A man in Florida who snuck up on his neighbors at a barbecue, killing two of them and attempting to kill a third who survived despite being shot 11 times, has cited Florida's Stand Your Ground Law and the "Bush Doctrine" as his defense. How? By saying he was simply preemptively protecting himself from the three, who said they were going to "get him."
This would almost be hilarious if two people weren't dead.
The motion references Enoch V. State, which states that an "imminent" threat can include something likely to occur in the future. It is unclear where on the scale from "not threatening at all" to "extremely threatening" the neighbors were — though the defendant, William T. Woodward, indicates that had been calling him names in addition to saying they were going to "get him" — but it's difficult to imagine a situation in which a preemptive attack on a neighbor would be more logical, or more legal, than just calling the police.
A video of Woodward's defense is below:
Regardless of how you feel about the Bush Doctrine — which theoretically justifies preemptive attacks for national preservation — it is an international treaty. There is no international police that can protect your interests for you should you feel threatened — your military is your police. Within our borders things happen to run a little bit differently.
His attorney, on the other hand, just thinks it's all a matter of perspective.
"I think legally that term has sort of been evolving especially given changes of our government's definition of 'imminent,'" attorney Robert Berry, who is representing Woodward, told Florida Today. "It's become more expansive than someone putting a gun right to your head. It's things that could become, you know, an immediate threat."
Weeks before the shooting, the neighbors attempted unsuccessfully to file "repeat violence" injunctions on each other. In an audio recording obtained by WFTV, Woodward admits he lacks self-control and told the judge he was a war veteran being treated for psychiatric problems.
"They start to insult me, and being — I don't control my anger very well with my disability. I engage in a fight," Woodward said.
The judge refused to grant the injunction, saying that he could not grant one without two separate instances of acts of violence, but told him the refusal didn't "mean that's a license to behave like an idiot."
If Woodward is legitimately suffering from mental problems, a second huge disappointment — after, obviously, two people losing their lives — is that this man will not receive a mental health defense, and will instead receive a half-baked defense citing a war doctrine and a self-defense law that has stirred an incredible amount of controversy over the last year.
Both out of respect for the lives that were lost and out of concern for this clearly troubled man's inevitable conviction, this defense is truly a tragedy.