But it noted a major reason for the disparity: African-Americans were more likely than Caucasians to be armed or involved with a crime — thereby lending credence to a shooter’s self-defense claim.
Another way to look at the stats: the shooter’s race. And in those Stand Your Ground cases, the law helped black defendants successfully plead justifiable homicide by a slightly higher margin than whites, 7 percentage points.
None of this is to say Stand Your Ground is a good or bad law. And none of this is to say that many of the spooky Trayvon Truthers, who want to dwell on black-on-black crime or denigrate a black teen after his death, aren’t likely bigots.
Beyond race, the Tampa Bay Times analysis showed the law is not applied evenly. In some cases, it appears, hardened criminals and aggressors go free when they probably shouldn’t.
Disregarding nuance, Jackson appeared on MSNBC last week, ducked a question about whether he was being counterproductive, and proceeded to draw a parallel between how “George Zimmerman, a murderer, walks free because of the standards raised by Stand Your Ground laws while . . . a woman named Marissa Alexander is in prison in Jacksonville who shot in the air to deflect the husband from approaching her again.”
But there’s little evidence Zimmerman was freed just “because of the standards” of Stand Your Ground. Zimmerman’s lawyers focused more on a classic self-defense justification independent of Stand Your Ground, although the law played a role nonetheless.
Jackson said nothing about the Lakeland-area case of Orville Lee Wollard. Like Alexander, Wollard fired a warning shot in a dispute in his own home (it was to scare off his daughter’s abusive boyfriend). Like Alexander, he’s doing 20 years in prison as a result.
But he’s white.
To find this out, all Jackson had to do is read Clarence Page’s column in their hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, a day before Jackson appeared on CNN.
“The enemy in both cases was not racism but mandatory minimum sentencing,” Page wrote of Alexander and Wollard.
Florida’s GOP-led Legislature isn’t interested in changing mandatory-minimum sentences or drug laws, which disproportionately affect African-Americans.
Lawmakers don’t want to be branded as soft on crime, especially in Republican primary elections. Also, the private prison industry is a major campaign contributor. More incarcerated people mean more profits and, therefore, more political donations.
So this isn’t just about black or white, Republican red or Democratic blue. This is also about money, green.
State lawmakers have also done little about healthcare, helping make Florida one of the top states for the uninsured. And they’ve fought expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Disparities in education have been glossed over in the Capitol as well.
Jackson rightly pointed out all of these problems. He correctly notes that Florida’s laws blocking former felons from voting disproportionately affect African-Americans. Of Florida’s citizens in 2012, 16.6 percent were African-Americans, who accounted for a disproportionate 48.1 percent of the prison population (not the 51 percent Jackson has cited, by the way).
But it’s also notable that Florida is not unique when it comes to racial disparities overall. Jackson’s “apartheid” comments could make Florida sound like a national outlier instead of a bellwether.