Friday, July 12, 2013

Stand Your Ground: Martin and Zimmerman

I haven't been following the trial that closely, but when the shooting first reached national attention, I did have a question immediately pop into my head: If Trayvon Martin had killed George Zimmerman (instead of the other way around), would he have been innocent of murder under the stand your ground law in Florida? This is not a question about race or perception, but about how the stand your ground law in Florida actually works. In other words, is it now perfectly legal in Florida for two people to get into an altercation, both feel threatened, and then one kill the other?

Consider this scenario: George Zimmerman sees Trayvon Martin walking through his neighborhood in the middle of the night. Zimmerman thinks that Martin looks suspicious and decides to follow him. Martin, on his cellphone with his girlfriend, spots Zimmerman following him. He starts to walk faster. Zimmerman speeds up also and closes on Martin to stop and question him. Martin, fearing for his safety (maybe he thinks he sees a gun), suddenly turns and attacks Zimmerman. He gets Zimmerman on the ground and starts bashing his head in against the pavement. (I know that these facts are being disputed in the trial, but for the moment, let's give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt). If Martin goes on to kill Zimmerman in this scenario, is he innocent of murder? And if Zimmerman manages to get his gun out and kill Martin, is he innocent of murder? It sounds like the latter is true since the trial seems to hinge on who was on top and who was yelling for help when Martin and Zimmerman were on the ground fighting.

In a state without a stand your ground law, the killer could be found culpable if he could have avoided the situation altogether. In Florida, not so much. Guess I'm going to have be on my toes when I'm in Florida next.

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