Local Justice?

New Sanford, Fla., Case Asks, Just When Can You Stand Your Ground?

Does the Sanford, Fla., law look kindly on white guys, or just white guys with guns?

If he had simply shot his roommate during an argument over puppies, Warren Stakes could have cited Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law and told the Sanford police he had been in fear of death or serious injury.

Then Stakes might very well have escaped arrest, just as George Zimmerman has so far in Sanford after he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Stakes would have needed only announce that he had been defending himself as the law in Florida and 20 other states allows.

Butwhen he arrived home to discover his roommate had brought in a litter of puppies without consulting with him, instead of firing a pistol, Stakes slammed a door and uttered verbal threats to express his displeasure.

At least that is what the roommate said when he summoned the cops to their Sanford home on the evening of March 13. The roommate is said to have further advised police that Stakes’s threats carried the added weight of somebody who owns guns.

Unlike the February 22 incident, where Zimmerman actually used a gun to kill Trayvon Martin, Stakes did not even reach for a gun. Stakes could hardly contend that he had shot somebody out of self defense because he had not shot anybody at all.

And unlike in the Zimmerman case, the cops immediately arrested Stakes, charging him with “simple assault intent–threat to do violence.”

Stakes was duly fingerprinted and made to pose for a mugshot, as Zimmerman still has not in connection with the Martin shooting. To underscore the full gravity of the Stakes case, the police report noted that he did more than simply slam the door; he broke it.

At the Seminole County Court, the Stakes case was recorded as Number 52012mm00266A. Bail was set at $301.50 and posted by Susan Prophet–Carol Wheeler Bail Bonds. Stakes is due back in court on April 2 for arraignment before Judge Frederic Schott. He could not be reached for comment.

Stakes might well have saved himself the $301.50 and a lot of inconvenience if he had killed his roommate. He might even have gotten away with damaging the door, as the roommate would not have been able to accuse him of anything.

Of course, the police may have needed a little more convincing than in the Zimmerman case, for Stakes’ roommate is not a black teen. But standing your ground is standing your ground.

A concern that Sttand Your Ground might be used as a means to get away with avoidable homicide is why a majority of cops and prosecutors in Florida opposed the bill when it was brought before the legislature back in 2005. The opponents prominently included Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney for Seminole and Brevard counties.

Wolfinger’s concerns seemed to become reality with the Martin killing. The prosecutor nonetheless declined to order an arrest, deciding to turn the matter over to a grand jury to be convened on April 10. He was subsequently obliged to step down from the case altogether.

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Meanwhile, as thousands march through Sanford demanding Zimmerman’s arrest, Stakes is due back in court next month.