Florida Self-Defense Shooting Results in Focus on Florida Stand Your Ground Laws

Like many Jacksonville Florida Lawyers, I cannot seem to stop reading about the Martin-Zimmerman fatal, Florida self-defense shooting.  Yesterday, I wrote a Jacksonville criminal article about this Florida Stand Your Ground news story (Florida Self-Defense Case with a Firearm Results in Protest Over Florida Shooting).  Today, I had to write about this Florida criminal defense case again.

The Florida fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin has pushed Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law to the center of the national media.  When a28-year-old Florida resident, George Zimmeran, shot and killed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin in Florida, Mr. Zimmerman was not arrested.  So far, this Florida man is not facing a criminal trial for murder, or any Florida homicide crime.  Instead, the Florida Stand Your Ground Law, which is a Florida self-defense law, is on trial (See Christian Science Monitor ‘s article, “Trayvon Martin Killing in Florida Puts ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law on Trial”)

As a Lawyer in Jacksonville that has represented Jacksonville criminal defendants charged with murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, domestic battery, and other assault crimes, I am no stranger to Florida self-defense laws.  However, I have never experienced a Jacksonville self-defense case or any Florida self-defense case like the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman “Stand Your Ground” shooting.

One of the differences between this Florida self-defense case and the Jacksonville self-defense cases that I have defended as a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer is the fact that Mr. Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious man.  Against the advice of a Florida 911 operator, Zimmerman decided to follow the black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.  This ended with Zimmerman shooting and killing Martin in Florida.  Zimmerman argues that he acted in self-defense and did not commit murder or manslaughter in Florida.  However, Martin was not armed with any weapon.  He was only carrying a bag of Skittles, a cellular telephone, and an iced tea.

Martin was not arrested for this Florida shooting due to the Florida Stand Your Ground laws.  Under the Florida Stand Your Ground Laws, there is no duty to retreat.  In Jacksonville and any other city in Florida, you can confront force with force in Florida and you do not have a duty to retreat or run away from the confrontation.  In this Florida self-defense case, I do not see how Zimmerman was confronted with force due to the fact that Martin was unarmed, and I have seen nothing showing Martin attacked Zimmerman.

Even as a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, I do not understand why Zimmerman followed Martin.  This will be something that personally, I would like to see clarified in this Florida self-defense case.  However, as critics of the Florida Stand Your Ground Law have pointed out:

“‘Zimmerman pursued Martin and did not attempt to stand down, even after being told to do so by the police. But that may be irrelevant under the phrasing of the Florida statute. ‘Even if you have suspicions about what motivated this, and you think there was a racial element and no justification for this shooting, the fact is he had no obligation to retreat under the law,’ Jeffrey Bellin, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, tells the paper. ‘If prosecutors don’t have the evidence to disprove the claim of self-defense, they won’t be able to win.’”

Still, this has not stopped the general public from convicting Mr. Zimmerman of murder in this Florida self-defense shooting.  As stated in a New York Times’ blog article commenting on the Florida self-defense case:

“The idea that Mr. Zimmerman feared for his life seems ridiculous. Why did he find a teenager walking down the street suspicious?  OK, that was a rhetorical question. He found him suspicious because he was black. (This is a classic walking-while-black case.) If Mr. Zimmerman felt threatened, why did he follow Mr. Martin? Why didn’t he stay put, as the police dispatcher advised him to do? He was, after all, nothing but an armed vigilante – not a police officer, not even a security guard, just a man who armed himself and went out looking for trouble.”

Regardless, the National media attention that has focused on this case have caused the FBI to get involved in this Florida self-defense shooting investigation.  The Florida State Attorney’s Office with jurisdiction over the Florida Stand Your Ground case has announced that a grand jury will be examining the case.  As a Jacksonville Florida Criminal Lawyer, I will be following this case closely to see what evidence is discovered in this Florida self-defense case.



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