On September 2nd, Derek Flemming, a 43-year old married father of two young children was driving with his wife in Livingston County to pick up their kids when a pick-up truck nearly t-boned them as they drove down Grand River Avenue. Instead, the truck swerved and cut them off. The truck driver then slammed on his brakes and was clearly messing with Flemming. When they arrived at a stoplight, Flemming got out of his car and approached the truck which was being driven by Martin Edward Zale.
Zale then rolled down his window, pulled out a pistol, and shot Flemming, who was unarmed, in the face, murdering him in front of his wife.
We now learn that Zale will be hiding behind Michigan’s “stand your ground” law. Our law has been found to be almost identical to the Florida law that allowed George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin, to evade a murder conviction. I’ve written about our law before:
As Michigan Radio reports, Michigan has a similar law that is more like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law than any other state:
States that adopt “stand your ground” laws generally indicate a person has no duty to retreat if they feel unlawfully threatened by another individual, regardless of where the person is.
If you use deadly force against someone when you feel unlawfully threatened by them, you are protected under these state laws.
The Sunlight Foundation used an automated textual analysis to compare these laws in different states. The tool takes online texts and compares them for identical wording and phrasing.
Out of all the states who have original legislation for “stand your ground” laws online, Michigan was the most similar to Florida. […]
The Sunlight Foundation’s analysis found that after Florida passed its “stand your ground” law in 2005, a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “adopted its legislative language as one of the model bills it proposes to legislators across the country on behalf of its member associations, in this case the NRA.”
The law, enacted on July 26th, 2006 with immediate effect, is now Michigan Public Act 310.
ALEC’s influence in Michigan in putting this law on our books isn’t surprising. Eight of the bill’s cosponsors were ALEC members:
- Edward Gaffney
- Dave Hildenbrand (now a state Senator)
- Rick Jones (has since left ALEC)
- Bill Caul
- Tonya Schuitmaker
- Leon Drolet
- David B. Robertson
- David Farhat
This isn’t the first time Zale, who is being held without bond, has been involved in a road rage incident. When police arrested him, they found he had an outstanding warrant for an event that took place in 2008 when he struck another motorist after an altercation at a McDonald’s on Farmington Road in Livonia.
There were numerous witnesses to Flemming’s murder in addition to his widow who was only a few feet away. If he uses the “stand your ground” law to get away with the murder of an unarmed man who he was provoking in the first place, law and order will take on a drastically different meaning in Michigan and vigilantism will become the new norm.
Graphic by Chris Lozos