As those who live in Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”) states know, the danger in these laws isn’t who they do or don’t keep out of prison — it’s who people THINK they can keep out of prison. The state of Florida, being Florida, seems something of a petri dish for testing the envelope of Stand Your Ground; from Trayvon Martin, to the story of the Florida man who over Labor Day stalked and killed two of his neighbors in cold blood, Stand Your Ground has officially devolved past License to Kill, and to “Seek and Destroy.” And here we go again.
On Thursday of last week, Orlando resident, 32-year-old Claudius Smith saw on his security camera a young man in a hoodie cutting through his back yard with his hands in his pockets. Smith, reportedly believing that the trespasser was an armed burgular due to the fact that his pants were sagging, followed him over the fence and into a neighboring Fountains at MetroWest apartment complex — likely 21-year-old Ricardo Sanes’ destination.
We’ll never know, though, because Smith pursued Sanes over the fence and into the apartment complex, pulled his gun and confronted Sanes. When Sanes turned around and attempted to walk away, Smith pumped six .45 caliber rounds into him. Smith (taking a page from Zimmerman’s handbook) claimed that Sanes punched him, and that was why he had to “stand his ground” and open fire. The evidence, though, speaks to the contrary.
Sanes was not only found afterward with a concealed .40 caliber Glock of his own, the police determined that he had been shot through the back. Smith had no injuries consistent with an assault. The digital security camera from Smith’s house had mysteriously disappeared by the time police got there, along with the footage it captured. Smith claims not to know what happened to it.
Smith is currently in jail on charges of second-degree murder, but documents recently obtained by the Orlando Sentinel suggest that he will indeed attempt to invoke Florida’s License to Kill (err, “Stand Your Ground”) defense. Police and legal analysts are already saying that there’s no chance whatsoever that Smith will be granted immunity under SYG. While the circumstances of this murder and Trayvon Martin’s (right down to the hoodie) are eerily similar, the mere facts that Sanes was shot in the back, and that he walked away rather than pull his own gun, will ultimately prove the last two nails in Smith’s well-deserved coffin.
Most interesting, perhaps, will be one other crucial difference between this trial and Zimmerman’s: Both Smith and Sanes were black. Hopefully, that crucial difference will take the focus off of the race issue that clouded Martin’s murder, and put it squarely where it belongs…
…on Florida’s License to Kill.