George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict had nothing to do with Stand Your Ground, right?
The wording of the self-defense law appeared in the jury instructions, and it was discussed by jurors, the defense and prosecutors in court.
So, therefore, Trayvon Martin’s shooting had everything to do with Stand Your Ground, right?
There’s a good chance Zimmerman might still have walked even if Stand Your Ground had never become law in 2005. At most, without Stand Your Ground, the jury would probably have hung.
In that case, Zimmerman would have walked for months more and still had a great shot of being acquitted in a retrial if the prosecution presented the same case.
Just look at self-defense laws other than Stand Your Ground, and consider that the prosecution broadly failed to prove its case, which lacked some solid evidence.
As with any court case, there are arguments on both sides. Unlike most court cases, the argument over Trayvon’s shooting and Zimmerman’s verdict is public and largely politically partisan.
Many Democrats, pointing to this case, want changes to Stand Your Ground. It expanded defendants’ deadly force justifications and removed their “duty to retreat” from a confrontation.
Top Republicans, who control the Florida Legislature and governor’s office, want no changes to the politically popular self-defense law in a state where the violent-crime rate is declining.
The debate continues
The argument over what the jury felt and how the law applied will be at the crux of the political debate as dozens of protestors continue to occupy the state Capitol and the Legislature gears up this fall.
The debate about what could have been and what role all the self-defense justifications had is purely speculative.
We can’t go back in time. We can’t talk yet to the still-anonymous jurors. There’s no transcript of their secret deliberations.
But we have solid evidence: the statements anonymous juror B37 gave CNN, the unclear evidence of the fight that led to the shooting, the jury instructions and the letter of the law.
The jury instructions are crucial.
In open court, Zimmerman lawyer Don West talked about Florida’s standard jury instructions, which, by law, have Stand Your Ground language in them.
“That would read ‘stand his ground and meet force with force’ . . .” West said, discussing where a comma should go.
“Oh sure,” West said of the Stand Your Ground wording, “that’s fine.”
Of course it was. It helped his client.
You wouldn’t know that from co-counsel Mark O’Mara’s spin-the-media tour in which he tells reporters that his team “never mentioned the words ’Stand Your Ground’ in our defense presentation or in our arguments.” He doesn’t mention what West said in open court.
Another jury instruction was conspicuous, but by its absence: The “use of force by aggressor” statute, 776.041.
It could have allowed the jurors to more easily determine whether they believed Zimmerman initiated the fight that led to the shooting, and therefore lose his self-defense justification.
Prosecutor Richard Mantei said the armed Zimmerman’s pursuit of the unarmed Trayvon could be considered a threatened use of force that could make him an “aggressor.” (Zimmerman thought the hooded Trayvon might be casing apartments in his Sanford complex for burglaries, but he was walking back to his dad’s after picking up Skittles and watermelon Arizona Iced Tea).