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The ALEC Connection to Trayvon Martin Slaying

The law preventing Florida lawmakers from arresting Martin's killer was taken from model legislation pushed by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.
 
 
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Photo Credit: A.M. Stan

 

The legislation apparently preventing the successful prosecution of Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was reportedly adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as model legislation that the shadowy group has spent years promoting across the country -- with the help of their allies in the National Rifle Association.

Formed in 1973 by conservative activists including Paul Weyrich and state legislators like then-Illinois State Rep. Henry Hyde, ALEC has earned infamy throughout the progressive movement for its ability to promote model legislation favorable to its corporate funders through statehouses across the country.

Legal experts have noted that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law may prevent George Zimmerman from ever being successfully prosecuted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has claimed that he acted in self-defense, and court precedent indicates that the State has the heavy burden of disproving this in order to win a conviction.

Florida's statute on the use of force in self-defense is virtually identical to Section 1 of ALEC's Castle Doctrine Act model legislation as posted on the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). According to CMD, the model bill was adopted by ALEC's Civil Justice Task in August 2005 -- just a few short months after it passed the Florida legislature -- and approved by its board of directors the following month.

Since the 2005 passage of Florida's law, similar statutes have been passed in 16 other states. This was no accident. In a 2008 interview with NRA News, ALEC resident fellow Michael Hough explained how his organization works with the NRA to push similar legislation through its network of conservative state legislators:

 

HOUGH: We are a very pro-Second Amendment organization. In fact, last session, I'll get off-topic here real quick, but some of the things that we were pushing in states was the Castle Doctrine. We worked with the NRA on that, that's one of our model bills that we have states introduce. 

NRA got what it paid for. According to a 2002 report from Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the NRA is "a longtime funder of ALEC." The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that the gun lobby group was a "Vice-Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC's 2011 annual conference, and that an NRA operative was "the co-chair of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force for a number of years, until the Spring of 2011."

The language in Florida law which may protect Martin's killer from prosecution states:

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

The language is identical to ALEC's Castle Doctrine Act model legislation, which they have been working hand in hand with the NRA to pass across the country:

3. A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [other than their dwelling, residence, or vehicle] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

 
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