Trayvon Martin

Zimmerman's Prosecutors Did Not Think They Were Trying a 'Stand Your Ground' Case


Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Yesterday I noted that prosecutor John Guy declared during George Zimmerman's murder trial, "This case is not about standing your ground." Victoria Taft points out that two of Guy's colleagues were asked about the relevance of Florida's "stand your ground" law to the case after Zimmerman's acquittal. Here is how the exchange with Angela Corey, the state attorney appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to oversee the case, went (emphasis added):

Reporter: Can you talk about the Florida Stand Your Ground law and whether the changes in 2005 in the law affected the facts in this case and whether this case could have been won, perhaps, pre the changes in the law?

Corey: Well, justifiable use of deadly force has changed to a certain extent. Stand Your Ground is a procedural mechanism, as we call it, where we fully expected it because of what we were hearing that the defense would request a Stand Your Ground hearing. We would have put on the same evidence. It would have been in front of just a judge instead of a jury.

Reporter: What about the duty to retreat aspect?

Corey: Well, the duty to retreat aspect had sort of disappeared before Stand Your Ground kicked in.

What Corey meant, presumably, is that by Zimmerman's account he had no opportunity to retreat once the fight started, making the right to stand your ground irrelevant. Here is what Bernie de la Rionda, the chief prosecutor during the trial, said in response to a similar question (emphasis added):

Reporter: Could I get your impression of the 2005 expansion of the Florida self-defense statutes? Does this make your job harder?

De la Rionda: You know, self-defense has existed for a long time. And we've dealt with it in Jackson for a long time. We've tried a lot of self-defense cases; I've personally tried 10 to 15 self-defense cases. They're tough cases, but we accept it so… The law really hasn't changed all that much. Stand Your Ground was a big thing, but really the law hasn't changed. We have a right to bear arms and a right to self-defense.

In short, the defense did not see this as a "stand your ground" case, and the prosecution did not either. It seems quite unlikely, given the facts of the case, that the jury did.

NEXT: 3D-Printed Guns Now Include Rifles and Pepperboxes

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  1. Can we please make this stop?!?

    We’ve beaten this issue to death! We’ve beaten it so much that 12 hours ago it could have pulled out a gun and shot us and been acquitted on grounds of self defense.

    We know: it wasn’t a stand your ground case!!!!! Let’s talk about other things already!

    1. They were trying a circumcision case.

      Is that better?

      1. They were trying a circumcision case.

        Until it was aborted after 25 weeks because of lack of evidence.

    2. “””We know: it wasn’t a stand your ground case!!!!! “””

      We know, but I listened to the BBC and NPR today and they did not know, in fact they seem to think it was all about stand your ground, well at least the part that was not about racism

    3. You know, but most people don’t, and the reporting on the subject has been atrocious.

    4. It’s not SYG, no one involved in the case ever thought it was, and legal experts were saying it wasn’t likely SYG at the time it happened.

      Here’s an analysis from the time that’s decent and notes how it’s not SYG any way you cut it.

      1. Except for certain legal “experts” who should know better but would rather get air time for their pet projects than be accurate.

        1. That’s true enough–not everyone opining on legal matters left their biases at the door.

  2. The standards set forth in the Stand Your Ground law were a part of the jury instructions and thus were meant to function in their decision. SYG is also the entire reason Zimmerman wasn’t arrested right away. The defense didn’t want to argue, though, that Zimmerman had a chance to flee.

    1. “The standards set forth in the Stand Your Ground law were a part of the jury instructions and thus were meant to function in their decision.”

      Reference for this?

      1. Heard it on NPR a bit ago.

        1. You know, that really does not answer my question, Tony.

          I prefer to argue with actual facts, in this case the relevant FL statutes and judicial rules.

        2. Heard it on NPR a bit ago.

          Exhibit #32,875 for how easily the media manipulates people.

          1. You forgot Exhibit #32,876 for how easily thought challenged people are lead by the media.

    2. “The standards set forth in the Stand Your Ground law were a part of the jury instructions and thus were meant to function in their decision.”

      So were instructions about other situations that weren’t relevant to the case

      “That language is part of the standard jury instruction [3.6(f)] in cases where the defendant claims his use of deadly force was justified. But it is hard to see how it applies to the facts of this case, since Zimmerman claimed he was unable to retreat and therefore did not base his defense on the right to stand your ground. The fact that a legal provision was mentioned in the instructions does not necessarily mean it was relevant in reaching a verdict. For example, the instructions also mentioned accidental killings and attacks on dwellings, neither of which applies to the circumstances of the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin.”…..-has-nothi

      And while the probable cause requirement was passed as a part of the same law as SYG, it’s not the same legal principle by any means. And I’m not sure why it’s so horrible that the police need probable cause to arrest somebody

      1. Good points Calidissident. As Sullum has pointed out many times, some in the media seem to conflate the various provisions of the 2005 law.

        The section that deals with the actual stand your ground principles ammended 776.013 which pertains to Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

        Section 776.032 of the Florida Statutes provides that a person who uses deadly force in self-defense “is immune from criminal prosecution.”

        Section 776.032 also provides immunity from arrest unless the police have “probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.”

        The 776.032 sections are controversial but only the change to probable cause had a role in this case. And only to the extent that it delayed arrest. People will disagree on whether Zimmerman should have been arrested at all, but that all preceded a trial, which then did not rely on stand your ground provisions in any substantive measure.

      2. Because the police should arrest whoever Tony thinks they should, that’s why.

    3. Re: Tony,

      The standards set forth in the Stand Your Ground law were a part of the jury instructions and thus were meant to function in their decision.

      That does not mean a) they considered them and b) they meant something, as Zimmerman had no way to escape from the situation with a 158 LB young mand sitting on top of him, according to what the EYE WITNESS testified and the forensic evidence showed (not just what Zimmerman said).

      Face it, Tony: This was a straight self-defense case.

    4. SYG is also the entire reason Zimmerman wasn’t arrested right away.

      Uh no, SYG never applied because Zimmerman didn’t have a means of escape.

      I realize the left is masturbating over getting these type of laws repealed, but the least you could do is be a bit less mendacious about it.

  3. Since this is the latest Zimmerman thread, I’ll put this here.

    1. Did the defense use this? I’ve seen even more complicated layouts presented in a slip and fall case. So the contention is that Mr. Martin laid in wait to confront Mr. Zimmerman. Changes the narrative a bit, yes, from “A child was killed for carrying skittles in his pocket” (actual quote from a young white woman interviewed at protest in Phila.)

      1. Re: Creech,

        Did the defense use this?

        The defense used a similar graphic, both in opening statements and in closing.

    2. Great link! When Zimmerman first encountered Martin, he was parked in front of the community clubhouse. The pool near the front entrance in the photo is part of the clubhouse. The distance from the clubhouse to where Zimmerman’s truck is parked, is the distance that Zimmerman followed Martin.

      We were led to believe that Zimmerman “stalked” Martin throughout the neighborhood. In reality, he followed him for about 400 feet.

  4. I’ve spent a good bit of time today trying to bat down misinformation and distortions at The Economist, of all places, where I would think that you’d get a better caliber of analysis. See for yourself:


    Wilkinson’s article is mostly fair (despite the weird non-sequitur about how Martin wouldn’t be dead if he wasn’t black, which seems like pretty specious reasoning) and reaches what I think is the right conclusion, but people are just frothing at the mouth about racism this and Stand Your Ground that.

    1. The Economist is London based. Why on earth would you expect the commentary to be better about issues of US law? Especially esoteric self defense provisions about duty to retreat/stand your ground. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it perfectly legal for the king to kill at will and rape brides on their wedding day like in braveheart?

      1. Did anyone expect English papers to speak approvingly of American race relations and gun culture?

    2. Now, I don’t know it, but I seriously doubt Mr Zimmerman needed to shoot Mr Martin, even if Mr Martin did attack him. And I seriously doubt Mr Martin would have been shot if he hadn’t been a black kid. In my heart of hearts, I too think Mr Zimmerman did something terribly wrong, and that this misdeed reflects a number of things that are terribly wrong in our culture.

      One of our terribly wrong cultural features is the willingness of those who face no consequences to blithely conclude that others should bet their lives on the restraint of someone attacking them.

      Also this article assumes Zimmerman is lying about Travon reaching for his gun. I find it very strange that every effort to find the ‘reasonable middle’ relies on Zimmerman lying. If you have to assume a lie not supported by evidence to justify your position you’re not fairly balancing the competing evidence.

      While the article is tonally decent it still presumes that citizens have no right to defend their property even by simply watching to ensure someone doesn’t take it. Without this presumption that mere watching is somehow morally wrong there’s no case to make against Zimmerman. That’s why so many are hyping the irrelevant ‘told to stay in his car angle, they want to blame Zimmerman and that’s the only hook.

  5. I was informed on Facebook (before I banished it) that Florida had legalized murder as a result of this case. Period. LEGALIZED. MURDER. Zimmerman acquitted = MURDER LEGAL

    From the head of the academic department in my major at my Alma Mater.

    Oh, maybe that’s the problem…

    1. From the head of the academic department in my major at my Alma Mater.

      You should have asked if he/she now planned to go down to Florida and kill all those icky right-wingers they’re always complaining about, since clearly MURDER IS NOW LEGAL.

      1. Wow – yeah – good idea!

        No, wait…

    2. Zimmerman acquitted = MURDER LEGAL

      That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows that murder wasn’t made legal across the board. Only murder of black people.

    3. Said it before, say it again, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”

  6. Judge Nelson made clear in the jury instructions that they should consider the law: “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”…..ctions.pdf

    In fact, juror B37 said it played a big role in their verdict.

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