How Zimmerman Could Get Off

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.

Related stories:

The Other Trayvon Martins

New Shocking ‘Stand Your Ground’ Case, But Florida Unlikely To Revisit Law

Trayvon Martin Tragedy – Could It Have Been Prevented?

Boston rally photo by pweiskel08

87 comments

Nimue Pendragon

I will wait and see how this unfolds.

Pat B.
Pat B.4 years ago

It's the rule of unintended consequences. Something is done for one reason, but then it turns out it also does something else. The men who wrote the bills and passed them assumed they were only giving people the right to defend themselves outside of their own homes. They never considered it would give the opportunity to use the law to get away with murder. I mean if shooting someone in the back can be considered self defense then we are in trouble.

This comes at an interesting time since it now looks like people are more likely to be killed by a gun in 10 states than in a car. I think this is happening because the NRA will not accept even reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. Why is it, when we live in a world where you have to register everything and in some cases be licensed, is it considered unconstitutional to suggest that maybe people should have something proving they know how to properly use the weapons they own? No one will let you buy a car, hop in it and go driving without a license and we all pretty much think that's a good idea -- at least I've never heard of any National Car Association trying to reverse that requirement.

Does anybody ever think that at the time the Amendments were written the worst weapon available were cannons. Muskets, arrows and knives were the common weapons people owned. Do you seriously think the founding fathers thought of a day when there would be weapons a single man could use that could bring down an elephant -- I was going

Hilary S.
Hilary S.4 years ago

what a chilling indictment of life in texas.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

George Zimmerman is being tried in the court of public opinion and that is so---- very bad wrong. Stand your ground is a good law when applied correctly. Give the guy a chance to have his day in court and prove or dis-prove is story. I personally have an open mind in this case and if the trial were to be held in Texas, I think I could be a good jurror.


Judith Howard
Judith Howard4 years ago

From all that I've read about "Stand Your Ground", it needs to go.

What I found especially chilling was this part from the article: "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."


Hope S.
Hope Sellers4 years ago

This law is totally rediculous as are judges that uphold it without any real basis of the shooter being in "fear" of their life being taken. Also it would allow anyone to use this as an excuse to kill someone or anyone they didn't like.

("The law, written by the NRA, is such that it avoids juries."
As stated in the article.) How is this possible when a death has occurred? These laws should be overturned. If there is a valid self-defense and after proper investigation it should hold up in a jury trial.

Sharon H.
Sharon H.4 years ago

Oh, and Billie...learn punctuation and sentence structure. I also see that your profile is private. I guess when you're so filled with hatred, you don't want anyone to know anything about you...but when we read your comments, it says volumes about you.

Sharon H.
Sharon H.4 years ago

Billie C...once again you prove you're a bigot and a racist. You don't give a rat's ass that an unarmed kid was killed. All you focus on is your hatred for Obama and black people. The Panthers DID NOT put a price on his head. They offered a reward for anyone who could capture him so that he could be brought to justice.You were in another thread attacking the Mexicans. You defend every white lowlife scum no matter what they've done, and probably even throw a party if they've killed a black or Latino person. What a despicable person you are...

Pat B.
Pat B.4 years ago

Okay, Zimmerman's been charged. I would now suggest that everybody put away their keyboards and let the courts handle it. If people keep railing on this it proves you're really after vigilante justice, not true justice in a court of law. Whatever Zimmerman is, he has as much right to a fair trial as any other American.

Gloria H.
Gloria H.4 years ago

He is dead meat. Unless he gets a sex change and becomes a real ugly woman, someone is bound to flush him out and down. We may never hear of him again.