A Florida man who killed two neighbors and injured another on Labor Day has invoked Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, as well the “Bush Doctrine” as his defense for the crime.
44-year-old William T. Woodward of Titusville, Fla., says that his neighbors have harassed his family in the past, and regardless of the fact that he was the one who confronted them, the shooting can be justified as self-defense. Woodward’s attorneys say that he had been the target of threats made by those neighbors, and was exercising his rights under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to defend himself.
According to police reports, Woodward snuck up on his neighbors at a Labor Day picnic and began to open fire, killing Roger Picior and Gary Lee Hembree. The third man, Bruce Timothy Blake, was shot 11 times but miraculously survived. Woodward’s attorneys claim that in the hours before the shooting, the three victims allegedly yelled at the defendant and said they were going to “get him.”
Woodward is also using the “Bush Doctrine,” a foreign policy principle put in place by the Bush administration to explain the U.S. invasion of Iraq through “pre-emptive” measures, as a defense for his actions. Woodward and his attorneys argue that what he did was preventive, going along with what the Bush administration did in Iraq.
With Woodward citing both the “Bush Doctrine” and the “Stand Your Ground” law, it is unclear what his intentions were that night and whether or not the killings were justified.
Florida has recently been the center of much controversy surrounding the “Stand Your Ground” law. Last year, unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman in a Sanford neighborhood. According to Zimmerman, Martin was “suspicious looking” and when he was followed and eventually confronted, began to attack. Zimmerman was armed, and felt his life was in danger, so he pulled out his gun and shot him. The story received international attention due to the race-related nature of the incident, as well as Zimmerman’s use of the “Stand Your Ground” law. This past summer, Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges.
It is not clear whether Woodward has any chance of successfully using both “Stand Your Ground” and the “Bush Doctrine” as defense for his actions due to the circumstances of the situation.