Friday, November 29, 2013

Conyers, Durbin, Cummings & Bicameral Members Request Justice Department Collect More Data on “Stand Your Ground” Laws

(DETROIT) – Today, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), along with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.),  Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice collect additional information on “Stand Your Ground” laws to fully document their disparate racial impacts in communities across the country.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “As the recent tragic shooting in Wayne County, Michigan demonstrated, the increasing prevalence of ‘stand your ground’ laws are having a negative impact on public safety. While some studies exist demonstrating how ‘stand your ground’ laws have a disproportionate impact on minority communities, it is important for the Department of Justice to collect the information necessary for us to better understand the impact of 'stand your ground' laws on the escalation of conflicts and the tragic use of firearms. This is an important opportunity for the Department and the FBI to work with the states to shed more light on this threat to public safety.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.): “More than half of all Americans live in states with ‘stand your ground’ laws on the books. We learned in a recent hearing I chaired that these laws have led to increased vence and wider racial disparities, but the federal government does not collect adequate data on these laws’ impact. That must change.”

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.): “The acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer and the proliferation of stand your ground laws across our nation have added fuel to the flames of racial profiling and discrimination. Getting states to collect and examine data regarding the impact of stand your ground laws in our communities will provide local leaders and advocates with the tools necessary to address the disparate and deadly outcomes that can arise from the expansion of these laws.”

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.): “Studies show that ‘stand your ground’ laws contribute to increases in homicides and exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The Department of Justice, however, has no comprehensive, accurate way of monitoring the impact of these laws on public safety and civil rights.  The steps we call for today will help the DOJ evaluate the impact of these laws.”

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio): “The use of ‘stand your ground’ laws by civilians and the application of the law by courts too often rely on decisions made by those with cultural biases. These prejudices often affect determination if one’s life was truly in danger, while also eliminating all responsibility by those invoking the law to retreat and peacefully end an incident. No individual in our country should live with the fear of death based on race or age, and no individual’s death should be justified because they had the appearance of guilt, rather than being proven to have done anything wrong.”

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.): “The use of a weapon to kill another human being is very rarely ‘justified’ in my mind, so I am joining with Senators and Congressmen requesting that more data be collected about the circumstances and sheer volume of killings that are ruled ‘justified’ under ‘stand your ground’ laws and how these laws have a disparate racial impact in our communities.”

In their letter today, the Members requested that the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report for “Justifiable Homicides” be amended to include data on the location of the homicide, whether it resulted in arrest or prosecution and the justification if not, and whether the basis for the finding of “justifiable homicide” was “stand your ground.”
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