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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Florida Stand Your Ground: 5 Key Points

5 Teachable Moments for future Journalism students from the current debate on Florida's Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law
Earl Moultrie, Spent  a year in Jail but released  under SYG

I hope we educate our students, particularly the ones who will go on to pursue Journalism careers,  to tell the truth and cover all sides of stories and to not be biased -and to not engage in selective coverage/non coverage of important stories for ideological reasons.  A current, real life example is the debate surrounding the Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law in Florida.  But there is more to SYG than what national media is covering..

The media is currently all over the protests raging in Tallahassee featuring Al Sharpton and others calling on lawmakers to repeal SYG.  There are countless reports on Trayvon Martin and more recently Jordan Davis, two Florida youths who were killed. These cases were both tragedies that should not have happened.

Teachable moment #1 for students-avoid confrontations when you can, and avoid violence.  

  In the Trayvon Martin case, SYG was not even used as a defense-that case was a self-defense case!  But the media wanted it to be about SYG-so they effectively created that spin on the story.   More recently, in the Jordan Davis case,  SYG was asserted as a defense but it was rejected by the court.
But what about Earl Moultrie, above?

The facts of his case, as laid out in the judge's final order (below), describe a situation where Mr. Earl Moultrie tried to de-escalate a situation when he and his wife and family were verbally assaulted and confronted in their own front yard by alleged gang members who told them they would kill his whole family; when rushed by several of these individuals, including one man with a knife, Moultrie defended himself.

This unfortunate incident resulted in one man's death, another man being wounded, and Mr. Moultrie spending a year in jail, charged with murder. Moultrie shot the two men in his yard,  Jose Joya and Landi Benitez, in legitimate self-defense, according to a judge, (see order below) and he still had to spend nearly a year in jail!

Teachable moment #2 for all future Journalism students----That's the story-an innocent man was jailed for a year but ultimately freed under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law!  

The national media refuses to cover this story because it does not fit the narrative of what they want the SYG story to be! But an innocent man was freed after spending a year in jail-because SYG Is a law on the books!
Moultrie was recently released, with very little fanfare and ZERO national media coverage, when a judge ruled that

 "The Court concludes that a reasonably prudent person in those same circumstances and with the same knowledge would have used the force Defendant used.  Consequently, Defendant's motion to dismiss should be granted."

Teachable moment #3, Florida SYG allows for defendant to recuperate the costs associated with his/her 

incarceration if he/she is deemed immune from prosecution under SYG.  When that figure is tallied in this case, that will make an interesting story ----along with an exploration of the motivation behind WHY this individual was charged and incarcerated so long when he was apparently innocent.

Teachable moment #4 don't be biased.  

The national mainstream media is biased; They want SYG repealed and they want certain cases to be the standard bearers for this cause-even where SYG doesn't apply;  and they will not cover this case, the Moultrie case, because it does not fit their worldview.  To them, SYG is horrible and results exclusively  in the deaths of innocent  youth.

The Moultrie case presents a different and compelling angle the national media  do not want to cover-that SYG actually saved this  man from going to jail and spending a lot of time there--- even though he was innocent!
Teachable Moment #5-Read the source documents and base your story on facts, not ideology.
Read the Judge's order  below, read the witness testimony in this case:

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