A one-day summit will be held in downtown Louisville this week to educate residents about controversial Stand Your Ground laws and question if they make communities safer.
The laws have been under intense scrutiny since the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman in an altercation. Since then other high-profile cases involving the use of deadly force have put Stand Your Ground laws more into focus.
In Kentucky, individuals are not obligated to retreat from an attacker in any place in which they are lawfully present.
The African-American Initiative is holding the summit to help people learn more about the state’s self-defense law, especially in light of Louisville’s rate of gun violence.
“We got a lot of guns on the streets as it is,” says LIFE Institute CEO Eddie Woods, one of the summit’s organizers. “But we’ve got a lot of legal guns as well that are registered handguns and so forth that are in people’s hands who are law-abiding citizens, on the surface anyway. And so consequently what you get is you don’t know who is holding a gun or when.”
The state’s self-defense law was amended in 2006, and provides a person can use deadly force if they believe it is “necessary to protect himself against the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by the other person.”
Critics point out these changes were pushed by gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association and argue it adds to the use of vigilante justice.
Last year, an appeals court tossed out a 2010 conviction of a Kentucky man who stabbed another man to death during a bar fight. In that case, judges rules prosecutors couldn’t overcome 27-year-old Brian Lemons’s protections under the Stand Your Ground law.
From WLWT News:
Judge Kelly Thompson dissented, saying Kentucky’s law needs clarification and called on the state Supreme Court to take up the case.
“Lemons was not defending his ‘castle’ but was a participant in a ‘brawl’ outside a night club,” Thompson wrote. “Lemons had no defensive stab wounds and only Lemons’s version of the facts supported his defense theory.”
Scheduled speakers at this week’s summit include University of Louisville law professors, local defense attorneys and former prosecutors. They will provide analysis of the law and impact on neighborhoods.
“When you’re talking about Stand Your Ground you’re talking about everybody who can be a victim or for that fact be an offender depending on who is armed. And whether or not you feel like you’re in an imminent threat for some sort of danger,” says Woods.
It is scheduled to be held at Jefferson Community and Technical College’s health sciences building on Thursday, beginning at 5 p.m. Those interested in attending can register here.