Stand Your Ground: The Case of Yoshi Hattori
Hattori was gunned down going to a Halloween party
The high-profile case of Trayvon Martin has focused attention on the states that have Stand Your Ground type laws. These laws allow ordinary citizens to use deadly force if they think that they are in IMMINENT danger. Martin was headed back to his house when self-appointed neighborhood watch Captain George Zimmerman followed, confronted and eventually shot the 17-year-old. Though this is a tragedy and has caused anger across the country, another case is just as egregious and should have us howling to repeal these laws.
Yoshi Hattori was the middle child of Japanese parents who was accepted as an exchange student in Baton Rouge, LA. He received a scholarship and was in the country about two months when he and his host brother were invited to a Halloween party to honor Japanese exchange students.
Yoshi dressed in a tuxedo as John Travolta in Saturday Night Live. He and his host brother, Webb Haymaker, drove to the party. When they arrived at the quiet neighborhood, they mistook the home of Rodney Peairs for the address where the party was being held. They knocked on the door, but no one answered. They started heading back to their car, when Peairs came out with a gun. He yelled, “Freeze,” but Yoshi, who was still learning English, turned and kept walking toward him. Peairs fired one shot into Yoshi’s heart, killing him instantly. Yoshi was 16.
Peairs did not call for help and stayed in his house for 40 minutes until police arrived. He then claimed that he thought that Yoshi and Haymaker were robbers and shot Yoshi because he kept advancing towards him. He was not arrested at the time, but pressure from the Governor of Louisiana and the Japanese Consul caused officials to indict him. However, Peairs was acquitted in state court. This was in 1992.
The case horrified people in Japan and caused an international outcry, but nothing changed. Now, we sit on a tinderbox of emotions and anger that I have not seen since the infamous Rodney King beating trial. These laws give ordinary citizens a right to kill based on their own fears and the courts seemed hand-tied to do anything about it.
Yoshi did not deserve to die and neither did Trayvon Martin. We need to work to repeal all stand your ground laws and leave policing our streets in the hands of the professionals.
Justice for Yoshi and Trayvon.