Letter: On “Stand Your Ground” In SC

In response to The Free Times writing about the Michael Juan Smith case I wrote a counter-opinion. This rebuttal is in no way a representation of the beliefs of all members of the University of South Carolina Students for Concealed Carry or the umbrella organization, but of my own. What…

In response to The Free Times writing about the Michael Juan Smith case I wrote a counter-opinion. This rebuttal is in no way a representation of the beliefs of all members of the University of South Carolina Students for Concealed Carry or the umbrella organization, but of my own.

What happened to Martha Childress in Five Points is a tragedy. No one deserves the pain and suffering that her and her family have endured. That is why crimes like this must stop.

I am not going to preach an end-all, be-all answer that will wipe away the crime of Five Points or even on campus. What I will tell you is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Crime will never be eradicated but it can be deterred. The first step in stopping crime is to stop making excuses for it.

Martha Childress’ lawyer, Joe McCulloch, responded to Michael Juan Smith’s attorney’s claim that his client was acting in self-defense under the “Stand Your Ground” law. SYG has been propelled into the limelight recently because of the George Zimmerman trial in which he was accused of murdering Trayvon Martin. The case itself never invoked the law at all, even though it clearly fell under it. So what is SYG other than a get out of jail free card?

“Stand Your Ground” in its simplest form means “that there is no duty to retreat when a person is assaulted in a place where he or she has a right to be.” If you are legally allowed to carry a firearm, not engaging in criminal activity, and have the right to be where you are then you have no duty under law to run away from someone attacking you. It does not mean you can instigate a fight. It does not mean you can retrieve a firearm after a fight. It does not mean you can carry a firearm illegally. It does not mean you can conduct a crime and then claim you were only acting in self-defense. In the simplest terms, Stand Your Ground means you can defend yourself to your max extent and choose to fight or flee, whichever is your best option.

Michael Juan Smith cannot claim self-defense under SYG. He is a 20-year-old felon with a stolen firearm. Those are three illegal descriptions of the situation. One of those things alone would negate his defense. Continuing on you can tell that he was involved in gang activity, that he escalated the use of force when no real threat existed and that he negligently discharged a firearm into a crowd of innocent bystanders. For those who have actually used SYG to save their lives that is an insult. A slimy attempt to avoid punishment by the criminal element.

That brings me to my next point. Stand Your Ground isn’t at fault, the gun is only an object and is not at fault, and obviously Miss Childress is not at fault. So who is? Quite simply, Michael Juan Smith is at fault – as is the entire criminal justice system.

Michael Juan Smith should have never been put back on the streets. His time in prison did nothing to rehabilitate him but instead maybe him a hardened criminal. If anything his time behind bars gave him the audacity to pull a stolen and loaded firearm into a crowd of people with dozens of officers nearby, and then pull the trigger. While there is no one to blame but himself for this heinous crime, there are non-innocents involved.

Shame on the solicitor that struck a deal with his lawyer in his previous case. Shame on the judge that accepted it. Shame on his family for not guiding him in the right direction after his release. Shame on his friends who were negative influences. Shame on the police who were too busy cracking down on underage drinking – a crime without a victim. Shame on the police chief who enforced these policies. Shame on the mayor for encouraging them. Shame on the voters who continue to elect those who do not care about your safety. Shame on those who make excuses for all of them. And most importantly, shame on Michael Juan Smith, because although you might be able to ride this dog and pony show with your lawyer making excuses for your own behavior it is you who chose to be a criminal that night and shatter the life of an innocent girl.

Self-defense is something that should be important to everyone. Your safety is yours and yours alone. To assume someone else is responsible for it is naive and dangerous. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, DeShaney v. Winnebago County, and the recent Virginia Supreme Court case that decided a school is not responsible for students’ safety are continuing proof that police, universities, and state agencies have no legal requirement to protect you. The police that patrol Five Points will not protect you from gang members. Their job is to show police presence and to write tickets for city revenue. The perception of safety is not the reality of safety.

With Five Points so close to campus it makes us wonder how long it will take for criminal enterprises to expand onto school property. These criminals have shown no fear in conducting felonious activities mere feet from cops in our own backyard. It is only a matter of time before they walk less than a mile and continue doing what they do so well. This is why USC Students for Concealed Carry has been covering this issue so heavily. It should be a warning that simply retreating from crime is not a viable solution anymore.

Would concealed carry have protected Martha Childress? No. She is not of age nor would it have protected her from a stray bullet. Unfortunately they is no one solution that would have protected her. This seems odd coming from a group that so many believe our only solution is “add more guns.” This organization has two fundamental beliefs that supersede concealed carry; student safety and responsible firearm use.

Student safety is the number one priority. Second comes responsible use of a firearm because irresponsible behavior and actions can lead to a threat to student safety. This appalling attack violated those two core beliefs in one fell swoop. A student was endangered by irresponsible firearm usage. More frightening is the fact that unless something is done this sort of crime can and will continue, possibly on campus.

Before I step off my soapbox I want to add an anecdote. By way of background, I am a USC alumnus and no longer live in South Carolina but continue to dedicate my spare time to helping USC students defend themselves in all ways possible. Last year while leaving my apartment complex I witnessed two homeless individuals get into a verbal altercation at which point the male party struck the female in the face and proceeded to strike her multiple times in the face as she curled up in a ball at his feet. I slammed on my brakes, jumped out of my car, and exerted the greatest self control in my life. I reached for my firearm, but did not draw it. Gripping it only in my hand I got his attention and told him to leave her alone, at which point he saw what I held and decided to run. Battered and bruised, the woman stayed in a ball and cried as the police came. Given her fear for retaliation she refused medical treatment and to press charges against her assailant, who I assume she knew. The p olice had thanked me for intervening and showing restraint in not escalating the situation, but showing the force required to diffuse the altercation. I never saw either of the two individuals again but I know I prevented further injury from being inflicted upon her.

Wrapping this up, I want to make a couple of appeals. To Smith’s public defender, drop this SYG claim. It only politicizes a case that does not need that attention. To Mr McCulloch, Stand Your Ground is not to blame. By doing so you are only politicizing this case. Both of you are distracting people from the actual crime that is taking place. And to the police and school administrators who refuse to take genuine action against crime, you only endanger more. Something must be done before it is too late.

Josh Cohen
Jacksonville, Florida

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TontoBubbaGoldstein November 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Well said!

CorruptionInColumbia November 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Excellent post, Josh!!!! Thank You for writing!

Hogg November 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Good sentiments, but the writing is horrible.

Josh November 1, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I was a CRJU major, not an English one. I apologize for my rambling but I had to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh after reading the Free Times

Frank Pytel November 2, 2013 at 3:28 am

Fair enough. At least you own it. Curious about FL. HQ thing?

notLindaBurke November 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The sentence “No one deserves the pain and suffering that her and her family have endured” is proof that you didn’t excel in English. If you’re trying make a persuasive argument in writing, it’s helpful to get the grammar right or you risk distracting readers. And it’s also helpful to limit your word count. Your letter is much too long to interest anyone except those who already agree with you..

The Colonel November 4, 2013 at 3:33 am

“The sentence “No one deserves the pain and suffering that her and her family have endured” is proof that you didn’t excel in English. If you’re trying (to?) make a persuasive argument in writing, it’s helpful to get the grammar right or you risk distracting readers. And (it is okay to start with a conjunction but in this sentence the “and” is unnecessary) it’s also helpful to limit your word count. Your letter is much too long to interest anyone except those who already agree with you..” (only one period needed)

While I’m on the roll, no one was interested in your grammar lesson – but thanks for playing!

notLindaBurke November 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm

“While I’m on the roll, …” ? I think you mean “While I’m on a roll, …”, Playah.

The Colonel November 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

No wench – the expression in my case has a naval reference, Canon were fired “…on the roll…” to ensure they were fired from the highest elevation, thus ensuring damage to the rigging. Continuing in that theme, I have now taken the wind out of your sails so find something better to do than mess with your betters.

notLindaBurke November 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

This wench can see right through your bravado and isn’t impressed at all. Anyone who confuses “canon” with “cannon” )please see your own military history citation), is just full of it.
You probably do excel in the “wind” department, and I will grant you that.

The Colonel November 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Arrrgh, kiss my cannon. While you’re at it learn to use brackets – “Anyone who confuses “canon” with “cannon” )please see your own military history citation), …”

notLindaBurke November 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Kiss your cannon? Dream on, little man. And please do learn the difference between parentheses and brackets.

The Colonel November 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I know them well and if you were half as clever as you thought you were you would know that {, [ and ( are all part of “bracketing punctuation”.

notLindaBurke November 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm

And once again you prove that precision is not your thing. Guess that’s you in the pic next to the W.C Fields quote “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle with them with bull s**t.”

Josh November 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I’m sorry that I had to write such a long response to properly explain my position. I understand in today’s tweet and hashtag world we expect things to be short and simple. Unfortunately the real world isn’t like that. It takes a long time to fix something properly and it might take more than you’d like. There’s an old Army adage that goes “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” I suggest that since you cannot lead and have refused to follow, that you get out of the way and stop commenting on grammar. You missed the point.

notLindaBurke November 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Nope. I got your point and I stand by my earlier comment. As for my leadership, you have no idea at all what I’ve done and what i’m capable of doing. You, on the other hand, have clearly demonstrated that you can’t lead with words and my guess is that you can only rely on more primitive methods of persuasion. Must suck to be you.

SCBlues November 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Josh – you did fine – so what if there were a couple of grammatical errors – at least you took the time and energy to make some really great points and you signed your name to it as well – you owned it. Some folks on here live to find fault with something – keep up the good work.

that guy November 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

good job josh

coolhandluke November 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Just four responded? It appears the many liberals who post on FITSNEWS daily do not agree with Josh Cohen and that’s not surprising. Columbia, with its gangs, high crime rates, needs to quickly follow New York city’s lead and adopt a “stop & frisk” law or this shit will just continue.

Josh November 1, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Unfortunately I have to disagree with you on that. Fear and panic should not drive policy, and that is what Stop and Frisk does. Policies like Stop and Frisk are intended to target those who fit a certain profile, but as we’ve seen in the State Fair “camo incident” these things end up affecting average citizens.

I’ve been to New York City under Ray Kelley’s police state. Do you feel safe knowing there are cops everywhere carrying AR-15’s that can stop you à la the Gestapo? No. You don’t.

Stop and Frisk would not make Five Points safer for the very reason 20, 30, or even 500 cops wouldn’t make it safer. Their goal isn’t to protect anyone, it is to give out tickets and bring in revenue for the city. Columbia PD are not properly trained, nor do they particularly have the desire to confront a possibly armed thug. An implementation of Stop and Frisk would more than likely just lead to an increase in targeting of college students who aren’t a threat.

The only way to properly change things is to change the leadership in Columbia and replace their ticketing doctrine with an actual protect and serve one. Any officer who claims to take his oath seriously is a liar, and I will say that to his face. Any officer who was in Five Points the night that Martha Childress was shot could have prevented it if they had done their job. But they didn’t, and now a young woman is paralyzed.

I don’t believe in any law that would sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety. You do not need to lose one to gain the other.

Wfeather1942 November 2, 2013 at 7:12 am

2012 Stop & Frisk, 532,311 Terry stops as they are called, 55.8% redulted in frisks, only 2% of the 55.8% resulted in finding a weapon of ANY TYPE!

You do realize that is only 5,941 bad guys had a weapon of ANY TYPE!

You do realize that knives were found about 50% of the time, so reality is closer to 2,720 bad guys had a gun!

Since criminals only used a weapon in 25.8% of the violent crimes they committed, and only fire the gun 85% of the time one is used, and only manage at best to hit their target 15% of the time, all as per USDOJ & Police firearm discharge reports, care to explain exactly how many injuries were prevented by these, lets calculate!

2,720 x 25.8% = 766 bad guys used a gun

766 x 15% = number of times they fired a shot = 115

115 x 15% = # of times shot hit their target = 17 injuries prevented

Wow, so since we see CDC data shows 1 death for every 7 total injuries from violent crimes, that is 2 deaths and 15 injuries prevented.

But wait, all those police firearm discharge reports and USDOJ studies show that 80% of the time, it is criminals shooting another criminal during criminal activity. So who really gives a schiite about criminals shooting criminals, I dont!

So reality is 20% of those injuries are of innocents, so 3.4 total injuries prevented by the 36,000 cops in NYC, wow how unimpressive.

Since there are 1 million cops in the US, that would equal 94.4 total injuries prevented by cops doing Terry stops, hmmm.

How is that better than the 9,225 murders prevented and over 54,000 injuries prevented by law abiding citizens defending themselves with firearms in 2010 as per government data?

How much in taxes will be needed to have the 1 mil police commit over 14.1 mil Terry stops in the US eh (14.1 per cop average in 2012 NYC)?

Since cops are 11 times more likely to shoot someone accidently, which is the most effective method of protecting the innocents, allowing them to be armed and defend themselves, as police are not legally liable to protect the individual as per dozens of court rulings, and they only manage to solve 8.06% of all violent crimes on average!

Only a fool would promote Terry stops as a tool for police reduction of violent crime, unless you are a died in the wool police state loving kommie!

USC Student November 2, 2013 at 12:18 am

Josh, excellent write up. There are countless people in the city that agree with you but don’t have an outlet to express it like you have.

Well done.

Melanie Deisla November 2, 2013 at 2:50 am

I don’t care about public opinion, I’d rather see dead thugs than dead law abiding citizens. That would probably mean less Democratic voters too.

SCBlues November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Oh here we go . . . of course . . . all Democratic voters are thugs – or all thugs are Democratic voters. Is it both, Ms Deisla? Care to share where you get your information to back up this claim?

Mr. Acorn November 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Death hinders not Democrat voters.

Wfeather1942 November 3, 2013 at 3:36 am

LOL, just look at Chicagostan!

Ass Blow November 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Wonderful comment, but the delusional liberals on here
refuse to hear the “down to the bone truth”.
I have a saying “sometimes the truth doesn’t come with novacane”.

SCBlues November 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

If you are going to use those big words you might want to learn how to spell them first . . .

The Colonel November 2, 2013 at 6:17 am

Just stumbled across a magazine called Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture – The July 2102 issue has several excellent articles on the history and modern application of “stand your ground”. Well worth the read if you want to do more than just throw talking points about SYG.

shifty henry November 2, 2013 at 6:38 am

—– if I live that long

Roberto November 2, 2013 at 8:39 am

The Zimmerman case most definitely was NOT SYG. That was made up by the press. If someone is sitting on your chest pounding your head into the sidewalk, that is self defense. SYG is an extension of self defense.

nitrat November 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

SYG changes the legal definition of self defense. That new definition WAS a part of the Zimmerman trial and the judge addressed that definition.
SYG subverts the judicial system and allows cops and/or prosecutors to decide whether to bring charges so that a questionable case cannot be decided by a judge and jury.
I don’t understand why that doesn’t worry people more than it does; why they are willing to give up that day in court when someone shots their family member and hand over those decisions to politician sheriffs and prosecutors.
BTW, Trayvon Martin was standing his ground against an armed aggressor who got out of his vehicle and tracked him down. Or, is SYG only applicable for those who are carrying a gun?

Raconteur Duck November 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

Your self induced and maintained ignorance is astounding. Congratulations, your misunderstanding of SYG reached a standard only seen in fools.

jack burton November 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

nitrat is little different from a flat earther. No amount of facts will change his mind about his reality between his ears.

Wfeather1942 November 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

So prove it subverts the judicial system, prove that the case wasnt reviewed by the District Attorney before or after SYG existed for validation of a prosecutable charge.

Oh wait, the District Attorney still does that, hmmmm!

Oh wait, the problem nitrat has is that political bias cant be used by the District Attorney now to arbitrarily punish a person who first doesnt ask the gooberment for permission to defend themselves.

The other problem nitrat has is that his komrades in crime can no longer make money off of suing those whom they attack who then defended themselves!

Funny how the District Attorney still has to determine that the act of self defense, was indeed self defense as per the criteria, which did not change one bit, between the law prior to SYG or after SYG.

nitrat claims just invoking SYG is a get out of jail free card, and it has no proof to substantiate its lie!

Funny, the law of self defense quite simply states, that in order for ANY version of self defense to be justified, the person must have VERBALLY accossted you, geez, zimmerman never spoke to martin. Then martin would have to prove that zimmerman waved or threaten by physcial motions or gestures, geez, zimmerman didnt do that either. Then martin would have to prove zimmerman brandished a weapon at martin, no evidence of that either. Then the final kicker, when zimmerman lost sight of martin, who had made it back to the house where he was staying, doubled back to confront zimmerman, he then under Florida State Statute 784, committed felony aggravated assault as once the person martin claims to be threatening him, which by all eviudence never occured, martin then became the aggressor hence there is absolutely no legal justifiable arguement that martin was standing his ground as only a 3rd grade moron would believe that!

nitrat cant prove otherwise no matter how loudly it squeals, stomps its feet, wails, insults, curses, demonizes those and that which it cant disprove!

Of course nitrat can prove all SYG claims were therefore all innocent, really, then how were 44 rejected and prosecuted as murders, 75 validated, and 15 stil pending review as of 8/10/2013 eh, what a dweeb! http //www tampabay com/stand-your-ground-law/fatal-cases

anon. November 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

I agree!

Guest November 2, 2013 at 11:15 am

Too much many words

Josh November 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Too little less grammar

SCBlues November 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Does time in prison “rehabilitate” people? I doubt prison rehabilitates most.

CorruptionInColumbia November 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm

In the modern day form, probably very few. Maybe enough to count on the fingers of one hand or two, on a good day or in a good year. The only good thing about prison is that it keeps the criminals separated from the rest of us while they are in there.

The bad thing is that the sentences are so ridiculously short for so many crimes, the “good” gained by keeping them from committing new crimes and claiming new victims becomes negligible.

SCBlues November 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I agree CIC – especially the part about keeping the criminals separated from us while they are there. I would like to see some real reform happen to our courts and our prisons. I do not feel that some of the harsh sentences for non-violent offenders – especially for simple drug possession – are valid or meaningful. At the same time I’d like to see the sentences for all violent crimes to be ramped up.

CorruptionInColumbia November 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Fully agree!

SCBlues November 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Wow – I am happy that we have found some common ground! Wouldn’t it be nice if they could do that in DC?!?

ElwoodBlues November 8, 2013 at 6:35 am

Chain gangs, and the death penalty more active. Time to clear out the over crowding…. Take away the televisions…. period. Close the SCDC training academy and send everyone through the SCCJA. Time to turn on the lights and clean out the house.

Ass Blow November 2, 2013 at 10:33 pm

You are the most stupid black fucker in world. For niggers there is no rehabilitation. You cannot take the fucking ape out of a monkey.

ElwoodBlues November 8, 2013 at 6:33 am

No because the state won’t spend money on hardly anything other than making sure the inmates get their GED. They don’t properly equip the Corrections Officers either. Prison needs to be a place people dread. The inmates need to be made to work HARD from sun up till sun down and I don’t mean in “Prison Industries” where they make minimum wage. SCDC likes to brag how they run the cheapest prison system in the free world, they also have a high rate of recidivism because it’s basically a big “activity camp” for men. For too long the South Carolina Prison System has been ran from the top as one big joke. Looks like now we’re realizing the jokes’ on us.

nitrat November 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm
Texas A & M has done a study and murder/manslaughter has increased 7-9% – 600 more deaths a year – in the states with SYG since they implemented it.

Was that the purpose?

Has the funeral home lobby been behind ALEC’s promotion of SYG as much as the NRA gun manufacturers lobby?

CorruptionInColumbia November 2, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Were the deaths armed robbers, home invaders, people with felonious assault on their minds? If so, how is this in any way a “bad thing”?

Ass Blow November 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Truth be told it’s these stupid ass niggers running wild on the fucking streets causing the problem. Sure some blacks will pretend to side with you but at the end of the fucking day they will always side with their fucking kind. Too bad there was no CWP carrier around to kill this useless piece of shit! The motherfuckers got their freedom and never made it past the fucking plantation fence. FUCK YOU ALL!!!!!

Chris_803 November 3, 2013 at 11:35 am

I’m not going to address most of your post as I do not agree with it – but I will say one thing that people need to hear and understand:

Concealed Carry will do little, if anything, to ever help in Five Points.

Why? Because in SC you cannot carry in an establishment that serves alcohol. I would venture to guess that if you are in Five Point after hours you are most likely going to step foot in a place that serves alcohol (OK….99.5% of the people in Five Points after hours). If they were to produce a firearm and defend anyone they would be in jail faster than the criminal.

Chris_803 November 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

I would ask of those that still say “The Police are there to protect you,” please research Warren v. District of Columbia. The details are out there, no need to recap – but the District Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement has no obligation or responsibility to protect ordinary citizens. Even on a good day the police are reactionary – an “after the fact” force. Now the courts are ruling they do not have a need to stop a crime in progress. The citizens of our nation were well aware of that up until the last couple decades. It is YOUR obligation to protect yourself and your family, and to do so in a legal, responsible way. Additional gun laws will not help. As Josh points out, no less than 3 laws were already broken that night by someone with a criminal history – and he didn’t mention a parole violation. So someone breaking no less than 4 laws is goign to be deterred by that magical 5th law? Really? Thanks Josh for standing up for the rights of law abiding citizens.


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