Will "Stand Your Ground" Prevent Justice in the Renisha McBride Case?

What Women Really Think
Nov. 12 2013 11:53 AM

Will "Stand Your Ground" Prevent Justice in the Renisha McBride Case?

In a case marked by confusing and often conflicting details, finally some concrete information has emerged: The autopsy report for Renisha McBride has been released by the Wayne County assistant medical examiner. McBride, a 19-year-old black woman, was killed in Dearborn Heights, Mich., on Nov. 2 by an unnamed 54-year-old white man at his home. The autopsy confirms that he shot her directly in the face. The results of the toxicology report are still pending. 

Though the "Justice for Renisha" campaign is in full swing, it's been hard to get a grip on what exactly happened on the night McBride died. McBride’s family says she had been in a car accident and was wandering the neighborhood, looking for help. McBride's attorney says that a woman called 911 to help McBride but that McBride wandered away before the police could get there. Detroit police confirm that dispatchers received a 911 call about an accident in that area. There's no information yet about what McBride then proceeded to do for the next two hours before she finally banged on the door of the man who shot her, about a mile away from the accident. McBride's family believes she was dazed and looking for help. The autopsy turned up no other injuries besides her gunshot wound.

Advertisement

As for the shooter, whose name is being withheld until he's charged, the Detroit police reported initially that he was claiming that the gun went off accidentally. After he hired a lawyer, the story seems to have changed to the claim that he was reacting in self-defense to a perceived threat from the teenager. The homeowner's lawyer, however, has been vague about why the homeowner felt threatened, beyond saying he felt that it might have been a break-in. The lawyer is mum about anything McBride may have said to his client, only arguing that the homeowner was afraid because of "a lot of banging," suggesting he didn't ask any questions before taking her life. Oh, and Michigan is a "stand your ground" state, though there has been a movement to repeal the law because it has the potential to create situations like this. 

Regardless of what facts emerge, this entire case is a demonstration that "stand your ground" laws are terrible and need to be repealed. If McBride was, as is likely, simply banging on the door in a daze and asking for help, it's ridiculous that the person inside could have a right to kill her and get away with it. Knocking on someone's door cannot, in a civilized society, mean forsaking your right to live. But even if McBride was trying to break in, that still doesn't justify the shooting. Under older legal doctrines, you have a right to self-defense if you reasonably believe you're in imminent danger. If someone is outside of your home and you have no evidence that he or she is armed or could get in, that falls outside of the realm of "imminent danger." If the homeowner was truly scared, he should have kept the door shut and called the police. With "stand your ground," however, the homeowner was empowered to open the door and create a confrontation. Now a young woman is dead, and because of ill-conceived, paranoid "stand your ground" laws, prosecutors will have a harder time holding her killer accountable. 

Photo courtesy WJBK/Fox Detroit

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.