Renisha McBride was just 19 years old. She was all alone in an unfamiliar -- but safe -- neighborhood in Detroit late at night, and she needed help after a car accident. She did what many of us wouldn't think twice about doing and rang the doorbell of someone's house, expecting that person to let her use his telephone, maybe, or offer any assistance he could. But Renisha was African American and her accident had occurred in a predominantly Caucasian community. Instead of letting her in or at least listening to what the young woman had to say, the homeowner panicked, assumed she was an intruder, and shot her dead on his porch. And the shooter may get off scot-free, thanks to a pretty vague law.
The Stand Your Ground law gives people the right to kill if they feel threatened in a dangerous situation. The person has no duty to retreat first, particularly if he or she feels the home is being attacked, which I assume is what the shooter in Renisha's case will claim.
The most famous recent case that made many a mention of this self-defense law was, of course, that involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was found innocent because it was believed that he felt his life was in danger and killed Trayvon to protect himself. The law also came up when one woman, who fired warning shots at her abusive husband but did not kill anyone, tried to use it as part of her defense but was instead sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The way this law is interpreted has everything to do with whether or not it flies in a court of law, which is a big part of the problem with it. How can we objectively judge whether the homeowner in this case felt threatened? While I may think it's insane and ridiculous and obvious that the woman posed no threat -- she rang the doorbell, after all, and if the homeowner had just given her a few minutes to explain herself, he would have probably been able to tell right away that she was in distress -- it was after 2 a.m. The homeowner may have been alone in the house -- we don't know the details yet -- or may have dealt with home intrusions in the past.
All of those details can be used to justify why a person feels threatened. But that's just not good enough.
A young woman is dead for seeking help. And before one single shot was fired, the shooter had a responsibility, as a human being, to either answer the door and give her a chance or not answer the door and call 911 if he or she felt threatened.
Do you think the homeowner should be charged for shooting Renisha McBride?
Image via Neosnaps/Flickr