Trayvon Martin shooting and "stand your ground"
One of many articles on that shooting that ties it to "stand your ground" laws. I cannot see the connection. "Stand your ground" means that, if a person reasonably believes they are under lethal attack, they can defend, and the fact that fleeing was an option doesn't change that. From what I've seen, if media reports are accurate, the issue is that the shooter didn't have grounds to reasonably believe he was under lethal attack. If that's the case, you never get to the issue of no retreat requirement.
I don't know what to make of that case, though it does seem clear at least that Zimmerman (the shooter) made a very poor choice in pursuing Martin 1) just on the basis he looked suspicious, 2) when he had been specifically instructed not to do so by the 911 dispatcher, and 3) when there was no imminent threat to person or property.
Still, it does bother me that the fact Zimmerman was bleeding and appeared to have been beaten when found by police has sort of dropped out of the news narrative.
It is possible that Zimmerman verbally (unwisely) challenged Martin in some way, and was then attacked by Martin, and then shot Martin in a reasonable belief he is in danger of great bodily injury.
Unless you are willing to believe Zimmerman faked his injuries, the injuries make this case much less simple than the media is portraying it.
Posted by: Sertorius at March 22, 2012 09:48 AM
Yep, right now, we're hearing the story from the kid's family and attorney, with a lot of race-baiting. There's also a witness who reported Zimmerman being on his back with Martin on top of him and Zimmerman calling out for help. As for what the dispatcher said, the dispatcher did NOT say "don't follow him", the dispatcher said "we don't need you to do that" after asking if Zimmerman was following Martin (that's one of the distortions that's been made). As for an imminent threat to person or property, there had been a number of property crimes in the area and Zimmerman has claimed (IIRC) that he was trying to see where the suspicious person went so he could direct the police there.
Posted by: James at March 22, 2012 10:59 AM
Whether "no duty to retreat" applies depends on a lot of facts that we just don't have. I think we can all agree that Martin's race probably factored into Zimmerman's judgement that he was suspicious, and furthermore, we can probably all agree that Martin was probably just walking home, not "casing" houses.
Did Zimmerman make the best choice in following Martin? In hindsight, certainly not. But hindsight is 20/20. I can tell you, if I saw a suspicious person in my neighborhood, who I seriously believed was up to no good, and who I had called the cops on, there is a good chance that I wouldn't want to let them out of my sight either. The real question is not, "was it a bad idea to pursue Martin," but, "does it rise to a level of negligence or malice that negates the affirmative defense to the shooting?" IANAL, but my hunch would be no. Zimmerman was legally allowed to be on the street and to walk behind Martin, or what-have-you.
What about the confrontation? Does that rise to a level of negligence or malice that negates the affirmative defense? Well, is it in any way illegal to say, "Hey. Buddy. What are you doing here?" IANAL, but again, I think there's a strong argument that the answer is no. That's an acceptable behavior.
What it comes down to, to me, is who first initiated an action that was "outside the bounds" of normal, legal interaction. Everything that we know that Zimmerman did just seems really shitty to me. Racist overtones. And bad judgment too! But nothing that he actually did strikes me as sufficiently outside the bounds of normal, legal interactions to negate the affirmative defense.
What if Zimmerman approached Martin and ordered him not to leave or grabbed him and tried to detain him? Now, IMO, Zimmerman is guilty. What if Zimmerman approached Martin and asked him, "What are you doing here," and then Martin told him to fuck off and shoved him, resulting in an altercation that ended with Martin being shot. As much as I don't like it, I think the case there is a lot less clear.
Posted by: Joshua at March 22, 2012 11:56 AM
Zimmerman screwed up and now all gun owners are going to pay for it.
Posted by: Jim K at March 22, 2012 03:03 PM
Zimmerman used very bad judgment, Yes. What disturbs me is how the media stories and coverage on this case, and other cases, begin to flavor public and Gov't reaction. Presently the only thing missing in this Martin situation is a rope within the mob.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 23, 2012 06:14 AM
It seems to me that linking this case to the 'Stand your ground' law is just political opportunism. I can't see how chasing after someone, even if they were 'suspicious' and confronting them would trigger this. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a narrowed down bill appearing in Florida's legislature fairly quickly.
Posted by: NevadaSteve at March 23, 2012 08:07 AM
NevadaSteve: I don't think it's just opportunism. I think there is a valid worry that the law reduces the burden of responsibility that rests on a shooter. It looks like a shooter just has to say "I was scared" to absolve himself of responsibility. Whatever the facts in this case, in some other case, it could let a bad guy walk.
It has to be clear in the law that you are still be responsible for your bullet.
Posted by: SeaDrive at March 23, 2012 08:14 AM
Seadrive, that's simply not the case. Don't know where you got that idea, but nothing in Florida law - or any other state with "stand your ground" provisions - provides for that at all. The belief that one is being threatened with death or serious bodily injury must be reasonable.
Posted by: SPQR at March 23, 2012 09:32 AM
I think we can all agree that Martin's race probably factored into Zimmerman's judgement that he was suspicious....
As I recall not initially, he had no idea what Martin's race what when he first spotted him (at night in the rain). During the confrontation, of course....
SeaDrive: It's my understanding that Stand Your Ground just shifts the burden of proof (if it applies, which does not appear to be the case*). As a Reason article put it, prosecutors don't like it because it makes their job harder, they have to prove guilt vs. the shooter having to prove innocence. I for one am satisfied with that shift, especially since invoking it requires various conditions having to be met (you have a right to be there, you didn't initiate physical violence, etc.).
* According to the police report (titled "Offense Report") Zimmerman's nose and back of heard were injured and treated on the scene plus the back of his clothing was wet in a manner consistent with him having been on the wet ground.
Posted by: Harold at March 23, 2012 09:51 AM
Zimmerman lost the protection of the Stand Your Ground law when he got out of his truck. Tayvon was operating under the color of this law when he jumped the stranger who was approaching him since he was very probably alarmed.since Tayvon had no means of defense, he lost. Bye bye Zimmerman.
Posted by: Ceefour at March 23, 2012 12:54 PM
Blackstone's famous quote is that "it is better for ten guilty men to go free, than for one innocent man to sit in jail." This statement enjoys nearly universal support - until it comes time to let a guilty man go free.
Zimmerman benefits, not from "stand your ground" but from the rules of evidence. There are no witnesses to refute his claim that he gave up, turned around, and then got attacked by Martin on his way back to the car. It seems like BS to everyone - but we can't prove it.
Since the prosecutor has no evidence to indicate that Zimmerman couldn't (or wasn't) retreating at the time, the duty to retreat is not an issue.
Posted by: John at March 23, 2012 12:58 PM
With Florida's Stand Your Ground law, there is NO duty to retreat..to retreat just doesnot apply anymore but the "victim" here,Zimmerman can not us the law to his advantage if he is the aggressor and leaving his truck makes him the aggressor. Tayvon,if he is in a place in which he is allowed,and he is doing nothing illegally,becomes the victim and can strike out to protect himself.
Posted by: Ceefour at March 23, 2012 02:37 PM
Ceefour: since you witnessed the confrontation, when will you be offering your testimony to the court?
Posted by: Anon at March 23, 2012 02:40 PM
Curious as to why someone would make such a comment.Is there some kind of mental confusion over This law?? Of course I did not witness this but,once again,Zimmerman had to get out of his truck in order to come in contact with Trayvon otherwise there would have been no problem.This act negates the law for Zimmerman. Of course there is ALWAYS the possibility the Tayvon ran up to the moving truck causing it to stop so he could reach in and drag Zimmerman out and start beating upon him. There are witnesses who say they saw Trayvon on top of Zimmerman punching away. What say you anon,baby??
Posted by: Ceefour at March 23, 2012 05:25 PM
At any rate Zimmerman did something that just might result in the cancellation of most of the states concealed weapon licenses. This incident is going international and may be just the catalyst for our dear leader in DC to do the Bad Thing.NB..I used the term "most" cwl s. Police,active duty and retir3ed will still be able to carry....maybe.
Posted by: Ceefour at March 23, 2012 05:34 PM
"he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another."
If Zimmerman had no weapon drawn and did not attack first, Trayvon had no reason or legal grounds to attack, whether Zimmerman was out of his truck or inside of his truck. They both had the same legal rights to be where they were, no matter how much you say Zimmerman was the "stalker" or "aggressor" in this situation. As soon as Zimmerman produced a weapon or made threatening advances, sure, but following someone is not grounds to attack them, or believe they intend you great bodily harm. Seems to me that that specific precedent would be far worse than the typical application of the stand your ground law. Just imagine... "Oh, that person walked behind me for more than 50 yards, and I was sure they were going to kill me, so I turned around and beat the crap out of him!" defense! That is literally the defense your trying to give Trayvon through your comments.
If Zimmerman had his weapon drawn and Trayvon attacked, I'd say go go Darwin Awards.
If Zimmerman attacked, lost the upper hand and then shot, I could see that definitely as murder.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 23, 2012 06:05 PM
Following, observing, and reporting are all LEGAL acts. I've done it in my neighborhood both on foot and in a vehicle. The people saw me and left. I'm sure they weren't there to repair someone's refrigerator or attend a party because they didn't stop at anyone's house. Talking to a person who is on a public street is LEGAL too. You aren't even required to be polite. The person may not like it but that doesn't authorize them to assault the observer. And if they do, bad things can happen.
OBTW, learn to key in 9-1-1 with your weak hand so your strong hand is free for other tasks.
Posted by: Law Prof at March 23, 2012 10:13 PM
This " leaving his truck makes him the aggressor" is simply untrue as a matter of law. He can WALK on a public street any time he wants to.
Posted by: Law Prof at March 23, 2012 10:18 PM
Not to mention, even in the lawful use of force in self-defense, you are only allowed to use the level of force reasonably necessary to defend yourself, Martin had Zimmerman down on his back and was beating him such that Zimmerman was screaming for help, that does not sound like a proportionate level of force. The claims that it was Zimmerman on top don't make sense, if he was one top and winning, why would he need to shoot? And the forensics would be immediately obvious to the police as to the facts of the case. This shooting was almost a month ago, the police have been investigating it the entire time, if there were something clearly wrong with Zimmerman's story, they'd have arrested him by now. They've done a voice stress analysis on Zimmerman, which he reportedly passed and plan to do another, so it's not like, contrary to what the family is claiming, the police have just thrown up their hands and said "ok, it was self-defense, you're free to go", they have not made a final determination over whether to charge or clear him because they are still analyzing evidence and conducting interviews.
Posted by: James at March 23, 2012 11:37 PM
As more info comes to view,the circumstances in this incident are changing. Some of us,me,too, may be guilty of prejudgement so I guess its time to shut up,sit back,and wait.
Posted by: Ceefour at March 24, 2012 06:00 AM
the shooter didn't have grounds to reasonably believe he was under lethal attack.
David, as long as "beaten to death by fists" appears on autopsy reports, deadly force is a reasonable response.
Posted by: SDN at March 26, 2012 04:46 AM
Or maybe you'd like to argue that a woman being grabbed by a man isn't reasonable to shoot him? No weapon involved.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 26, 2012 04:48 AM
Anonymous at March 26, 2012 04:48 AM: There's a disparity of force concept that come into play, men generally have a lot more upper body strength. It also depends on context, e.g. if I "grab a woman" to prevent her from walking into traffic she didn't see I've committed no crime and it wouldn't be reasonable to use lethal force against me.
If a man grabs a woman and indicates he's going to rape her it's of course a very different thing.
Posted by: Harold at March 26, 2012 09:01 AM