: “No person may be punished for any act that he has committed in order to save someone's person or property from an otherwise unavoidable danger when the circumstances justified him in regarding this danger as particularly significant in relation to the damage that might be caused by his act.”
Breivik argues that he “needed” to commit the massacre because of the serious danger threatening all Norwegians through the pro-immigration policies of a "multiculturalist” Labor Party government.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law also provides a “necessity” defense. In language nowhere as broad as Norway’s, the Florida law says:
“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [that is not the person’s home] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
Florida legislators owe it to the people of this state to think long and hard about the wisdom of keeping unchanged the current text of our “necessity” defense. To save lives, it would serve the public interest to modify the language that allows personal interpretations of “I reasonably believed it was necessary to do so.”
Angel Castillo, Jr., a former reporter and editor for the New York Times and The Miami Herald, practices employment law in Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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