A grand jury had been expected to meet Tuesday to decide whether to arrest George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. But Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said Monday that there will be no grand jury, that she alone will make the arrest decision.
Corey’s office said that the decision not to take the case to a grand jury should not be taken as an indication of which way she’s going to decide.
Corey had previously indicated that she was inclined against a grand jury but observers believed that one would still be established because of the high profile nature of the case. It was suggested that if one was not, then this meant that Corey felt that she needed more time to establish her case.
As well she might. Writing for the Tampa Bay Times, Ben Montgomery suggests that the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law cited by former Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee as the reason why Zimmerman was not arrested on February 26 may also mean that a case against Zimmerman will be hard to make.
Those responsible for the law have repeatedly said that because Zimmerman pursued Martin, he is not covered by the law. But going on other cases, this is just not necessarily true.
Montgomery cites a number of cases where ‘Stand your ground’ has protected people who have pursued another, initiated a confrontation and then used deadly force to defend themselves. A number of these cases where the law was utilized to stop any conviction are strongly similar to the Trayvon Martin case.
In one, a man annoyed by a speeding truck followed it to its owner’s house and a fist fight ensued. The pursuer shot dead the pursued and a judge dismissed manslaughter charges because the pursuer said he feared for his life.
In another, a security guard at a Tampa strip club confronted men who were drinking beer in the parking lot. One threw a beer bottle but rather than retreating into the club or using his baton or pepper spray to protect himself, the guard shot at the men. A judge ruled that justified under ‘Stand your ground.’
In a case dismissed only last month, a young security guard decided to follow a car he believed was being driven erratically. When the driver stopped to find out why he was being followed, at the window the security guard first pepper sprayed the driver and then shot and killed him.
The guard claimed that the driver had punched him and he was in fear for his life. Like with Zimmerman, that claim was enough to ensure he wasn’t arrested.
A Florida judge has even ruled that the statute can protect someone who shoots a retreating person. In overturning a ruling against a man who shot a man who was retreating from a fight, a judge in Tallahassee wrote that ‘Stand your ground’ “makes no exception from the immunity when the victim is in retreat at the time the defensive force is employed.”
All of these cases were decided by one judge, not a jury, which would be far more likely to disagree with a defendant’s ‘self defense’ claims. The law, written by the NRA, is such that it avoids juries.
Regarding the Martin case, the pursuit of Martin is completely irrelevant.
“The real issue is what happens around the 60 seconds prior to the shooting,” Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, told Montgomery. “Everything else has emotional content, but from a legal perspective, it all comes down to the 60 seconds before the incident.”
If one judge can be persuaded that the ‘self defense’ claim is true — or cannot be disproved — whether Zimmerman pursued Martin is immaterial. Under Florida law, that claim will be enough to get him off any charges.
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