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by Peter Moskos

July 14, 2013

Stand your ground

Am I disappointed in the verdict? Yes. Is it inconceivable based on the idiodically written stand your ground law? Alas, no. And now that Zimmerman walks free, can we talk more about repealing this horrible law? Legal justice is not moral justice. I wrote this last year:

The law is written in such a way that even if you are the aggressor, if at any moment you reasonable believe that you're in imminent danger of great bodily harm and can not get away, you can use lethal force, and it's OK.
It wasn't like they weren't warned before the law was passed. Let's set the Wayback Machine for the year 2005:
"It's a joke. Unbelievable. It's a bad joke," said Drewes of the new law. "If you shoot somebody in anger, what are you going to say? I made a mistake. I wasn't in any danger. Take me away?... They're all going to lie. They're all going to say 'I did it to protect myself. I was in fear for my life."
Gelber, a former federal prosecutor, said no one has ever been prosecuted in Florida for lawfully protecting themselves. "Do we tell those people that they're supposed to walk away or do we tell them that you're supposed to stand your ground and fight to the death?"
And here's the actual Florida statute:
(1) A person who uses force ... is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force.... The term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).

This law is so poorly written that it really would take such a case as messed up as this one to even think of prosecuting somebody.


Anonymous said...

it was defended as self defense not stand your ground; two separate issues. zimmerman's team waived the stand your ground aspect. if you can't get the basics right your whole premise must be suspect.

PCM said...

Are they not related and/or one and the same? I thought stand your ground was about self defense.

If I can't get my basic facts right, indeed my whole premise is suspect! Please do explain and help me. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

I am in favour of self-defense. But if you are able to walk away from the supposed aggressor, then shooting at some one is definitely no self-defense. This is even more so if your "attacker" is walking away from you.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I hate the Florida law, but it has one practical limit on its operation. You'll still have a hard time shooting somebody in the back and getting away with it.

So if you're in Florida and meet some dull-witted loser with a small-penis complex and a gun, turn your back to him. It might not save your life, but it will at least give the prosecution a chance.

Kyle W said...

PCM: Here's the first article I found searching for "Zimmerman Stand Your Ground".

It comes from a similar position to you, I think. The thing that it, and you I think, gets wrong is that Zimmerman did not initiate the conflict. Zimmerman got out of his car and followed Martin, yes, but then Martin ran away. He got away from the slower, and physically unfit Zimmerman. 4 minutes later (which was plenty of time for Martin to get home, running or walking, which was what the person he was on the phone with suggested he do) he came back and confronted Zimmerman. It's a separate "conflict".

But let's say that's not the case, it's the same conflict. Rachel Jeantel said that she heard Martin say "What are you following me for?" Folled by Zimmerman saying "What are you doing around here?" What are the legal responses to that, from Martin's side? He can say whatever he wants, he can walk away and go home. At this point, punching Zimmerman is not an option, it's not self-defense and he has no right to use force. Would Zimmerman have started a scuffle? I don't see why, he knew the police were on their way and if he just delayed Martin a few minutes they would be here to talk to him. So the only reasonable scenario that I see is this: they were talking, and Martin attacked Zimmerman. That makes Martin the aggressor.

Kyle W said...

Also, I'm not sure how Stand Your Ground could even come into play here. "He had no duty to retreat"... ok, but he had no ABILITY to retreat. This would have been self-defense in any other state, no?

PCM said...

Jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial discussed Florida’s “stand your ground” law before reaching a not guilty verdict on Saturday, according to juror B37. The controversial law eliminates the obligation to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, even if it would be safe to do so.


PCM said...

There's always deliberation and gray areas in a jury's decision. It's a reasonable assumption to think that without stand your ground, there would have been more blame (correctly) placed on Zimmerman for being the initial aggressor. We don't know if the jury agreed that Zimmerman was not able to retreat. With stand your ground, it doesn't matter.

bacchys said...

It does matter. Florida's law requires the aggressor in a confrontation to attempt to attempt to retreat before defending himself.

For example: there's a bar fight. The attacker begins the fight by using his fists, and the attacked pulls out a knife. The attacker is entitled under Florida law to defend himself against this escalation of force, but before he can do so he must retreat or otherwise defuse the situation if he is reasonably able to do so.

SYG didn't play a role in this case beyond the Sanford DA misusing it as a way to shut down the initial investigation.

PCM said...

The law in Florida is Stand Your Ground. You don't simply invoke laws from time to time. It is the law. Period. And the law in Florida, stand your ground, states you do not have to retreat. This is an empirical question.

I understand your example, but it is wrong. Now if I am wrong (and I may be), please show me how stand your ground does not apply.

SYG played a role because (at least one member of) the jury says it did. And it makes sense, because it is the law.

Anonymous said...

Even in a state without stand your ground laws, Zimmerman would have walked. He didn't initiate the fight. Please proved me wrong if you can. What is illegal about following someone who may or may not be suspicious? Martin made the mistake of coming back and attacking Zimmerman. And I don't care what pictures the media uses. Martin was a bigger, taller guy. I don't know if you have met many 17 year olds, but some are big. And Martin definitely was. So Zimmerman was on the ground, getting the back of his head smashed on the ground. What would you do?? How about when your attacker says it's your time to die?? Yeah, if you say you wouldn't shoot him, you are either a liar, or coward, or both. If you look at the facts and stop being biased PCM, you could see these facts CLEARLY.

PCM said...

Like Coates, I never said the verdict wasn't legally correct. ("whoa," you say, "I guess I have no idea what Moskos thinks because I don't read what he writes... I just think all liberals are stupid.")

And in a state without stand your ground, Zimmerman probably would have been convicted (now we don't know, do we. Emphasis on you and me, big guy). Why because the jury would have seen him Zimmerman as the big-headed punk he is. And then you get punished when you put yourself in a situation where you get you ass kicked. But we don't know, do we?