Saturday, July 20, 2013

Guest essay: From a former student, now a large metropolitan area prosecutor



So many things about this make my head explode.  Just the notion of examining the so-called stand-your-ground laws as a response to this case!  Zimmerman did not avail himself of Florida’s stand-your-ground law . . .there was no need for that . . .that law deals with the duty to retreat, and it simply did not come into play here at all.  Even apart from the propriety of the stand-your-ground laws, this case provides no legitimate reason to raise that question in the first place.  And, the absence of a legitimate causal connection underscores the pernicious nature of the attacks on those laws.  

“(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony (my emphasis).

I tell people there’s one clue:  Zimmerman literally was not standing.  Quite the contrary, when he fired the shot, he was lying on the ground, where he had been knocked by Martin, and Martin was sitting on top of Zimmerman’s body, forcibly holding Zimmerman down and smacking Zimmerman's head repeatedly against the concrete ground.  THAT was the only version of the events offered by the defense in justification of Zimmerman's actions.  So, the facts in this case supported a classic self-defense/justification defense that would be supported by the Penal Law of every state in the Union.  Zimmerman had no need to reach out and avail himself of the stand-your-ground defense . . ."ordinary" self-defense covered it completely.   

No one suggested that, under the scenario Zimmerman described, he had a duty to try to retreat before firing.  The prosecution just urged that the events hadn't occurred as the defense contended.  Again, the only version presented by the defense was that he was pinned . . .physically incapable of freeing himself from Martin's hold, much less running away with safety.  The defense had no need to reach out and avail itself of a provision about retreat-first.  If the defense had requested it, the judge would have rightly denied it, because it would have been unsupported by the facts and could only have confused the jurors.
  
Stevie Wonder, one of the great intellectual and moral forces of our time, is outraged by the verdict and has declared for all the world:  he will not perform in any state that has a stand-your-ground law on the books.  I wonder if Stevie knows that the law had no bearing on, and was not used in, this case.