Target: Hugh P. Thompson, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia
Goal: Withdraw law that authorizes the use of lethal force without first attempting to avoid the situation
Yet another person has been shot dead in the streets, and yet another civilian could walk free for murder- with the help of Georgia’s ‘stand your ground’ law. This law allows the use of deadly force if a person suspects themselves to be in immediate danger. Oftentimes, this legislation enables people to literally get away with murder in instances where there was no actual threat.
Recently, Ronald Westbrook, an elderly Air Force veteran suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, wandered into someone’s yard in confusion. He had wandered nearly three miles in sub-zero temperatures. After he rung the doorbell and tried the doorknob, Joe Hendrix, the homeowner, had his fiance dial 911 and went to confront the man.
The homeowner attempted to ask Westbrook what he wanted and demanded that he leave the property. Westbrook, nearly mute from the advanced stages of his disease, was unable to coherently respond. In his confusion, he continued to wander the yard. Hendrix shot the elderly man four times, once in the chest, killing him.
Georgia’s 2006 ‘stand your ground’ legislation states that a person has no obligation to attempt to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation before resulting to the use of deadly force in self-defense. No charges have yet been filed, but authorities say that ‘stand your ground’ could apply in this case.
These shoot-first laws essentially legalize the use of deadly force when not absolutely necessary. They promote avoidable violence and death at the hands of panicked civilians whose judgements can be clouded by fear, anger, or prejudice, and have resulted in free passes for the murder of countless unarmed citizens.
‘Stand your ground’ laws place undue power into the hands of citizens who are likely not familiar with how to rationally assess a real threat. They result in unnecessary and avoidable injury and death. Your signature will demand that Georgia withdraw its ‘stand your ground’ legislation.
Dear Hugh P. Thompson, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia,
Recently, Ronald Westbrook, a 72 year old Air Force veteran who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was shot and killed after wandering a homeowner’s yard in a state of confusion. Westbrook had wandered three miles in sub-freezing temperatures, and alarmed a couple in their mid-30’s when he rang their doorbell.
Joe Hendrix, the homeowner, left his house to confront the man while his fiance called 911. After Westbrook was unable to respond to Hendrix’s demands due to his disease’s advanced state, he shot the man four times and killed him.
‘Stand your ground’ legislation from 2006 enable the use of deadly force when avoidable. They do not require citizens to attempt to diffuse or evade a dangerous situation before resulting to lethal self-defense. Many civilians are unaware of how to rationally assess an actual threat, and their judgements are clouded by panic, anger, or bias.
Certainly, with Hendrix locked up in his home with his fiance on the phone with a 911 operator, this confused elderly man did not pose enough of a threat to warrant death. This is only one in a string of increasing ‘self-defense’ murders that could have been avoided. I ask that Georgia’s ‘stand your ground’ legislation be repealed immediately to prevent further unnecessary deaths.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jonathunder via WikiMedia Commons