Stand Your Ground Laws Draw National Scrutiny - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Stand Your Ground Laws Draw National Scrutiny

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Four days after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin, the discussion continues on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.

Thirty states have laws that are similar to the "Stand Your Ground" law including Nevada. The state law gives citizens the right to use deadly force in self-defense with no obligation to retreat or back down. But laws like this are drawing scrutiny around the country, including from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder said.

Washoe County Assistant District Attorney John Helzer says Holder's statements don't matter in Nevada because these are state laws.

"I think that this is something that if there's a case that goes to our supreme court, that merits maybe a review of the statute, that's where it should occur," Helzer said.

Nevada's law has been on the books for more than 140 years.

In part, NRS 200.120 defines "justifiable homicide" as the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of habitation, property or person. It goes on to say a person is not required to retreat before using deadly force if the person is not the original aggressor, has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used, and is not actively engaged in criminal activity at the time.

The law was re-affirmed in the 1990 murder case of Culverson vs. the State of Nevada after the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

"They had an individual who was charged and the instruction from the district court to the jury indicated that the individual had a duty to retreat before he exercised or used deadly force. Our supreme court came back and said "no he does not."

While the fallout of George Zimmerman's acquittal is drawing scrutiny of Florida's law, Helzer says Nevada's law is very narrow and is not seeing any protests.

"I think our statutes and the interpretations of that statute by our supreme court recognize that in certain circumstances, it is valid to stand your ground to protect yourself and your family," Helzer said.

People we talked to have different opinions on the stand your ground law.

"It's self-defense and it's the law of the land," Pete Jones said. "It's been there forever, since we've been a country. So, you have the right to defend yourself."

"I think if you can get away from a fight, then you should get away from it," Bob Huff said. "There's no reason to have a confrontational situation. I think the laws promote that type of thing."

Nevada's law has been tested several times in the state's history, and the Supreme Court has been consistent in rulings involving these self-defense cases.

Written Paul Nelson
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