Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman's trial and Stand Your Ground

There is some confusion about whether Florida's Stand Your Ground law played a role in George Zimmerman's trial.

The press release of Judge Debra Nelson's jury instructions includes this:

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Bmaz wrote last week (Uncomfortable Truth: The State Of Evidence in the George Zimmerman Prosecution Emptywheel 07/11/2013) before the jury instructions were given:

State of Florida v. Zimmerman is a straight up traditional self defense case. It has never been pled [sic] as a Stand Your Ground defense case, irrespective of all the press coverage, attention and attribution to Stand Your Ground. It's never been Stand Your Ground, and certainly is not now that the evidence is all in on the trial record. It is a straight self defense justification defense, one that would be pretty much the same under the law of any state in the union including that which you are in, and that I am in, now (so don't blame "Florida law").
In other words, the defense did not base its case specifically on the Stand Your Ground law. But with those jury instructions, we can't saw it had nothing to do with the verdict. So "Florida law" in the form of Stand Your Ground may well be significantly to blame here.

More subjective but very relevant to events is the role Stand Your Ground probably played in the initial decision of the Sanford police not to arrest Zimmerman. And the broader context of the Stand Your Ground law shapes the ways in which jury pools in Stand Your Ground states think about the conditions in which people people should be able to murder blacks and get away with it.

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