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Holder criticizes stand-your-ground laws

By Michael Schneider & Pete Yost

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:05 p.m. HST, Jul 16, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. » Attorney General Eric Holder today strongly criticized stand-your-ground laws that allow a person who believes he is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense.

Holder said he was concerned about the case of Trayvon Martin, in which George Zimmermann was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, and said the Justice Department has an open investigation into what happened.

But he added: "Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."

In an address to an NAACP convention, Holder said it's time to question laws that "senselessly expand the concept of self-defense."

The attorney general said the country must take a hard look at laws that contribute to "more violence than they prevent."

Such laws "try to fix something that was never broken," he said.

Florida is among the states that have stand-your-ground laws, and the issue played a role in the prosecution of Zimmerman, whose acquittal has spurred calls for the U.S. Justice Department to file criminal civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch volunteer.

Legal experts say a federal case would be a difficult challenge, with prosecutors having to prove that Zimmerman was motivated by racial animosity to kill Martin, who was 17 when he was shot during the fight with Zimmerman in February 2012.

On Monday, Holder had called the killing a "tragic, unnecessary shooting death" and urged the nation to speak honestly about complicated and emotionally charged issues.

Holder today seemed to be shifting away from the Martin case to one of those issues — the debate over the stand-your-ground laws.

"There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the 'if' is important — no safe retreat is available," Holder told the NAACP.

"But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely," he said.

In his comments referencing the Zimmerman case, Holder offered a story from his own personal experience — describing how when he was a young black man his father had told him how to interact with the police, what to say and how to conduct himself if he was ever stopped or confronted in a way he thought was unwarranted.

"I'm sure my father felt certain — at the time — that my parents' generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children," Holder told the NAACP convention. "Trayvon's death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down."

Yost reported from Washington.

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eoe wrote:
It is too bad this country has become so politicized, amoral and twisted up with hatred that following someone around, provoking them into a fight and then shooting them in the heart "because I felt threatened" could be seen as anything other than murder. Most people understand that if you are seriously threatened, and can't retreat, or you are in your home, then different rules apply. But what kind of evil, bankrupt society goes out of its way to pass laws that allow citizens to summarily execute one another on the side of the road for "feeling threatened?"
on July 16,2013 | 12:06PM
eoe wrote:
And of course the next 20 comments will not be about the immorality of state sanctioned citizen executions but the normal litany of right-wing tinfoil hat conspiracies about Holder.
on July 16,2013 | 12:08PM
ufried wrote:
were you there? if not, please lock your door and stay in your GLASS house...
on July 16,2013 | 01:05PM
eoe wrote:
I don't need to be there to know that when we pass laws with cowboy names like "stand your ground" we are lost as a society.
on July 16,2013 | 02:10PM
false wrote:
what kind of bankrupt society you ask? The same society thats all up in arms over a NOT GUILTY verdict, yet can't seem to get a grip on black on black MURDERS in chicago.The same society that if you don't like the way a jury renders it's verdict, we ask our racist AG to find (make up) something... How about justice for our border patrol agents for starters?
on July 16,2013 | 01:19PM
ufried wrote:
Breaking news... another black on black murder in chicago. in other news... still no justice in deaths of border patrol agents. Still awaiting AG criticism, news at 10
on July 16,2013 | 01:34PM
false wrote:
Breaking news; black on black murders in chicago on the rise... Other news; Still no justice for dead border patrol agents... Awaiting AG crticism
on July 16,2013 | 01:38PM
eoe wrote:
Your name says it all - false. Murders were down 43% in Chicago in the first five months of 2013 compared to the year before.
on July 16,2013 | 02:14PM
ufried wrote:
Down 43% from what? I say this because i don't remember all the calls for more conversations, marches etc. As for "cowboy laws" ... how bout i keep my guns and you keep your change
on July 16,2013 | 03:43PM
false wrote:
Down 43% from what?
on July 16,2013 | 03:45PM
false wrote:
Don't remember hearing calls for "honest conversations' or so called 'marches".
on July 16,2013 | 03:47PM
false wrote:
Funny thing about libs, they always see what they want to see. what about the border agents? (crickets) if all else fails, refer back to attacking the person ( "your name says it all").
on July 16,2013 | 03:54PM
eoe wrote:
My comment was about stand your ground. The attorney general of the country makes a comment that is completely within his rights that - like many, many Americans - he thinks this is a dumb law. Then you, without addressing a single thing in my comment, go on some random tangent about the black murder rate (because this is part of the right wing talking points - blacks are all criminals but if we armed them all the gun rate would go down) and the border patrol agents. Relevance? Who only sees what they want? I find the latter especially, especially offensive. The complete lack of gun laws in many states, and the complete resistance of the right wing to any sort of regulations or background checks on guns has led to hundreds of thousands of guns getting into the wrong hands over the years. So why is it that the right wing is so fixated on this one government operation (started under your boy GW) that led to 2,000 guns getting into the wrong hands, and not on the daily straw purchases of guns that are fueling the death tolls in the inner cities of Chicago and DC? You should welcome Fast and Furious - 2000 more guns sold for your corporate overloads.
on July 16,2013 | 04:30PM
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