I try not to do too much politics and news posts because it’s not my thing. However, being from FL, the case of Trayvon Martin has touched a nerve with me. If you haven’t read or heard about the Trayvon Martin case, here are the basic bullet points of it, before getting into my post:
– 17 year old black teenager was returning home to the gated community where his father’s fiancee lived
– 28 year old self-appointed neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, decided that Martin look suspicious
– Zimmerman approached Martin, despite being told by 911 dispatchers not to
– They 2 got into an altercation
– Zimmerman shot Martin dead; less than 100 ft from his father’s fiance’s home
This case has been thrust into the national spotlight for a myriad of reasons; primarily dealing with the race of the oppressed and his oppressor. But even more importantly, it deals with a law that, on its face value to me has some ambiguity. Zimmerman hasn’t been charged with anything or even arrested, because he’s claiming self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law.
By definition, FL law states that “people who perceive a threat are legally permitted to use deadly force without first trying to retreat from a confrontation”. The law stems from the Castle doctrine, which gives a homeowner the right to use deadly force against an assailant within the confines of their property.
Many states have a statute similar to “Stand Your Ground’ with varying degrees of its application and when a person is legally protected to use deadly force. Doing some research, I found a somewhat similar case that just happened in Tampa, FL December 2011. It began as a road-rage incident, in which a 20 year old former offensive tackle and a 62 year old grandfather both got of their cars and began to tussle. The 62 year old was clearly outsized, so he went back to his car, retrieved an ice pick and stabbed the 20 year old in the head. The 20 year old later died. No charges were filed.
Another case in FL, involved 2 teenagers; 1 of whom was being bullied. The 14 year old stabbed his bully (16 years old) 12 times. 1 wound nicked the bully’s heart which resulted in his death. Again, no charges filed.
In both instances, definitive choices were made by the aggressors. Especially in the case of the teenagers. Witnesses said that the teen who’d been mercilessly bullied and challenged to a fight that day, got off the bus to avoid it altogether. The bully pursued him and thus set in motion a deadly set of consequences. I found that these 2 cases in particular (there’s quite a few out there like it) mirrored the circumstances of the Trayvon Martin case.
For starters, the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman began because Zimmerman followed him. He picked Martin out (racial profiling) and made the conscious choice to pursue him, although he was already directed to stand down until authorities arrived on the scene. Therefore, how can you legally claim self-defense in a situation that your actions directly incited?
Secondly, in another part of the law, it’s written “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.” The 2 got into a physical fight, by Zimmerman’s own account. The law said you can meet force with force. Zimmerman was already physically imposing over this scared, unarmed 17 year old kid. He escalated the altercation he initiated by using his gun. Was he really in fear for his life? Did Trayvon really pose any threat to Zimmerman’s bodily harm? Was Trayvon in the process of committing a felony of any kind? The answer is a resounding NO to all of those questions.
I get that law was designed to protect people from being powerless in their own homes. That makes total sense. However, the law should not protect any ol body to just escalate to using a deadly weapon because they’re losing a fight. Honestly, I think that’s what this case boils down to. Zimmerman was living out his own delusion of grandeur as an agent of the law. Martin was landing some good punches of his own and fighting back and Zimmerman wasn’t going to be outdone. Because he was studying criminal justice, he knew that it’d be very easy to hide behind the “stand your ground” law.
At the time of me writing this post, the family of Trayvon Martin is pushing for this case to be investigated by the FBI. I think that’s warranted and the facts of the case need to be objectively and thoroughly gone over with the finest of combs.
Do you think the “Stand Your Ground” is a license for civilians to kill? Do you think Zimmerman will have charges brought against him? If so, what should the charges be?