Was George Zimmerman the Aggressor?

Yesterday I noted that George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on February 26, needlessly created the situation in which he claims to have feared for his life. By following Martin for no good reason, against the advice of the police dispatcher, he set up the fight that ended with Martin dead. Now the co-authors of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense statute, which critics blame for the failure to arrest Zimmerman, are saying (as Lucy Steigerwald noted yesterday evening) that Zimmerman's decision to pursue and confront Martin makes him ineligible for the law's protection. Durell Peaden, who sponsored the 2005 law as a Republican state senator, told The Miami Herald Zimmerman should be charged:

They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid. He has no protection under my law.

Dennis Baxley, the chief House sponsor of the law, concurs:

Peaden and Baxley, R-Ocala, say their law is a self-defense act. It says law-abiding people have no duty to retreat from an attacker and can meet "force with force." Nowhere does it say that a person has a right to confront another.

The 911 tapes strongly suggest Zimmerman overstepped his bounds, they say, when the Sanford neighborhood crime-watch captain said he was following Trayvon and appeared to ignore a police request to stay away.

"The guy lost his defense right then," said Peaden. “When he said 'I’m following him,' he lost his defense."...

[Baxley] stressed over and over again that "there’s nothing in this statute that authorizes people to pursue and confront people."

Critics of the law say Peaden and Baxley are reading limits into it that are not actually there. The law says "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [aside from a home] 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." UCLA law professor Adam Winkler argues that the reference to preventing a forcible felony "unambiguously authorizes people to pursue and confront others." It is hard to see how, since every scenario described by the law involves being "attacked" and "meet[ing] force with force"—i.e., the law assumes the other person is the aggressor. Once you are attacked, you may use force to, among other things, prevent a forcible felony (a rape or mugging, say).

In any event, Zimmerman had no evidence that Martin was about to commit a forcible felony, which is why his decision to treat him like a criminal was so outrageous. Rather, Zimmerman's defense hinges on his claim that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to "prevent death or great bodily harm to himself." Julian Sanchez, drawing on his own experience with an attempted mugging involving three teenagers about Martin's age (17), argues that Zimmerman's claim is implausible, especially since he outweighed Martin by 100 pounds. But even if Zimmerman really did fear for his life, reasonably or not, the "stand your ground" law applies only if Martin was the aggressor: Zimmerman was within his rights to "meet force with force" only if he was "attacked." Peaden and Baxley are suggesting, in essence, that Zimmerman became the aggressor by chasing after Martin with no justification.

These two points—whether Zimmerman was "attacked" and whether he reasonably feared for his life—need to be resolved before deciding whether he is guilty of criminal homicide. But the circumstances of Martin's death make the initial decision not to charge Zimmerman puzzling, to say the least. Last week Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee said "we don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense at this point." He added that he would welcome a federal investigation. But if Zimmerman's self-defense claim was fishy enough to justify a Justice Department investigation (which is now happening, along with an inquiry by a Seminole County grand jury), why wait for the feds to step in? 

Responding to yesterday's post, Sean Bugg criticizes me for "trying to downgrade what happened the night George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Martin dead." As evidence, he cites my statement that "Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had not been so eager to play cops and robbers." I'm not sure in what way that lets Zimmerman off the hook. Bugg also cites my distinction between shooting someone "in cold blood," which is what a lawyer for Martin's family said happened, and shooting someone "in the heat of the moment." Bugg adds: "In the heat of a moment created entirely by Zimmerman," which is the point I was trying to make when I said Zimmerman created the circumstances that led to the shooting. 

More generally, Bugg says I try to "remake the killing of Trayvon Martin into a lesson on the importance of self-defense with guns." Actually, I was responding to people who are trying to remake the killing of Trayvon Martin into a lesson on the folly of "stand your ground" laws (as well as nondiscretionary carry permit policies). My point was that a bogus self-defense claim does not mean justice was better served when Floridians who injured or killed assailants had to prove there was no opportunity to escape.

Addendum: As Slim points out in the comments, a FAQ (PDF) posted yesterday by the Sanford Police Department says "Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon." That seems inconsistent with the account Martin's girlfriend gave of the cellphone conversation she had with him right before the shooting. She said she heard Martin say, "Why are you following me?" She said she then heard someone else saying, "What are you doing here?" 

Addendum II: Julian Sanchez imagines a scenario, consistent with the publicly known facts, in which Zimmerman and Martin were both tragically mistaken.

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  • zimmerman's lawyer||

    teh black males = implied force

  • Suki||

    Zimmerman Hispanic = innocent

  • Loki||

    Black victim > hispanic perp.

  • ||

    But Gail Collins says "stand your ground" means any deranged gun nut can commit unprovoked murder with impunity!

  • meh||

    correct

  • ||

    So you are telling me that all I have to do is become "deranged" in addition to already being a gun nut?!?!

  • ||

    No, you are already deranged for being a gun nut. Now line up so you can be scanned by our overlords.

  • Almanian||

    If you own a gun, clearly you're already deranged. QED

  • ||

    No, you are already deranged for being a gun nut. Now line up so you can be scanned by our overlords.

  • Loki||

    Gun nut = deranged. Dind't you get the memo?

  • ||

    What I'm noticing is how perfectly this fits the Left narrative about racism. In reality, this event is so notable because it's so rare: blacks are very rarely murdered by whites. Most murders of blacks are done by other blacks, but that's harder to fit into the narrative that racism is to blame for everything.

    Much of the publicity about this, and Sandra Fluke, and Santorum's birth control comments, are just battlespace preparation by the media ahead of the election. They need to paint a picture of rampant racism and sexism to convince voters that only Obama's reelection can save us.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Much of the publicity about this, and Sandra Fluke, and Santorum's birth control comments, are just battlespace preparation by the media ahead of the election. They need to paint a picture of rampant racism and sexism to convince voters that only Obama's reelection can save us.

    By Jove, I think you're right!

  • ||

    Given some of the bills being passed by Republican controlled legislatures, the rampant sexism charge seems pretty well justified.

  • Point of order||

    Zimmerman = Hispanic

  • ||

    He thinks he's white.

  • Suki||

    Does he dress White or something?

  • o3||

    zimmerman = german hispanic?!

    as in "room man" whatevah that is

  • Suki||

    Your sir-name bigotry knows no bounds.

  • HeroicMulatto||

  • ||

    I have a friend with a classic Jewish surname (like Biblical classic) who is pure Cuban and a Catholic to boot.

  • ||

    I bet it's Levy or Albo.

  • ||

    I will confirm nothing.

  • Suki||

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    Hispanic=White most of the time.

  • ||

    No. At best they are semi-white, like Italians.

  • Killazontherun||

    We will also accept the term dagos, but that also includes the Portuguese as well as Italians, just so you know. BTW that Portuguese Ruah chick from NCIS:LA hot fucking damn!

    http://www.looktvfree.com/wp-c.....ry-top.jpg

  • Killazontherun||

  • ¢||

    Cuban = white, because Cubans (e.g., the most likely GOP VP candidate) are Republicans.

    And also because most of them are white, but that's not important.

  • malloc||

    Surely, you can't be serious.

  • Scooby||

    Is this one of those "white" Cubans?

  • ||

    Zimmerman would be referred to as Hispanic if that fit the approved narrative (e.g. if he had been shot by a cop).

  • ||

    I'm not sure what the hoopla is about now, except for politics, as Zimmerman is likely in big trouble.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Stopped clocks and all.

  • ||

    My point was

    It doesn't matter what your point was or is, Jacob. Partisan assholes are going to politicize this and make into their partisan talking point no matter what.

  • ||

    UCLA law professor Adam Winkler argues that the reference to preventing a forcible felony "unambiguously authorizes people to pursue and confront others."

    Aside from being wrong, that has nothing to do with this, unless "potentially trespassing" qualifies as a "forcible felony".

  • ||

    I am having a hard time, myself, bridging the gap between "preventing" and "pursuing".

    Preventing a forcible felony indicates to me that it is either underway or pretty freakin' imminent. If you're pursuing them, presumably you have already succeeded in preventing the felony.

    If Winkler was a 3L in my Crim Law seminar, I'd give him maybe a low B.

  • ||

    R C, you have to at least read the entirety of his blue book before you go and grade him!

  • ||

    Not really. In my experience, the quality declines as the test period wears on. I'd be doing him a favor by giving him a grade based on the first few pages.

  • ||

    Academic freedom is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

  • ||

    Any law that has to be examined by a panel of experts in order to be understood is a bad law.

  • T||

    Well, there goes most of the USC.

  • IceTrey||

    If the confrontation is RETALIATORY! As in you can attack a rapist if you saw it happening.

  • ||

    What the lawmakers and the law's sponsors claim about the law or their intent doesn't really matter. It only matters what the law says and how that language is interpreted by the courts.

    I do find the Sanford police chief (who was given a vote of no confidence , 3-2, by the local city council for his handling of the case) and his statements a bit odd, insisting tat he couldn't arrest because there wasn't enough evidence to disprove a self-defense claim, wile acknowledging that after Zimmerman was advised to not confront the pursuer he states that Zim. wasn't required to listen to the advisory.

    I would expect that the minute the cops realized that this guy confronted the boy, when he had a chance to wait for cops and chose not to,that the self-defense claim is a bit suspect and an arrest would have been allowed and then the prosecutors and the judges can sort it out.

  • ||

    You talking about an organization that confronts, then claims defense if anything goes down. So Zimmerman's claim probably rings true with them.

  • Barry D||

    "Stand your ground" laws or no, a claim of self-defense is almost automatically refuted by voluntary pursuit. The only reason I say, "almost" is that it might be conceivable that someone would have to run towards his attacker to defend himself, if the attacker was using a long-range weapon and there was no escape. Short of that, though, pursuit and self-defense are incompatible.

    Someone could also claim he was acting in the defense of others. It might be justifiable if one saw someone else being raped, or stabbed, or whatever, to run towards the attacker and use deadly force to stop the attack. Again, this is a clearly defined situation.

    In this case, Zimmerman isn't claiming that.

    Regardless, "stand your ground" laws are not interpreted to protect a pursuer in any but the most unusual cases.

  • ||

    Unless his confrontation was itself a felony, your logic doesn't work. And chasing someone down and asking them questions isn't, itself, assault.

    This law, unlike conventional self-defense, merely requires that a person assert a logical reason for feeling he was under threat. It doesn't require the belief to be true, or for him to provide any evidence that the claim was true, or any level of certainty that what he is claiming is true. That's a very, very low bar, legally.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    And chasing someone down and asking them questions isn't, itself, assault.


    If the person is a total stranger minding his own business, I'm pretty sure it is.

  • anon||

    No, it isn't. You can ask all you want in a public space; it doesn't mean you have to answer.

  • Barry D||

    True. But legally, assault is almost always defined as "an act intended to cause an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact that causes apprehension of such contact in the victim."

    That is also a very low bar, legally.

    Calmly asking someone what time it is, or what his name is, isn't assault. Chasing after someone or approaching him aggressively and asking, in a belligerent tone, while in pursuit, "Hey! What the hell are you doing here?" most likely is.

  • anon||

    "Hey! What the hell are you doing here?" most likely is.

    I don't think you'll find a jury in entire country willing to convict someone for this, nor a cop willing to arrest him.

    Unless there's actual physical contact, I'm pretty sure it can't be regarded as assault of any kind.

  • Barry D||

    I didn't write what you quoted. I wrote:

    Chasing after someone or approaching him aggressively and asking, in a belligerent tone, while in pursuit, "Hey! What the hell are you doing here?"

    There's a HUGE difference. Assault does NOT require battery.

  • Loki||

    I think it depends on the language that's used. "Hey! What the hell are you doing here?" probably isn't assault. "Hey! What the fuck are you doing here, you motherfucking piece of shit?" probably would be (in most statesa anyway).

  • R||

    I think there has to be an element to make them fear they are about to be battered, i.e. he'd have to say "Hey, what the hell are you doing here? I'm gonna kick your ass!"

    THAT'D be assault.

  • Fluffy||

    The Florida False Imprisonment statute includes restraint "by threat".

    Yelling after someone on a dark street and yelling "Stop right there!" would seem to qualify.

    If Martin was a cute white blonde cheerleader, it would be pretty straightforward.

  • Fluffy||

    Sorry, that should say "...running after someone on a dark street...etc".

  • Citizen Nothing||

    One big problem with the Internet: It makes journalists like Jacob Sullum feel as if they must respond to dim bulbs like Sean Bugg.

  • ||

    Title XLVI, Section 776.041(2) of the Florida Statutes states that "The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter [which includes Section 776.013(3), the "stand your ground" statute] is not available to a person who... Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless [he/she is placed in imminent danger of death or bodily harm and has exhausted means of escape or clearly withdraws from the conflict, but is still attacked]." From the facts currently available, there is the distinct possibility that Zimmerman initially provoked the use of force, and thereby has no claim of justification.

  • meh||

    or if the clown in front of you cuts you off in traffic.

  • ||

    I think the attacks on the law are weak. What court is going to ignore evidence that the defendant purposefully created the situation that he's trying to now use as a defense? None. It's all bullshit.

  • ||

    Florida courts, under direction of this law. Zimmerman would have to be proven to have been committing a felony in order for SYG to not apply, and it applies to the very specific instance of when he felt his life was in threat, not the whole situation. Even if his chasing and confronting did involve a felony, as long as he argues that at some point he tried to back off in some way, and Martin continued to attack, it then comes back into force.

    And he doesn't have to prove it. He just has to assert it, and it has to be logical.

  • ||

    No, that's incorrect:

    The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
    (1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
    (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
    (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
    (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

  • ||

    Or rather, it's incomplete (I got 900-word-limited). The forcible felony is just one way out.

    Also, you're greatly oversimplifying the situation about a good faith withdrawal. Chasing the guy down and shooting him when he was unarmed is loaded with problems for a defendant invoking a stand-your-ground defense.

  • Barry D||

    Indeed.

    Quite simply, the law allows you to use force to respond to an attack in a public place, instead of being legally bound to try to run away (which of course carries its own risks). It does NOT permit you to chase someone down and shoot him.

  • Barry D||

    BTW this is no different from self-defense in a private space. Without a "stand your ground" law, it's usually legal to defend yourself in your home, with deadly force, without a duty to retreat (though some states still have a "duty to retreat). That does NOT mean that you can shoot anyone you want, in your home. It means you can shoot someone whom you legitimately fear is trying to kill you at that very moment, and nothing more.

  • ||

    This statement is wrong:

    But even if Zimmerman really did fear for his life, reasonably or not, the "stand your ground" law applies only if Martin was the aggressor:

    Because the law quoted above specifically provides an exception to the general rule that the aggressor can't come under the law. That's what everything following the "unless" is, after all: a description of when somebody who provokes a fight can kill the person they provoked the fight with.

    Now, we may be logic-chopping on whether someone who "Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself," can be an aggressor, but at a minimum I think its hard to say that the law is absolutely not available to an "aggressor".

  • ||

    Its hard to argue that you were placed in imminent danger of death or bodily harm from someone 100 pounds lighter than you armed with nothing more than a bag of Skittles.

  • The Ghost of Trayvon Martin||

    Hey, I was a lot smarter than Zimmerman.

  • ||

    While I doubt we have all of the relevant facts, it sure sounds like Zimmerman is heading for a conviction of some sort.

  • Barry D||

    It is to be noted that, even in the apparently unlikely event that the "stand your ground" law DOES apply to the shooting, Zimmerman could STILL be convicted of felony assault for initiating the confrontation, and a hate crime enhancement under Florida law, if it was motivated by racial prejudice.

    Zimmerman had best have a remarkable story, or he's going up the river for something, and possibly for a long time.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Does FL have a "use of firearm in the commission of a felony" type of sentence enhancement too?

  • HeroicMulatto||

  • Jeffersonian||

    That has to be the most clueless commerce-related thing I've seen since the two state oil/gas companies in Russia and Nigeria formed a joint venture named "NIGAZ"

  • HeroicMulatto||

    It's a parody. Though I've heard of that oil company; it made me chuckle.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Thank God.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Okay, I watched it again. I'm the clueless party here.

  • Loki||

    I think I pointed this out yesterday, but outweighing someone by 100 lbs != advantage in a fight.

    I'd actually be inclined to bet on the slimmer, more physically fit teenager against a fat middle aged slob with a Rambo delusion.

  • I have a JD||

    You're absolutely right, Mr. Dean.

  • ||

    "I have a JD" - So do I (26 years practicing law, 10 years in criminal defense). I agree with the statement "its hard to say that the law is absolutely not available to an 'aggressor.'" My point is that, on the facts presently available, this particular aggressor is goiong to find it difficult to justify the use of deadly force.

  • ||

    I've been thinking, too, that the initial reaction that Zimmerman wouldn't get prosecuted didn't mean they might not have ended up prosecuting him as more evidence came out. The frenzy all around strikes me as premature.

  • malloc||

    OT

    Shorter version: Save the planet; Live in a cave!

  • Working 9 to 5||

    Let's not forget that Martin could also, legally, stand his ground.
    If you're a law-abiding citizen walking home and some wannabe cop moron comes up and grabs you, how are you going to respond?
    It's quite possible that Martin's biggest mistake was not carrying a gun himself...

  • Jude Law is your problem||

    mistake was not carrying a gun himself.
    And then we could have had an old fashioned shootout!
    WHOOP!

    maybe an innocent bystander could have gotten mixed up in the melee?

  • National Inquirer||

    Is Jude Law that innocent bystander?

  • Working 9 to 5||

    I'm not saying a shootout would be the desired or appropriate solution. But Zimmerman is alive and Martin is dead, so we're never going to hear Martin's side, are we?
    Besides, having a gun pointed back at you might alter your behavior a bit.

  • Jude Law is your problem||

    Didn't he shoot precisely because he thought the kid was armed?

  • Working 9 to 5||

    That's what he claims now. Who's going to contradict him?

  • Barry D||

    Well, the kid was black, right? I mean, music videos! Cartoons! Everyone knows a black teenager has at least one gun stuffed in his pants, right? I mean, come on. Of course Zimmerman thought he was armed!

    Of course, even if the victim DOES have a gun on his person, if he never touched it or even exposed it, it would be a rare case indeed where there would be any self-defense justification for shooting him...

  • ||

    "Thinking" the target is armed is generally not enough to put you in fear of your life. You generally have to wait for them to actually show a weapon.

  • anon||

    "Thinking" the target is armed is generally not enough to put you in fear of your life.

    Exactly; because everyone would just say "Well, I thought he had a weapon" if it were any other way, which would make every murder "justified."

  • anon||

    Although, I guess cops use that defense all the time anyways...

  • Working 9 to 5||

    I observed that the suspect was "reaching". Ka-bam!

  • ||

    No, your "new professionals" supplement their belief that the "civilian" was armed by providing the "civilian" with a weapon afterwards, if necessary. Kind of a community service, if you think about it.

  • anon||

    if necessary.

    So, never?

  • Barry D||

    Even if you KNOW someone is armed, that doesn't justify using deadly force unless he actually indicates in some way that he intends to use the weapon on you.

    Otherwise, PETA whackjobs could hang out in the woods during hunting season and shoot every hunter with impunity. Hunters all tend to be armed with one thing or another.

  • Zimmerman||

    Draw!

  • ||

    And then everyone gets off, under SYG. Which actually happened.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm thinking that the police chief liked Zimmer, and that's why he wasn't charged.

    You can get away with a lot of shit if the police chief likes you.

  • ||

    Or, if you are stopped three times by the same cop within a 10 month period for minor traffic violations (two speeding incidents and one run red light) and your name is the same name as the cop's best friend.

    True story.

    The cop was an MDC cop (Mike Dukakis Cop). In Massachusetts, there used to be a police agency named the Metropolitan District Commission - the agency was merged into the State Police during the reign of Bill Weld.

  • sarcasmic||

    My stepfather sells Fords, which means he's sold cars to most of the area's police departments.
    So when I moved in with him and my mother for a year or so I had their address on my license.
    I wrecked my car because I was driving while stinking drunk in a snow storm derp. When the officer in charge heard my stepfather's address over the radio he thought I was my stepbrother, and instructed the arriving officer to "go easy" on me.
    So he gave me one simple field sobriety test, which I passed, then chauffeured me home.
    If I hadn't had that address on my license I likely would have spent the night in jail.

  • ||

    I suspect there is a completely different law covering coming to the assistance of a third party who is under attack.

  • anon||

    I can't speak for Florida, but in NC you're allowed to use deadly force if imminent death or rape is imminent for the third party.

  • anon||

    Err, yeah, that made more sense before I put "imminent" in there twice.

  • Dylboz||

    No, actually, it's right there in the text of the law that you can claim the same affirmative defense when coming to the aid of a third party who is being attacked.

    I think that's kinda nutty, since you probably have no idea who started what unless you saw the whole thing unfold. I love guns, I have a lot of them, and I live in Arizona, so I often carry them with me. But I think it is very important to assess the situation before you get your self involved in something. There should be a REALLY high standard for involving yourself in other people's business, even if it involves violence. Once the shit starts going down, it gets very hard to tell who is the genuine aggressor and who is the person you need to defend.

  • anon||

    But I think it is very important to assess the situation before you get your self involved in something.

    Yup, the only way I'll draw a firearm is if I know *exactly* what happened... Mostly because I'm more worried about murdering someone that's innocent. As long as my conscience is clear, I'm ok.

  • Dylboz||

    I mean, just like the guy who had the gun on him at the Walgreens next door to the Loughner shooting who decided not to pull it out, and instead wrestled him to the ground. If he'd started shooting, wouldn't he have been more likely to have been regarded as an accomplice by others? Or the police? Maybe if he had been immediately present when the attack began, he could have used his weapon, but I think he made the right choice.

  • anon||

    If I understand right, there was a pretty significant crowd of bystanders present too. A stray .45 could've put him in for murder even if he did manage to hit Loughner.

  • ||

    "When a man's chasing a woman through an alley with nothing but a butcherknife and a hard-on, I doubt he's collecting for the Red Cross"

  • Mo||

    How the framers of the law intended the law to be enforced is irrelevant (as this blog points out on a weekly basis*). What's important is that this is how the law has been enforced. Had a federal case not been made of this situation, it would have continued to be enforced this way. So it seems to indicate that the language of the bill needs to be tightened up.

    * For example, I doubt the framers of the CFAA intended for the law to be enforced when people violate the TOS of websites.

  • anon||

    No way. It's the cop's fault for not pressing charges or doing any further investigation. Let a jury sort out whether it was justified or not; that is not the officer's decision.

  • Mo||

    But as we can see, it's not just the officer on duty, but the current police chief as well. The Sanford PD still hasn't put out a warrant for Zimmerman's arrest.

  • anon||

    Since it only appears to be a problem in Sanford, I would suggest that perhaps it's a problem with Sanford PD and not the law.

  • Slim||

    Why was George Zimmerman not arrested the night of the shooting?

    When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self-defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony. By Florida statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time. Additionally, when any police officer makes an arrest for any reason, the officer MUST swear and affirm that he/she is making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause. If the arrest is done maliciously and in bad faith, the officer and the city may be held liable.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012.....ing-death/

  • anon||

    from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time. Additionally, when any police officer makes an arrest for any reason, the officer MUST swear and affirm that he/she is making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause.

    So... Somehow in your mind a dead kid being dead and the guy telling you he shot the kid isn't probable cause?

  • Slim||

    That is the quote the police chief put out. I don't live in Sanford and was not on the street when this shooting happened. So, no it may not be probable cause.

    You cut out this part: "By Florida statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time. "

  • anon||

    Yeah, I get that, I still don't follow the logic though. I guess I don't *know* what facts they had at the time other than a dead kid and a guy that claims to have shot him.

    On cursory examination, those two facts alone warrant prosecution. Let the DA or judge dismiss it if it's deemed not homicide.

    Deciding whether a crime is homicide or not is *not* at the officer's discretion.

  • ||

    Well, that is your problem. You are ignorant of the law and seem to have a fuzzy conception of our legal system in general. What Zimmerman claims to have done (shot a man that attacked him) is perfectly legal in Florida. There are no witnesses that contradict his story. There is no physical evidence contradicting it. And he has wounds consistent with his story. There is no probable cause to make an arrest. Probable Cause is a necessary element of our legal system. We don't just arrest people absent cause and "let the jury sort it out".

  • ||

    Zimmerman should be treated exactly as a cop would have been treated.

  • anon||

    How can Zimmerman receive a promotion?

  • Jeffersonian||

    +1

  • Dylboz||

    And a medal for bravery.

  • Zimmerman||

    And an inflation-adjusted pension starting at $90k/year for life, plus free healthcare.

  • Almanian||

    Let's not forget the paid leave for at least 6 months while this is investigated, folks.

  • Brian D||

    The law says "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [aside from a home] 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."

    By pursuing Martin after being told not to with the intention of keeping him around until the police arrived, Zimmerman could well be charged with False Imprisonment under Florida law, which is an unlawful act and therefore nullifies any Stand Your Ground defense.

  • Slim||

    Except his "being told not to" was a suggestion he was not legally obligated to follow.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    The dispatcher's caution is no relevant to whether Zimmerman could be charged with False Imprisonment under Florida law. If he had done what he did without it he still would have been attempting false imprisonment.

    The caution only provides further confirmation of Zimmerman's poor judgment in that after having been advised not to he chose to pursue and confront someone who was not violating any law and who had a perfect right to be where he was.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Ignoring the law and just looking at the facts that seem to be in evidence, what happened here is Martin was walking along a street, doing absolutely nothing wrong, when he was accosted and assaulted by Zimmerman. In the ensuing confrontation, Zimmerman used a firearm to kill Martin.

    I think Zimmerman needs some prosecutin'.

  • anon||

    I think that's clear to just about everyone except Sanford PD.

  • Slim||

    Are you looking at facts or the assertions of the victim's family?

  • anon||

    Prosecution does not mean conviction.

  • Slim||

    Correct, and what evidence has come to light showing he needs to be prosecuted? The grand jury is looking at the matter now, I would have been quite comfortable letting them deal with the issue. But after the hi tech lynching that has taken place over the past few day, I don't see how Zimmerman can face a fair trial.

  • anon||

    The grand jury is looking at the matter now, I would have been quite comfortable letting them deal with the issue.

    I guess I'm equivocating this to a prosecution; as long as someone besides the police department gets to decide whether a crime has occurred, I'm ok with that.

  • ||

    See Also: Casey Anthony.

    I may be a bit of a Pollyanna but I think 'the system' generally sorts out the truth from the circus.

  • Jeffersonian||

    I'm reading the stories I read here and elsewhere. They are all pretty much in agreement, and the facts (if they are such) seem to indicated that Zimmerman was the agressor here.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    The facts as reported in the media pretty much support Jeffersonian's conclusions.

    I believe that it's perfectly true that the Sanford police could not have arrested Zimmerman at the time. However there is no justification for them to have come to the conclusion that Zimmerman's claims were true. That is a matter for further investigation.

    Further investigation was ruled out by the Sanforf Police Chief until he was embarassed into pursuing one.

  • Slim||

    If Zimmerman was told not to continue to follow Trayvon, can that be considered in this investigation?

    Yes, it will; however, the telecommunications call taker asked Zimmerman, “Are you following him.” Zimmerman replied, “Yes." The call taker stated “you don’t need to do that.” The call taker’s suggestion is not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow.

    Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012.....ing-death/

  • anon||

    911 operators' orders don't mean jack shit anyways. They could have said anything and it wouldn't have really meant shit.

  • Slim||

    That is basically what the police chief is saying here.

  • ||

    And what virtually everyone out on this particular witch hunt doesn't seem to comprehend. If a cop says jump in the lake- do you have to do it?

  • HeroicMulatto||

    If a cop says jump in the lake- do you have to do it?

    Yes, you do.

    STOP RESISTING!

  • ||

    THAT IS NOT RESISTING ARREST.THAT IS AN EXCUSE FOR THEM TO SHOOT.IT IS SAD BUT I DO NOT TRUST THE POLICE.(WHY)YOU ASK,BECAUSE THE ARE GANG MEMBERS WITH GUNS & BADGES.NOW TRUE THERE IS A NEED FOR POLICE.IT IS JUST SAD THAT YOU CANNOT TELL WHO IS WHO.

  • ||

    THE WORD IS (THEY) @ THE TOP.

    LISA BATCHELOR.

  • Fluffy||

    Actually, it's important to a theory of the crime that holds that Zimmerman was engaged in False Imprisonment (a Florida felony) and therefore cannot claim self-defense.

    If I'm standing next to a cop and we're both watching a man get into an argument with his wife, and I say, "I'm going to go break that fight up," and the cop says, "Don't do that!" if I later try to claim that I assaulted the husband to stop a felony in progress, my claim should be estopped by the fact that the police officer I was talking to advised me to take no action.

  • ||

    Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.

    I'm pretty sure that's inconsistent with actual 911 call that is on tape, which seems to take place right before the incident.

    Its also inconsistent with the fact that Trayvon was actually on his own phone when the incident went down.

    Not to mention his girlfriend's account of their last phone call.

  • ||

    Zimmerman's statement is a verifiable fact. [that he said this to the cops] Everything you are "pretty sure" about is conjecture.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Zimmerman's statement that "he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck" is called into question by reported facts, the transcript of the 911 call and the reported telephone call to Martin's girlfriend.

    This creates enough suspicion of Zimmerman's statement that the Sanford PD should have pursued a vigorous investigation rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet.

    It does seem to be true that they had no grounds to arrest him on the site but they did have grounds to caustion hime that he would be subject to further investigation and needed to remain available for questioning.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    If Zimmerman was told not to continue to follow Trayvon, can that be considered in this investigation?

    It would certainly weaken any claim that Zimmerman's suspicions were "reasonable" when they were going against the advice of a trained expert.

  • Ice Nine||

    A trained expert in what? Whether or not the suspicions of a voice on a phone umpteen miles away are reasonable?

  • Fluffy||

    Actually, yeah.

    Based on Zimmerman's descriptions of what Martin was doing on the night in question, would a police officer have concluded he had probable cause to arrest Martin?

    Police officers are supposed to be trained experts in probable cause for making arrests, last time I checked.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    I don't think 911 dispatchers have the same training as police officers.

  • Robert Zimmerman||

    No, He's not related.

  • ||

    I did not realize that our judicial system now goes by the "last man standing" principle where the only person left alive is assumed to be so perfectly trustworthy that an investigation need not be performed.

    If only all the kids doing the school shootings had known! Just leave no survivors, say it was self defense, and you are free and clear!

    I think the SYG Law might allow this guy to avoid conviction, but it sure as hell gives no justification for not charging the bastard.

  • ||

    Well, think about that for a minute. We impose a very serious standard on state prosecutions of persons accused of any crime--"beyond a reasonable doubt." Therefore, for any crime committed without witnesses and without significant physical or other circumstantial evidence, conviction is problematic.

    With or without a stand your ground defense, prosecutors may not bring an action if the evidence if dicey. In this case, I think the evidence is there to prosecute, from what we're hearing (and I doubt seriously we're hearing all of the evidence--it may not all be as damning as it now seems), so this should all come out in court at some point.

  • Mo||

    Well, without the SYG law and based on the evidence thus far, it would be relatively simple to charge and convict him of manslaughter, at the very least, without a reasonable doubt.

  • ||

    Really? I think the guy killed someone he didn't have to, too, but convicting someone is a whole lot harder than noting that the evidence looks damning. He's claiming that he shot in self-defense, too, which has to be evaluated. Maybe the kid actually did do something life-threatening? Probably not, but I don't think we know enough to completely dismiss that possibility.

  • Mo||

    Well, he's admitted to shooting the kid, no weapon was found on the kid (not even a Swiss Army knife) and he admitted to following him when told not to. Without the SYG law, it'd be pretty easy to show that he used disproportionate force for the situation.

  • ||

    Probably, but it takes more than that to convict. He'll have his story, there's the evidence that we know about, and there may be more to come, too.

  • Not an Economist||

    Except for part where Zimmerman had visible injuries when cops showed up and witnesses supported his story about being hit by Martin when Zimmerman was on the ground.

    The fact is we don't know what happened. Even the girlfriends statement doesn't clear anything up. One question I have did Martin have any injuries other than the gunshot wound and maybe bruises/cuts on his knuckles. Also, what was Martin suspended from school for? I heard it was not for fighting but that doesn't mean it couldn't shed light on what happened.

  • ||

    "I did not realize that our judicial system now goes by the "last man standing" principle where the only person left alive is assumed to be so perfectly trustworthy that an investigation need not be performed."

    It doesn't, so you can save the angst for a real issue.

    According to the police the officers on the scene took statements from witnesses.

  • Mo||

    And corrected their statements based on what they were told by Zimmerman.

  • um...||

    why does everyone ignore the one or two facts this world wide sea of speculation? zimmerman was bleeding from the back of his head, his back was covered with grass stains and grass, and his nose was bleding. he also said that he was on his way back to his car.

  • ||

    See my post above on his claim that he was leaving the area.

    As for bleeding from the back of his head, etc., that tells us nothing about whether he started the physical confrontation or not. That just means that he got punched in the nose and fell on his back at some point.

    Given what Zimmerman was up to that night, I think its far, far more likely that he started the confrontation than Trayvon. After all, that was Zimmerman's announced intent.

  • anon||

    Because if he hadn't pursued someone that was minding his own business, it'd be irrelevant.

  • ||

    Don't be a killjoy- facts just mess up the narrative required to prep the jury to render the 'right' verdict,.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    No one is rendering a verdict here. We are trying to point out that the Sanford PD's concluding self defense and closing the investigation was, to put it most generously, premature.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    IOW, my opinion of what happened has absolutely nothing to do with what the disposition of this case will be.

    And if the reported facts change, so will my opinion.

    However, the changes so far in the reported facts seem to dig a bigger and bigger hole for Zimmerman.

    FWIW, based on my recollection of how various cases are treated in Fla (I don't recall a case exactly like this), Zimmerman is going to be convicted for something most likely manslaughter and most likely on a plea bargain that provides for little or even no jail time.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    The family and the local black community (which has a history of grievances against the police) are out for blood so a zero jail time settlement will likely be unlatisfactory.

    A felony conviction like this will leave leave Zimmerman with a permanent record which will leave him unable to get a decent job for the rest of his life let alone ever having his dream of being Starsky or Hutch come to fruition.

    And even though the law does provide for the restoration of gun rights after five years of completing the sentence (along with voting rights etc), I think it unlikely the clemency board will grant them.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Actually, even if Zimmerman is aquitted (or even has the charges dropped, or never even brought) I think it's safe to say his dream of being Starsky or Hutch will never come to fruition.

    I doubt any police agency in the country would touch him.

    I doubt that he'll even be able to get a job in mall security.

  • emmakable||

    And the only eye witness to the confrontation says Martin was on top of Zimmerman punching him.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEDBqvEauYU

  • Stormy Dragon||

    zimmerman was bleeding from the back of his head, his back was covered with grass stains and grass, and his nose was bleding. he also said that he was on his way back to his car.

    And if he was, as he claims, attacked from behind while returning to his car, wouldn't the grass stains be on his front?

  • anon||

    Meh, it's plausible that somehow he could get turned around in a struggle.

  • Joe M||

    the Sanford Police Department says "Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon."

    That directly contradicts what Martin's girlfriend said, which was that Zimmerman started questioning Martin while they were on the phone together and there were the sounds of a scuffle before the call ended. Whether or not we will ever be able to hear the phone conversation (doubtful, since it hasn't already been made available), the call times reported by the phone company logs don't match up with the timing of Zimmerman's 911 call and the shooting time.

  • ||

    At this point, I think I believe that the police were under the impression that they had to accept Zimmerman's statement as fact unless contradictory evidence was immediately apparent. Although the statute says specifically that the police may conduct an investigation, they were almost certainly right from a statutory point of view in not arresting him immediately. (Although failing to check the victim's cellphone log is probably negligent.)

  • ||

    I don't get all of this. Suspects don't get immediately arrested all of the time.

  • ||

    The statute says (To my understanding) that a person shall be assumed to have acted in self-defense and immune from "criminal prosecution" including arrest unless contradicting facts result. However, the cops may have assumed (or just been plain lazy) that they couldn't have pursued him without a contradictory witness. And without knowing the girlfriend was on the phone with him, they'd be lacking that.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Even before SYG, the cops would likely not make an arrest unless the facts on the ground were obviously at adds with the shooter's narrative.

    Even then they might not until after further investigation unless the shooter had a violent history and/or was considered a flight risk.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    "...not make an [immediate] arrest..." that is.

  • ||

    I haven't looked for myself since I stay away from such sites, but I'd dare say that at any rightwing mag that's following this story, the overwhelming majority of the commentors are siding with this Zimmerman guy. It's heartening to be among a group that's resolutely pro-gun and pro-self-defense but that recognizes that is almost certainly not a "good shoot."

  • anon||

    It's what happens when you examine individual situations rather than collective ones.

  • ||

    I had wondered if someone was going to bring this aspect up. I have a CHL in Texas (which requires an instructor led class) and one of the things stressed in the coursework is that if you provoke or escalate a situation, you run the risk of losing your claim to self-defense. In fact, there is a substantial segment of the class dedicated to non-violent conflict resolution because of that.

    'Stand-your-ground' laws aren't intended to give people the right to play out vigilante fantasies; they are designed to prevent prosecutions for justified self-defense or defense of 3rd parties.

    Zimmerman (in my eyes) has a very hard time claiming self-defense when he went far out of his way to provoke a confrontation with a complete stranger who didn't even pose a theoretical threat to him or anyone else. Fuckhead should have become a cop if he wanted to shoot innocent people and get away with it!

  • anon||

    Stand-your-ground' laws aren't intended to give people the right to play out vigilante fantasies; they are designed to prevent prosecutions for justified self-defense or defense of 3rd parties.

    Nope, and this is something most people with a CCP learn and respect.

  • sarcasmic||

    Fuckhead should have become a cop if he wanted to shoot innocent people and get away with it!

    I believe he was/is studying Criminal Justice with that as a goal.

    Now he can put "killed a black kid" on his resume if/when he applies to the police force.

    He's a shoe in.

  • Butts Wagner||

    Fuckhead should have become a cop if he wanted to shoot innocent people and get away with it!

    In 2008, he applied to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office program for citizen law enforcement.

  • Fluffy||

    why does everyone ignore the one or two facts this world wide sea of speculation?.

    We also have the fact that on the 911 call Zimmerman voiced anger that Martin might "get away".

    If a husband on a 911 call says his wife is trying to leave their apartment and it's really pissing him off, and the police show up to the apartment 10 minutes later and the wife is dead, the police chief can't tell the press he doesn't have any evidence to contradict the husband's statement that he acted in self-defense.

    Even if the husband has injuries.

    If a jury would be entitled to infer that our hypothetical husband killed his wife to stop her from leaving their apartment - and that his injuries resulted from that confrontation - a jury can certainly reasonably conclude that Zimmerman's injuries arose from an illegal attempt to restrain or detain Martin.

  • ||

    'Stand-your-ground' laws aren't intended to give people the right to play out vigilante fantasies; they are designed to prevent prosecutions for justified self-defense or defense of 3rd parties.

    Nicely said.

    Fuckhead should have become a cop if he wanted to shoot innocent people and get away with it!

    Unless it's already been reported to the contrary, my guess is that Zimmerman has applied to, and been rejected by, at least one PD. He reminds me of Seth Rogen in Observe & Report.

  • sarcasmic||

    From what I gathered he is/was studying Criminal Justice in preparation for joining the force.
    I don't know why he would be taking that course of study if there was no chance of him becoming a police officer.

  • ||

    Could be that he was rejected for not having educational prerequisites.

    Of course, if he walks away from this thing unscathed, they'll probably waive those requirements for him, since he'll have proven he has what it takes to kick ass and take names.

  • johnl||

    Can any gun toting reasonista help me with this? If someone is beating me up to the point that I am in fear for my life, this means I can't block or strike back. So if I am completely stymied by someone, how do I have the time to pull a gun out, point it in the right direction, and shoot? Doesn't the fact that Zimmerman was able to shoot prove that Tray wasn't beating him up?

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    If you are being physically attacked to the point that you are in fear for your life, you are entitled to use any means of restraint or retaliation required to end the attack.

    That is an almost universal doctrine, even in places where self-defense is so severely restrained as to be effectively banned.

    The differences on how differnet jurisdictions treat this rest on the point at which the authorities in question draw the line as to what was sufficient for you to be "in fear for your life".

  • johnl||

    I am asking about the physical possibility. If I can't get a punch off because I am overwhelmed by an attacker, how am I supposed to be able to grab a gun and get a shot off?

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Unlees your assailant has you in a bear hug it isn't likely you are restrained to the point of incapacitation.

    You do not have to be physically attacked to be in fear of your life. You just have to have a reasonable (it's all subjective - that's why some of these cases end up in front of juries) belief that a physical attack is imminent.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    But yeah, if someone totally overpowers you then you're kinda shit outta luck.

  • Loki||

    That seems like an awfully broad definition to me. Getting punched in the nose and knocked to the ground != threat to one's life. Getting punched in the face and knocked down, then your assaillant jumping on top of you "MMA style" and whaling away or attempting to choke you out does = threat to one's life.

    Most people the second they a gun will back off. I suspect that after getting knocked on his ass Zimmerman panicked, drew his gun and fired (perhaps he was also a little butthurt about being put there by someone 100 lbs lighter?). He probably didn't have the presense of mind to assess whether or not Martin was truly intending to kill or cause him severe bodily harm or not.

  • ||

    That seems like an awfully broad definition to me. Getting punched in the nose and knocked to the ground != threat to one's life.


    People have died from one punch.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    People have died from being hit by cars. That doesn't mean I can shoot anyone I see driving and claim it was self defense.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    As I said, it doesn't need to be a "threat to one's life" it only needs to be reasonably perceived as a "threat to one's life". And therein lies the mischief.

    Even with SYG there is no carte blanche to claim that there was a threat to one's life. When questions arise as to the veracity or the reasonableness of the claim a jury needs to decide.

    The question here is, would a reasonable person have reason to fear for his life as a result of the actions of Trayvon Martin?

  • Dano||

    The 911 call from one of the neighbors you can clearly here trayvon screeming for "help" several times. This was clearly not just a quick reflex. It still makes little sense how the police could justifiable say they didn't have probably cause to arrest him.

  • Almanian||

    As I noted recently, guns don't kill people. Gun OWNERS kill people.

    I think I see another "opportunity" for a gummint warning sticker:
    "Caution - This Home Inhabited by a [opt. 'Deranged'] Gun Owner"

    Or something.

  • shrike||

    All power to the Soviets

  • Alice Bowie||

    Hello there

  • Alice Bowie||

    What I haven't heard more often is why Martin just didn't politely respond to Zimmerman. Had he done so, this would not have happened.

    I'm willing to bet that Martin acted ghetto and tough and this is what happens.

    Zimmerman, as Neighborhood watch stooge did have a right to be there an even ask Martin a question. Martin could have answered politely...but knowing ghetto people, I doubt that this is what happened.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Forget about racism and forget about right-wrong and the law. If you are a young black person in one of these "Stand-Your-Ground" states you should either MOVE or behave like white people...and not like ghetto people.

    Remember, in America, black people are free to sit in the front of the bus...but only if they can pass for white. This is going to be true for at least another 20years or so.

  • NRO||

    Is the Romney campaign like an Etch A Sketch?

  • IceTrey||

    Zimmerman lost his right to self defense when he left the safety of his vehicle. This was the point at which he initiated the confrontation.

  • Alice Bowie||

    No. He was the watch-man for his neighborhood. He can go up to anyone and ask if they are a resident or not.

  • IceTrey||

    So you admit he initiated the confrontation. That means he was the aggressor. The aggressor can't claim self defense since they created the situation in the first place.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    He was not "the watch-man for his neighborhood" in any sense except that he had appointed himself to that position.

    This guy is the author of events that ended in the death of an innocent kid minding his own business.

    Even the police report indicates that he was not on "official business" but was himself running an errand in his car when he saw a "suspicious character" committing the crime of "walking while black".

    It was Zimmerman who took it upon himself to initiate the confrontation and it is he who should now face the consequences of having set into motion a series of events that resulted in the death of an innocent teenager.

  • Dano||

    The problem with the law is that its vague. "Forcible felony" isn't really defined, but there is enough common law to figure that out. However, impending isn't really defined, and harms way is subjective to the person "reasonable belief". This makes the law hard to enforce for prosecutors, there is a very broad set of circumstances in which the law could apply and it can often devolve into a he said she said kind of case. The idea of stand your ground is understandable, but the enforcement and application of the law leave a lot to be desired.

  • kakijade||

    Yeah, GZ said his mom's, cousin's, uncle's, brother's, dog's, cousin's grandpa was black....He loves black people!!! Yeah, right...that's why you made 67 calls to the police that there strange black men in your neighborhood with never any arrests made from your "tip" that year....PUUUULLLLLEEASE!

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