The similarities to the Trayvon Martin shooting are striking: A black man and a Hispanic have a confrontation that results in a deadly shooting. One man is unarmed. The shooter claims self-defense and, because his state has passed a “Stand Your Ground” law, a month goes by with no arrest.

But there are differences as well: The setting was a Phoenix parking lot, the armed shooter was African American, and the unarmed victim was Hispanic. There are also differences in the police reports. The Phoenix report records statements by the shooter, Cordell Jude, and describes the results of the investigation at the scene; the Trayvon Martin case does not.

Shooting victim Daniel Adkins Jr. was mentally disabled and lived with his parents. Every evening he walked the family’s dog. On April 3, Adkins walked in front of a car in a Taco Bell parking lot. Jude slammed on his brakes and shouted an obscenity at Adkins, who, according to Jude, swung a bat or pipe at the door on the driver’s side. Jude grabbed his revolver, loaded it, and shot Adkins, who, according to Jude, was getting ready to swing again. Jude later said he was afraid but did not think Adkins was going to kill him or his pregnant girlfriend, who was also in the car.

The police report states that no bat, pipe, or other weapon was found at the scene, and there were no signs of impact on the car door. Jude explained that he didn’t drive off because the dog was in the way.

The officer at the scene recommended a second-degree murder charge, but no charges have been filed. A police spokesman later said that the case is under investigation.

The case once again shines a spotlight on the “stand your ground” laws passed in 21 states. Charles Heller, co-founder of Arizona Citizens Defense League, says these laws make police “think twice before charging someone” and help rein in “avaricious prosecutors” bent on “overdoing their jobs.”

Not everyone agrees, however. John Roman, from the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, says stand-your-ground laws prevent police from arresting and interviewing shooting suspects. Data from the Institute shows that homicides are twice as likely to be ruled justifiable in stand-your-ground states than in those without such laws.

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http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-05-27/stand-your-ground-law-trayvon-martin/55208980/1

Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is LET’s police report writing expert.