Rainbow PUSH Coalition Sues Georgia Over 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Nov 1, 2013

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition filed a federal lawsuit today challenging Georgia’s “stand your ground" law.

Such laws received national attention after the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Georgia’s law was passed in 2006. It says, "A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force; however, except as provided in Code Section 16-3-23, a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

Reverend Jesse Jackson says the law is arbitrary and inconsistent, especially for those of color.

Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

“There is a racial component in its application. We saw it in Florida. We see it in Georgia.”

Those filing suit also include the family of Christopher Johnson. Johnson who was African American was shot last March at a bar in Newnan by Adam Lee Edmondson after getting into an altercation. Johnson’s Attorneys say Edmonson, who is white, was acquitted after using the stand your ground law in his defense.

Attorney Christopher Stewart represents Johnson’s family.

“He didn’t have a weapon. He was shot at a bar, not during a fight. The confrontation, the argument had been broken up. He was killed in cold, blood.”

Convicted murderer Herman Smith is also challenging the law. Smith is a 21-year-old African American who was convicted of murder after killing another African American male during a birthday party in Bowden, Georgia. Attorney Harry Daniels represents Smith and says he was convicted despite acting in self-defense.

“Even the law enforcement when they spoke about it and talked about it in court, when asked the questions, that they agree they would also take the position of defending themselves.”

But supporters of the law say it’s needed to help them defend themselves in dangerous situations. In July,  following the George Zimmerman verdict,  Governor Nathan Deal defended Georgia’s law and says the issue is likely to come up again during the upcoming legislative session.

“I do not see any reason to change it, but there again that is the will of the general assembly that will prevail on that issue.”

The Georgia Attorney General’s office declined to comment.