How ‘Stand Your Ground’ Is Killing Black People

The Florida law is being used by drug dealers and criminals as a defense for violent acts in black neighborhoods.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis weren’t worthy-enough victims for people to push for “Stand your ground” laws to be revised or repealed, Sherdavia Jenkins should be.

In 2006 Sherdavia, 9, was playing with her doll in the courtyard of the Miami housing project where she lived when Damon “Red Rock” Darling and Leroy “Yellowman” LaRose became embroiled in a gunfight—apparently over drugs.

They missed each other but killed Sherdavia.

Yet when Darling had his day in court, he thought he could get away with the child’s slaying by invoking a Florida law that was passed the previous year. Florida’s “Stand your ground” law, versions of which have since been adopted by 24 more states, removes the obligation for a person to retreat first, as opposed to shooting first, if he or she feels threatened in a public place.

Darling he said he feared that LaRose was going to pull a gun on him, so he shot first in self-defense.

It didn’t work for Darling, though. He got 50 years for manslaughter after his “Stand your ground” motion was rejected, first by a judge and later by an appeals court. LaRose pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got seven years.

While a judge didn’t buy Darling’s “Stand your ground” claim, which would have allowed him to walk free after his violence and recklessness left a child dead, the fact that criminals like him—many of whom operate in poor, predominantly black communities—believe they can use that law to get away with their lawlessness is reason enough for it to be revised or repealed.

And Sherdavia’s slaying is another reason that it should infuriate people when right-wing pundits and others claim that the law is good for black people.

It isn’t.

It’s easy for some to think it is, though. According to a 2012 study in the Tampa Bay Times, blacks who invoked “Stand your ground” when they killed someone went free 66 percent of the time, while whites who did the same were exonerated 61 percent of the time.