Outraged by Martin verdict? Get on the bus on August 7

Dr. Anne Sulton, Esq.

By Dr. Anne Sulton, Esq.

JA Senior International Correspondent

Millions of Americans are outraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of six women of murdering Trayvon Martin by arguing that he was standing his ground or acting in self-defense.

Over a million people have signed the NAACP petition designed to pressure the Federal government to prosecute Zimmerman under Federal civil rights laws. Rev. Al Sharpton and others are calling for vigils at Federal courthouses this weekend.

The “stand your ground” and “self-defense” doctrines have ample support in American jurisprudence. These are not new legal concepts. See for example Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550 (1895).

Since 2005, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has successfully promoted adoption of “stand your ground” legislation. More than 20 States have passed this legislation using ALEC’s proposed model language, including but not limited to Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Montana, New Hampshire and Utah.

According to its website, ALEC is a non-profit organization that provides a “forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state level public policy issues.”

ALEC enjoys a reputation of being among the nation’s most successful organizations  in shaping legislation at the State level. According to its website, each year nearly 1,000 bills are introduced that are based in whole or in part on ALEC Model Legislation.

ALEC’s work in the crime control field is not limited to proposing “stand your ground” legislation. It also promotes States’ use of private prisons, which reportedly resulted in private businesses reaping billions of dollars in State and Federal contracts to operate adult and juvenile prisons and other detention facilities.

In recent months, ALEC has tried to distance itself from the “stand your ground” legislation it successfully promoted. Apparently, ALEC did not foresee some of the unanticipated consequences of this proposed legislation.

Obviously, ALEC failed to understand and appreciate the multi-faceted nature and dynamic interplay of the still lingering effects of institutionalized racial discrimination, differential enforcement of criminal laws based upon socio-economic status, and public perceptions of the often inexplicable variations in the applications of criminal law to members of diverse demographic populations.

In other words, ALEC’s proposed “stand your ground” legislation failed to acknowledge that the playing field is not level, particularly when one is playing in the field of criminal justice.

ALEC’s error is understandable given that it often works in the vacuum of an ideology that some consider conservative and/or far right of center.

However, ALEC members, like many other Americans, including those adhering to liberal left or center political ideologies, are concerned about victim rights, crime, and punishment. These are important State government level issues.

Acknowledging the many tragedies occurring since the adoption of ALEC’s flawed proposed “stand your ground” legislation, the Jackson Advocate Newspaper is joining Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes in organizing a bus trip from Jackson to Chicago on August 7, 2013.

The primary purpose of this bus trip is to attend ALEC’s 40th Annual Meeting in Chicago to determine how the “stand your ground” laws can be repealed.

ALEC’s convention is scheduled to be held from August 7 to 9, 2013. The Palmer House Hilton is the selected hotel. Among the featured speakers is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

During an exclusive interview with Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes, he stated: “We will be asking ALEC to help us repeal and dismantle these ‘stand your ground’ laws that polarized our communities, resulted in unnecessary deaths, and not reduced crime.”

Alice Tisdale, Publisher of the Jackson Advocate, explained: “Chicago provides a great venue to discuss crime control issues with ALEC and others concerned about the staggering amount of gun violence occurring in Chicago, Jackson and other major cities since the beginning of 2013.”

For additional information on joining the Jackson Advocate and Kenneth Stokes for the bus ride to Chicago or meeting them at the ALEC conference in Chicago, please call the Jackson Advocate at 601-948-4122 or email thejacksonadvocate@gmail.com.