Apr 30, 2013

Stand Your Ground Defense?

Zimmerman says not yet anyway, and that's subtle good news for those of us who believe SYG is a proper legal doctrine, permitting a citizen to defend himself anywhere.

His attorneys want to gamble to the extent of hearing the state's case before abandoning the Florida SYG protection altogether. They claim the law permits a SYG hearing any time, not just before deciding on whether to risk it before going to trial. The prosecution may resist but that is  another issue.

My reading persuades me there's a near-consensus that Zimmerman has only a traditional self-defense case to make, that SYG was written and intended only to     prevent  prosecution in a clear case of defense against unprovoked attack.  Zimmerman created the confrontation when he had other reasonable options, such as calling the cops from the safety of his car.


My state had a fair chance of getting SYG protection until the Zimmerman case stopped it cold. If, when the dust settles, it can be made plain that such law is inoperative in cases like this, it will be back on the table. Talk it up.


Anonymous said...

Based on the facts of this case as reported by the media, I don't think his SYG claim has a prayer. Self-defense claims have always had some limitations, such as the need to retreat if possible. SYG merely says if you are in a place you have a right to be, and if you are not the aggressor, you have a right to defend yourself at that point. No need to retreat. It does not say you can provoke the incident then use deadly force and claim self defense. That has never been available. JAGSC

Bob S. said...

I'm not sure I agree with your assessment that Zimmerman created the confrontation. Walking about his place of residence, even looking for Martin, isn't sufficient ground of provocation according to my understanding of the law.

Then there is the testimony, both of Dee Dee and Zimmerman, that Martin initiated the conversation.

I think the defense is playing it smart with the traditional self defense claim. That does not rely on an aspect of who initiated the confrontation; just the fact that Zimmerman was in fear of his life.

Jim said...


As JAGSC noted, we're all commenting based almost wholly on news reports, and I agree that testimony about contact initiation may move jurors one way or another if the defense uses the SYG in any way.

I can't shake the view that Zimmerman overstepped the bounds of good judgement and SYG-law intent when he got out of his car and, at minimum, began shadowing Martin. I'm far less sure that +after+ the first contact Zimmerman reacted unreasonably.


Bob S. said...


Maybe I've read a little more on the case then others. I've read many of the dispositions, statements, etc made available to the public by the defense attorneys.

Let's break down the "overstepped bound of good judgement" aspect.
It was a rainy day approaching sunset dusk and a person acting suspiciously is observed by a member of the neighborhood watch. Note that the 911 tape clearly shows that Martin's behavior fit the description of suspicious. Also on the 911 tape and supported by Dee Dee's testimony, Martin approached Zimmerman's car and then walked off. Clearly he wasn't afraid of Zimmerman.

Add to that facts about his possible participation in a fight club, possible assaulting a bus driver and I see a profile of a thug seeking to show off.

Next you have Zimmerman getting out of his car to determine where Martin went. Is that unreasonable or out of good judgement?

I don't think so. He was in touch with the dispatcher trying to rely accurate information. When asked if he was following Martin and told he didn't need to do that, Zimmerman replied Okay. And then proceeded to tell the dispatcher where he would meet the police.

Does that sound like someone deliberately stalking someone? Ignoring instructions?
Not to me.

SYG-law intent when he got out of his car and, at minimum, began shadowing Martin

This is an attitude I really don't understand. If I'm following someone down the street, is that provocation for them to assault me?
I find that idea hard to digest. Neighborhood watches are founded on the principle. Heck the Federal government encourages it -- "If you see something, Say Something", Right?

So even if Zimmerman was 'shadowing' Martin and Martin was afraid - how much sense does it make for him to be in a confrontation with Zimmerman?
He was just dozens of yards from the house he was staying at, he had lost Zimmerman --according to Dee Dee's and Zimmerman's testimony -- right?
So a young 17 year old, in shape (160something pounds) kid can't run the other 200 feet to known safety?
Doesn't make sense to me.

Wouldn't a better scenario be that Martin lost Zimmerman, Zimmerman headed back to his car and Martin approached; demanding to know why Zimmerman was interested in him?

Given the probably drug use (lean or purple drank) and the side affects of it and marijuana -- aggression (see fight club and bus driver) -- doesn't it make sense for Martin to confront Zimmerman?

This site has a very comprehensive run down on the case -- https://statelymcdanielmanor.wordpress.com/category/courts-and-cops/the-trayvon-martin-case/

Overall, I really think we need to stop playing into the idea that asking someone what they are doing is provocative or even impolite. The citizens are and should be the first responders to any emergency, any crime. I'm not saying people should be rude but knowing how is coming and going in a gated community isn't overstepping the bounds of good judgment.

Anonymous said...

Note, I did not say that a plain old self-defense claim would not work. I said the SYG claim was not viable. Assuming Zimmerman saw someone he felt did not belong there, as a NW guy he had the right to ask. Heck, any neighbor has that right. If he did that and Martin responded agrssively (physically), then Zimmerman has a right to defend himself. Talk (question) does not grant the right to attack. The question now becomes what amount of defense force was appropriate. I would loudly object to any of that info about fight clubs, bus drivers or purple drank being admitted into evidence by the defense. If Zimmerman did not recognize Martin, then he could not possible have known about any of this. It well be interesting to see how this all plays out. The biggest thing goind against Zimmerman, in my opinion, is the fact that the 911 operator told him not to exit his vehicle. JAGSC

Bob S. said...


Sorry to correct you but the 911 operator did not tell Zimmerman to stay in his car.

What was said was "Are you following him"

Z -- "Yes"

911 Dispatcher -- "We don't need you to do that."

At which time Zimmerman stated "Okay" and proceeded to discuss where to meet the responding police.

The prosecution may not want any of the fight club, possible assaults or drug use admitted but it probably will be allowed it. Goes to the state of mind of Martin during the encounter.

It doesn't matter if Zimmerman knew about any of it, he observed a suspicious person and took appropriate actions. In fact, under a certain reading of the 911 transcript, it could be argued the dispatcher instructed Zimmerman to follow him.

Zimmerman - Yeah, now he's coming towards me.

Dispatcher - OK.

Zimmerman - He's got his hand in his waistband. And he's a black male.

Dispatcher - How old would you say he looks?

Zimmerman - He's got button on his shirt, late teens.

Dispatcher - Late teens. Ok.

Zimmerman - Somethings wrong with him. Yup, he's coming to check me out, he's got something in his hands, I don't know what his deal is.

Dispatcher -Just let me know if he does anything, ok?

Zimmerman -(unclear) See if you can get an officer over here.

Dispatcher - Yeah we've got someone on the way, just let me know if this guy does anything else.

Twice the dispatcher said "let me know if he does something else".

So between the confusion of the address - I've lived in Town home communities and the streets are oddly twisting and don't match up with home numbers very well -- the perception of command "let me know" and general right to be there; it is hard to argue Zimmerman was in the wrong.

I find it amazingly hypocritical that the prosecution has proceeded on this long. My guess is they are trying to buy time for things to cool down (won't work) and something bigger to grab headlines.

Jim said...

I enjoy this discussion even though it wanders slightly from my main point. The important issue is the effect of this case on our SYG progress.

This is not meant to attack Zimmerman. A while I back I wrote* that he may well be justly acquitted on the traditonal self-defense grounds JAGS mentioned.

Relying solely on SYG when Zimmerman had every opportunity to avoid contact with Martin places the whole philosophy of self-defense against imminent, deadly threat anywhere in serious political danger.

Jim said...

The note cited is:


Bob S. said...


This is what I don't understand:

Relying solely on SYG when Zimmerman had every opportunity to avoid contact with Martin places the whole philosophy of self-defense against imminent, deadly threat anywhere in serious political danger.

Are you saying that people have to exercise every opportunity to avoid a possible encounter or they endanger SYG Laws?

I'm really trying to understand the mindset and philosophy behind this. That is why I went into such detail about the encounter.

I believe that Zimmerman acted as a responsible, concerned citizen should (even the government supports a large part of that "See something Say Something" -- so what should a person do?

If we accept the premise that the armed person has to do everything possible to avoid confrontation; shouldn't we just stay home and keep the doors locked?
I think we need to push back against such an idea; Zimmerman had every right, every reason to be out and about on the property.
Zimmerman had every legal and moral right to ask Martin questions.

I don't agree with the idea of "Just call the cops and let them handle it." Aren't we abrogating our responsibility to our neighbors, our friends that way?

Anonymous said...

My saying that the 911 operator told Z to stay in his car was based on my reading of news reports. A shaky permise at best.

However, the legislative reasoning behind SYG is that a person has the right to be secure where he/she is, but it home, auto, yard, etc. It does not contemplate that location shifting,because if that were the case, the location could be shifted to a position of safety. If you take the broader position, then Martin had every right to be where he was and thus do duty to retreat. Yes, he may have been "coming at" Z, but Z was "coming at him". The big question for the jury is who struck the first blow. If Martin, then Z is OK; if Z, then he has a problem. JAGSC