Woman Shot through Door in Florida Is Latest Controversy Since Stand Your Ground Laws Were Passed

It has been almost two decades since Florida passed the nation’s first “Stand Your Ground” laws in 2005. The law became controversial after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, though Martin’s death did not stop the flow of such laws around the country. The latest Stand Your Ground controversy returns to Florida when a Florida County sheriff department arrested Susan Lorincz for killing a mother of four children.

In June 2023, Susan Lorincz was allegedly angry with some children for playing in a field near her residence in Marion County. Lorincz became so enraged at one point that she allegedly threw a skate at a 10-year-old boy and his sibling.

The children reported the incident to Ajike Owens, their mother. Owens knocked on Lorincz’s door multiple times, and Lorincz fired one shot through the door. Owens was hit in the upper chest and later died in the hospital. Lorincz claims that she acted in self-defense and that Owens had been trying to break down her door. Owen’s children witnessed the incident.

Susan Lorincz was arrested several days later for manslaughter with a firearm, negligence, battery, and two counts of assault. Many protestors and social media commentators noted that Lorincz is a white woman and Owens was a black woman, and questioned why it took so long for Lorincz to be arrested. The Sheriff’s Office put out a video explaining that “Stand Your Ground” laws make it so it cannot legally make an arrest unless he can prove the shooter did not act in self-defense.

What Are Stand Your Ground Laws?

Most Stand Your Ground laws have two components: eliminating the duty to retreat and shifting the burden of proof for self-defense. Under Stand Your Ground laws, people have no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense as long as they are in a place where they are legally allowed to be.

Traditionally, a defendant asserting self-defense had the burden of proving that they were in fact acting in their own defense. In 2005, Florida lawmakers shifted the burden of proof from the defendant claiming self-defense to prosecutors. Law enforcement in Florida are responsible for ruling out self-defense before bringing charges. Now authorities must rule out self-defense before bringing charges. Missouri and Florida are among about 30 states that have Stand Your Ground laws.

Why Are Stand Your Ground Laws Controversial?

Stand Your Ground laws are controversial for a couple of reasons. First, the use of deadly force often results in the defendant killing the other person. If there are no other witnesses, the police cannot verify the defendant’s story, making it all too easy for a defendant to justify a murder after the fact. Stand Your Ground laws have been criticized for giving criminals an easy out if they murder their victims. Such laws make it all too easy for a “bad guy with a gun” to murder a “good guy with a guy” and claim innocence. As a result, Stand Your Ground laws have been called “shoot first” laws by opponents.

The second major criticism of Stand Your Ground laws is that the defense is unevenly upheld. Some studies have shown that white defendants who use such laws are often more successful than black defendants. Many US jurisdictions, especially Southern states, have a long history of enacting laws that make it easier for a jury to excuse a white defendant of killing a black defendant. Some oppose Stand Your Ground laws as the latest variant of such laws.

Finally, Stand Your Ground laws encourage people to use deadly force even when the situation is completely uncalled for. Ralph Yarl of Kansas City was killed when he rang the doorbell of the wrong house when he was picking up his sibling. Ringing a doorbell or knocking on a door should not be a death sentence. Citizens shouldn’t be encouraged to kill the first person who shows up on their doorstep.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

A criminal defense attorney can help you build your case can represent you during all the phases of a murder or manslaughter trial. The emotional benefits include some sense of relief that your attorney is on your side.

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