In the month since Trayvon Martin was gunned down on a Sanford, Florida gated community street, much has been said about Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law and what impact it may have on the prosecution of admitted shooter George Zimmerman.
Everything we know about the shooting thus far seems troubling, and advanced mental gymnastics are ostensibly required to make the logical leap from the paranoid “freelance police officer” on the 911 tape stalking an unarmed young man to a reasonable use of justified force resulting in a homicide. What it appears “Stand Your Ground” laws do is take what is known as the “Castle doctrine”- that in most jurisdictions in the US, you are not obligated to stand down when threatened in your home- a legally murky step further, allowing for a broader self-defense claim in civilian altercations.
Scarily, what the take away seems to be given the ongoing lack of charges against George Zimmerman and statements authorities have (carefully) made in addressing the case is that if your victim is dead enough, no charges can be brought if you claim they attacked you. Even given what seems to be overwhelming evidence that Zimmerman sought out, confronted and then shot a teen armed only with Skittles and a can of iced tea, the fact that Zimmerman (a man who is well served avoiding prosecution in Trayvon Martin’s death) says Martin was somehow the aggressor means we should take him at his word and while the death of a teen is tragic, it’s unavoidable since he was wearing a deadly hoodie. Or something.
The implications are terrifying if such a precedent is allowed to stand, but Slate points out that even with the slightly weasel-y wording in the law, it still seems that Zimmerman did not act under its auspices, noting that deadly force is only permissible if the shooter “reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” It should be restated at this point that not only did Zimmerman brandish a 9mm pistol, but he had 100 lbs. on Trayvon Martin- both circumstances making it highly unlikely the teen in any way acted to endanger his own life.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a supporter of the “Stand Your Ground” law, but yesterday admitted that he did not know why an arrest was not made in the case and further, that the broad-spanning law did not seem to cover the ass of George Zimmerman. Speaking at an education panel at a Texas university, Bush said:
“This law does not apply to this particular circumstance… Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”
Bush expressed sympathy to the family of Trayvon Martin, but also said that the wheels of justice can be slow:
“[The lack of arrest] doesn’t make sense to me… You’ve got to let the judicial process work. Hopefully it’s done at a pace that is respectful for people hurting.”
Bush said that he approves of the law when “applied properly.”