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article image'Stand Your Ground' Law — In-depth Analysis

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By Nicole Byerly     Mar 31, 2012 in Crime
Sanford - The case of Trayvon Martin has become a national sensation that continues to flood the media even in the month following the killing.
The parents of Trayvon Martin demand justice; while Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and NAACP President Benjamin Justice gather individuals all over the United States to protest for justice. One supporter of Trayvon, Spike Lee, has even posted suspected addresses of George Zimmerman online in order to influence people to go to his home and cause great injury to him or his family.
When a person throws the term justice into a protest, many more issues arise from such an event that leave a lot of people questioning if they are truly seeking justice or if they are more or less seeking revenge.
One of the biggest controversies throughout this entire case has been the infamous “Stand your ground” law that protects justified killings in the state of Florida. To further how this law may or may not apply to this case, you must first thoroughly examine the law.
The “Stand your ground” law is covered in Florida, by Florida Statute 776.032 "Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force." This law states:
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
To further understand this law, we must examine the permitted circumstances provided under Florida Statutes 776.012, 776.013, and 776.031.
Florida Statute 776.012 “Use of force in defense of person” states: A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
Florida Statute 776.013 mostly provides circumstances related to residential settings, acts during burglaries, suspected burglaries, and the likes except section (3) of the Florida Statute.
Florida Statue 776.013 section (3) states “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.”
What these Statutes ultimately provide for George Zimmerman is immunity from prosecution for using deadly force. To further explain, we must first depict the specifics and lack thereof contained in these statutes.
George Zimmerman claims that he was following Trayvon, lost sight of him and was returning to his vehicle. During the process of returning to his vehicle, Trayvon snuck up behind him, punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and beat his head to the ground.
What the media claims happened, is that Zimmerman chased down Trayvon, attacked him, and shot him due to racial profiling.
Eight witnesses told the police information that backed the story given by George Zimmerman. The day after the shooting, on February 27th, 2012, media reporters in Florida spoke to “John” who told the reporters that Zimmerman was on the bottom, screaming for help, and was being attacked by Trayvon who was on top of him. All witnesses provided similar stories until a couple days ago when a magical witness stepped forward and provided a different story to the media.
Now, we must examine the applicability of the “Stand your Ground” Law in Florida. This law both covers some areas of law and ignores others. For example, both claims regarding how the altercation was initiated- whether Zimmerman chased after Trayvon or Trayvon came up to Zimmerman are inapplicable. Under the Florida statute, neither case really matters. Why? Because under Florida Statute 776.013 provides both individuals immunity for being at the location. Whether either or was following the other does not matter because both individuals had a right to be there.
What puzzles most individuals and has turned into a media circus of “Arrest Him” is the fact that no one really knows who attacked who first. According to reports from Robert Zimmerman; both Sr. and Jr., father and brother of George Zimmerman, Trayvon struck George first. Neither men were at the scene when the attack took place, so both were simply relaying information provided by George. If this stands true that George Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon Martin, the two wrestled on the ground, and George Zimmerman ultimately ended up shooting him, this law protects Zimmerman.
Now, what the majority of Americans believe, is that George Zimmerman “stalked” Trayvon Martin. So, we shall apply the Florida Statute for Stalking into this story in order to determine whether or not George Zimmerman was indeed stalking Trayvon Martin.
The crime of “Stalking” is covered under Florida Statute 784.048 "Stalking; definitions; penalties.” I want to you to recognize this term, used commonly throughout this statute. “Course of Conduct.” Under Florida Statute 784.048 section (b) "Course of Conduct" is defined as a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time. Now through this, we can see that this claim of “stalking” because George Zimmerman is believed to have followed Trayvon does not apply as a “series of acts” but we shall further analyze what stalking is, with “course of conduct” applied in the statute. Stalking is defined under Florida Statute 784.048 section (2) as "Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree." Now through this, we can clearly see that “stalking” is not the applicable term that applies to George Zimmerman, thus the act, if at may have been, of “following Trayvon” is not, by any Florida Statute, an illegal act.
Because George Zimmerman was not stalking Trayvon Martin, does this mean George Zimmerman is innocent? There is no guarantee that George Zimmerman is innocent. Following someone may be viewed as "wrong," but by means of legality, it is not a legal act.
Ultimately, this will come down to two things. Who struck who first, and; if Trayvon struck Zimmerman first, if he truly did fear for his life. This is not something we as Americans have the ability to determine. We have not seen any release of a medical record, but yet everyone says George Zimmerman is guilty and needs to be punished.
So, if applicable, this law demonstrates that George Zimmerman was not in the wrong for following Trayvon and ultimately if it is a crime it is to be determined by who hit first and if there was a reasonable fear to justify the killing.
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More about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, trayvon martin shooting, Racial bias, Racism
 

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