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A Legal Analysis: Trayvon Martin Tragedy Has Nothing to Do with 'Stand Your Ground'

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: March 22, 2012 3:55 AM
Gary Siplin

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale | Courtesy: Dave Heller

The recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by volunteer crime-watcher George Zimmerman in Seminole County has Florida Democrats in a furor, calling for a re-examination or repeal of the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” statute.

“Given the overwhelming public concerns that have been raised ... I write to respectfully request that the Florida House of Representatives conduct hearings in this matter of community safety and human rights,” wrote House Minority Leader-designate Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, on Wednesday, in a letter to Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.

Rep. Mia Jones, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Legislature’s Black Caucus, has gone even further: "For me, the right answer for 'Stand Your Ground' is to repeal it. ... I don't think this is a society that we want to live in,” she told a press conference on Tuesday.

Are these the exaggerated hysterics of leftist Utopians driven to read humanitarian crises into every sign of human imperfection, or are there real flaws in Florida’s criminal statutes that merit legislative reformation?

What happened?

The precise details surrounding the circumstances of young Martin’s tragic death at the hands of Zimmerman have yet to be entirely fleshed out while investigations by both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are still pending. Even so, a few facts are beyond dispute.

Trayvon Martin, a North Miami native, was watching basketball at his father’s home in Sanford the night of Feb. 26. During the halftime break, he walked to a gas station to pick up some candy and an iced tea.

Neighborhood crime-watcher Gregory Zimmerman, legally carrying a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, was patrolling in his SUV when he spotted Martin walking through the neighborhood on his return home from the gas station. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin, telling the dispatcher Martin looked like “a real suspicious guy.”

“This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman told the dispatcher. "It's raining, and he's just walking around looking about.”  (The neighborhood reportedly is a magnet for burglaries, at least a few of which Zimmerman had been instrumental in thwarting.)

But Zimmerman did more than just report a supposedly suspicious-looking Martin to police. He followed him through the neighborhood, apparently getting out of his car to chase him on foot, despite being warned not to by the police dispatcher.

What happened next is uncertain: Martin and Zimmerman ended up wrestling on the ground (though it isn’t clear who initiated the physical altercation), cries of “Help!” were heard by witnesses (though it isn’t clear which of the two men made the shout), and the tussle concluded with Zimmerman killing Martin with a single gunshot to his chest.

Zimmerman has not been arrested, nor has he been charged with any crime. He insists that he killed Martin in self-defense, and has invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute to claim immunity from having to go to trial for the homicide.

What Is 'Stand Your Ground'?

Before discussing the possible merits of Zimmerman’s defenses, it is important to understand just what legal protections he is claiming for himself.

Zimmerman insists that his actions in this case constitute justifiable self-defense. In particular, he has invoked Section 776.013 of the Florida Statutes, subsection 3, popularly known as the “Stand Your Ground” statute:

“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.”

Section 776.032 of the Statutes further stipulates that anyone employing justifiable force in these circumstances is immune from any criminal prosecution or civil action for the use of such force, “unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer.”

This statute has been in effect since 2005. Prior to that, Florida criminal law followed that of most other states: Victims of forcible felonies had a “duty to retreat” from their attackers if they could do so safely; the only time such a duty did not attach was when one was being attacked within one’s dwelling, residence, or vehicle. The 2005 statute abolishes this duty and imposes the sole limitation that one may only resort to deadly force when he reasonably believes such is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

In our legal system, these phrases each carry specific meanings:
  • First, the person invoking the “Stand Your Ground” defense must do more than simply convince a jury that his belief in the necessity of employment of deadly force is honest and sincere. He must demonstrate, by a preponderance (i.e., greater weight) of evidence, that his belief was reasonable. In determining whether such a belief is reasonable, courts or arresting police officers employ what is called an objective test -- i.e., they determine what a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would have believed was necessary to prevent the serious harm.
  • What exactly constitutes “great bodily harm” is a little ambiguous. Minor scratches and scars don’t qualify, but amputations and severe mutilations almost certainly do. The standard was articulated by the Florida Supreme Court in the 1974 case Owens v. State: “Great bodily harm defines itself and means great as distinguished from slight, trivial, minor, or moderate harm, and as such does not include mere bruises as are likely to be inflicted in a simple assault and battery. ... Whether the evidence describing such harm or injury is within the meaning of the statute ... is generally a question of fact for the jury."
  • Finally, Section 776.08 of the Florida Statutes defines “forcible felonies” as “any ... felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.”

Thus, in order for Zimmerman’s “Stand Your Ground” claim to prevail, he will need to convince a jury, by a preponderance of the evidence (a much lower standard than the famous “beyond a reasonable doubt”), that a reasonable person in his position would have believed that deadly force was necessary to defend himself against Martin, or that a reasonable person would have believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent Martin from committing a felony that involved the use or threat of physical force against an individual.

Will Zimmerman Prevail?

There are too many details that remain unknown to the public, or whose publicity is contradictory, for us to presume to play the role of Zimmerman’s judge, jury, and executioner. But the facts that are emerging do not seem to bode well for the would-be crime fighter’s case. Martin was unarmed, 11 years Zimmerman’s junior, and 100 pounds lighter than he is; and it is clear that Martin was not doing anything illegal.

Zimmerman appears to have chased Martin on foot after police dispatch expressly told him not to. At least one witness reports having heard Martin (not Zimmerman) cry for help.

Finally, Martin’s girlfriend is publicly corroborating this scenario based on her phone conversation with Martin just seconds before Zimmerman approached. The credible picture she paints (consistent with the witness testimony and what we indisputably know to be Martin’s innocence) is of Martin defending himself against the aggressions of an overenthusiastic vigilante.

More relevant for purposes of this analysis than Zimmerman’s legal culpability is the utter impropriety of Democratic politicians capitalizing on this non-representative tragedy in order to further advance a leftist agenda hostile to the human rights they claim to champion.

“Stand Your Ground” is nothing other than the political realization of a man or a woman’s human right to defend their dignity against violent attackers. Imposing on victims a state-invented “duty” to make on-the-spot calculations of whether it is safe to retreat imposes on them a burden that instead ought to be borne by their aggressors.

Talk of outright repeal is all the more reprehensible considering that the same leftists who are now raising that specter also tend to be proponents of draconian gun-control laws that leave the innocent and law-abiding at the mercy of the criminally armed.

We never hear Democrats suggest that police agencies ought to be abolished just because some officers abuse their powers and engage in police brutality, with often fatal consequences. Why must all citizens suffer for the abuses of the occasional (and statistically very rare) vigilante who might act recklessly under cover of law, while among our police officers we must discriminate between the good and the bad?

Florida’s criminal statutes are certainly not above criticism. The original legislative sponsors of “Stand Your Ground,” former Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, and current Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, have vehemently insisted that their statute was never intended to apply to cases such as Zimmerman’s, and we’re inclined to agree: Zimmerman did not so much stand his ground as he stood within Martin’s. There’s no reason Section 776.013 cannot be strengthened by legislative amendment in order to preclude cover by citizen vigilantes.

But to the extent the laws need correcting, it is not in the direction of disarming the innocent and leaving them at the mercy of the violent.

Eric Giunta wrote this analysis piece especially for Sunshine State News. Giunta recently graduated from Florida State University College of Law, where he served as president of that school's chapter of the nation's premier fellowship of conservative and libertarian law students. He is sitting for the Florida Bar examination. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice nor is it intended to constitute legal advice.

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Comments (76)

Luke
1:02PM MAY 18TH 2012
So let's analyze this article. It's entitled a legal analysis but in one of the penultimate paragraphs, you write "More relevant for purposes of this analysis than Zimmerman’s legal culpability is the utter impropriety of Democratic politicians capitalizing on this..." So, in essence, it is in no way a legal analysis. You call the legal analysis portion of the issue irrelevant. It's instead a political piece about democratic politicians... But the politician you quote advocating repeal is a Republican from Jacksonville... Unless she's leftist/Democratic by nature of being the Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, in which case you should probably be reexamining the assumptions you make about people. Truly an awful work.
Tango Down
10:08PM MAR 26TH 2012
As for "Stand Your Ground", it is a highly effective law on the books of many states that allow weapons carry. It has been instrumental in saving countless lives of the innocent but affording them a measure of law to defend themselve by NOT having to attempt to find a way out and thereby placing their lives in greater danger from a weapon-weilding thug. Stand Your Ground, is on the books in many states in the U.S. and has proven itself many times over to be a GOOD THING for the general public.

For those that fear people having, carrying, or carrying a concealed weapon; keep in mind that more deadly crimes are stopped or ended by law abiding citizens with personal weapons than are stopped by the police! Additionally, keep in mind that police end up killing more innocent people per year than do law abiding citizens carrying weapons.

Don't believe me? Just check the FBI stats!
Frank
5:33PM MAR 27TH 2012
Incredible - justifying the law because you claim citizens have less collateral damage to innocent bystanders than the police. I own guns, but my non-gun owning friends have a much lower innocent bystander death rate than citizen gun owners (without any deaths to themselves). Should I use that logic? Like I said, incredible.
Tango Down
9:57PM MAR 26TH 2012
This shooting has proven to be quite polarizing despite the fact that it happened a month ago (Feb. 26) and there's very little that is really known at this point beyond a few apparent facts. With eyewitnesses coming to light as of late and new details being made known over these past 20 some days; this is proving to be quite an interesting story.

As for "Stand Your Ground"; this may or may not be applicable sirect in reference to this case as Zimmerman "might have" been actively following Martin at the time. I say "might" because according to the unedited 911 call he was following him and told 911 that he was but when you listen to the unedited audio, it is quite clear that Zimmerman had stopped following his after 911 directed him to stop following him, for obvious reasons. Zimmerman had clearly stated in the same 911 call that he'd rather not give his address out to 911 at the time of the call for fear that Martin might be lurking.

It has been said that Martin was a small boy but Martin was 6'3" and around 160 pounds, as has been reported. 6'3" is not short or small and while 160 pounds is not really very big, it is big enough that Martin would've appeared to be a adult male!

I have not heard or read any reports as to Zimmerman's size but I'd roughly figure that he was shorter than Martin and heavier. Thusly, Disparity of Force could be ruled out of this case as their sizes would'n't be relative.

It has been rarely mentioned that Martin was supposedly not armed with a weapon at the time of this incident. While this would look badly on Zimmerman, it has been reported that Martin was observed by eyewitnesses as hitting Zimmerman as Zimmerman was on the ground, making it look asthough Martin jumped Zimmerman. Additionally it has been reported that Martin had gone for or attempted to gone for Zimmerman's sidearm (9mm pistol). If this latter fact is found to be true, then this sheds a whole new light on this case! The act of going for a gun owner's weapon is justifiable cause to shoot them!

So, while Martin might not have been armed himself, IF he in fact jumped Zimmerman and then attempted to take his sidearm, then he was attempting to arm himself and was therefore putting himself in the position to be shot by Zimmerman in self defense.

Would "Stand Your Ground" qualify, I can't say for sure, that's up to LE involved in the case but Zimmerman would have been justified in defending himself against Martin taking his weapon and shooting him with his own weapon.

As for the "Race Card", I've seen the video/audio clips that state that Zimmerman had used a racial remark. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Either way though, the Race Card doesn't need to be played here once again!

In retrospect, it was reported that the Black Panthers, the black version of the KKK, has issued a $10,000 reward for the alledged "killer" in the Martin case. This is likewise, WRONG! It is nothing more than murder for hire!
Frank
5:37PM MAR 27TH 2012
It's this simple:

If Zimmerman doesn't finger the kid as up to no good, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't follow after the kid, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't ignore the police's advice, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman stayed in his car, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't confront the kid, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman wasn't carrying a gun, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't draw his gun on an unarmed kid, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't pull the gun's trigger, Trayvon's alive.
Only because Zimmerman did all these things is Trayvon dead.
Bruce S.
6:02PM MAR 25TH 2012
I hear crickets. It must be that that the writer of this awful analysis was told to stop insulting the readers. The silence is golden.
Craig G. Mason
10:43PM MAR 25TH 2012
Bruce S. Hmmmm, let's see.....who do you sound like? Another commenter and writer perchance?
Guest
11:38PM MAR 23RD 2012
"The utter impropriety of Democratic politicians capitalizing on this non-representative tragedy in order to further advance a leftist agenda hostile to the human rights they claim to champion."? What a crock. At this point the entire civilized world is wondering what kind of imbeciles we have in Florida who came up with such a law! This is a ridiculously biased piece of writing. It is trying to be a polemic. It is not a serious analysis. The guy should be working for Rush Limbaugh! Or some crackpot libertarian. What a bunch of nut jobs, and this is the future of law in this state? What a mess.
Jan
7:22AM MAR 23RD 2012
My heart aches for the family but would there be this much media publicity if a black killed a white? I don't think so. It seems to be happening more and more and it hits the news once and over with. Whites are racists if they even look. I personally think it has defintely gotten worse in the last few years.
Guest
7:36PM MAR 23RD 2012
Uh, the blacks killing whites would be in jail. The story is as big as it is because the killer got away with it and the police don't care.

Your question reveals a profound ignorance of race.
Sci-fi
8:00PM MAR 23RD 2012
Prevailing science doesn't believe that "race" exists. Perhaps your profound ignorance is showing. Try a little research. We are one "race"...HUMAN.
Guest
10:01PM MAR 23RD 2012
I'm with you on that one, in a biological sense. But to deny its historical reality is a mistake and only justifies a killer like Zimmerman and all those who think too much is being made of this.
FrankFrank
8:51AM MAR 23RD 2012
If the facts were reversed, the Limbaugh wing of the "fair and balanced" media would have likely already vilified and lynched him in absentia, have no doubt (I mean, look what they did to a young female law student for simply testifying before Congress). Yes, it would be much worse, probably with white supremists and self-appointed militias likely storming through the streets advocating their own for of American justice.
Pat Galbraith
5:46AM MAR 23RD 2012
The article is about repeal of the stand your ground law. Some things that might just be pertinent. How often has this defense ben used since the bill became law? How many times has a person been charged for misusing the law? What was the outcome? How does this compare to the general population? How does this compare with the experience of several other States having similar law? Or with States that require you to retreat? Just asking.
Frank
8:32PM MAR 22ND 2012
As I've previously said - nothing like having a non-attorney interpretating criminal law. Doesn't matter what the courts ultimately decide as to whether the law applies in this case, the point is that its mere existence appears to have intimidated the local police from charging or fully investigating the neighborhood captain and the crime scene. Evidence is now lost that could have helped illuminate what happened. It appears that a series of critical evidence, such as the shooter's clothes, are now comprised. Perhaps the law student would also like to explain the law's apparent successful use by gang members in Tallahassee that resulted in the gang shooting death of a 15 year-old, along with other such cases in Florida. Stand your ground is a STUPID law, it is a BAD law. No good spin to put on this.
Eric Giunta, J.D.
10:38PM MAR 22ND 2012
Frank:

I am not a law student, but a Juris Doctor sitting for the Florida Bar, and I note that only for identification purposes. My "qualifications" to write this piece come from my knowing what I'm talking about. With all due respect, you don't.

a) There's not a shred of evidence that "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) had "intimidated" law enforcement officers from adequately investigating this matter. Assuming Zimmerman did have a facially valid SYG claim (an assumption I do not personally endorse), this only renders him immune from prosecution; it does not render him immune from having his claim investigated, nor does it render him immune from having to justify his claim (by a preponderance of evidence) before a judge at a pretrial evidentiary hearing. If the Sanford Police Department negligently botched their investigation (indeed, there have been reports suggesting this is not an isolated incident of such), there are remedies available to bring the responsible officers to justice. The events of the last few days amply illustrate that.

b) With or without an SYG statute, gang members have the same rights as all other citizens to use deadly force to defend their lives or their persons from great bodily harm, so long as they are otherwise acting lawfully. Depending on the case-specific circumstances, it may be very difficult to prove that the killer did not act justifiably -- as well it should be. Our legal traditions are search that they have, for centuries, assumed innocence on the part of defendants and placed high burdens of proof on prosecutors; this was as true before the implementation of SYG as it was before, in all cases of putatively justified homicides. The burden of proof is always on the prosecutor to prove the defendant murdered a man, not on the defendant to prove his homicide was justified.

You believe the law should protect the "right" of violent bullies to deter innocent people from engaging in lawful activity; I believe the law should protect the innocent and put the onus of "retreat" on the bullies, not their victims. I leave it to our readers to decide which of our two positions is the more "stupid".
sand trap
5:12PM MAR 23RD 2012
Eric, Eric, Eric,
You come across as the ultimate arrogant law graduate. And you can't even call yourself an attorney, because you haven't passed the bar. I have to vote with most people here.....which is you know squat. And I'm not sure anyone mentioned it to you, but in journalism, the stories author usually doesn't write back snarky comments to readers. You need to grow up before you even start to play in this league. You know squat about this issue. Your "analysis" is basically an opinion piece and not a very good one. For stupid, I vote for you.
Frank
11:59AM MAR 23RD 2012
I'm so glad you defend the rights of rival gangs to have open warfare gun fights in public, even killing innocent bystanders, as justified under the act - I think, instead, I'll agree with several state attorneys and a Tallahassee judge who have called this law as turning Florida into the wild west (see one cite below). Perhaps you'd like to take your legal arguments before them, all of whom I know personally.
Guest
7:39PM MAR 23RD 2012
Excellent post, but only one correction. It is not the wild west, it is the deep south.
Eric Giunta, J.D.
1:47PM MAR 23RD 2012
I do not defend the rights of gangs to engage in open warfare; I defend the right of innocent people to defend themselves against violent aggression.
sand trap
5:14PM MAR 23RD 2012
Eric. Shut up already. You sound dumber and dumber with each nasty note you write back. Don't you have an editor who has told you not to behave like a first grader?
Frank
3:46PM MAR 23RD 2012
Yes - "gang members have the same rights as all other citizens to use deadly force to defend their lives or their persons from great bodily harm, so long as they are otherwise acting lawfully" - doesn't matter that innocents get killed in the exchange. You remind of a judge I know (doesn't try criminal cases) who argued with me that the 2nd amendment right upheld by the Supreme Court allows one to legally carry concealed handguns onboard commercial aircraft and in schools. This is just a crazy position to stake out, but I guess you just don't get it. But at least, anyone reading the blog is now getting the idea.
Jaime
6:31PM MAR 23RD 2012
Were you born yesterday?

Carrying guns to school was the norm until the 1950s. Kids would go hunting after.

The founding fathers had no problems bringing their guns to school or in their carriages.

Your a-historical mentality makes me think you came from England.

I'm glad that McDonald and Heller are keeping people like you from getting a say on the Second Amendment.
Frank
10:01PM MAR 23RD 2012
I guess it doesn't fit into your paradigm that I've own multiple guns for the last 50+ years, hunted in my youth and have a NRA Golden Eagle (lifetime) belt buckle. I went to school in Texas in the 1950's (Killeen) - don't remember one single gun in school there or later when I moved to upstate New York in the 1960's. Did happen for my brother attending a rural college in the adirondacks, but not anywhere elsewhere I went. Guess you had to be there, and somehow I doubt you were.
John B.
7:53PM MAR 23RD 2012
Your comments are almost as stupid as the writer of this article. If you have a law degree, you are a moron. Why would you want people to be stopped from having a say in a DEMOCRACY? Between that and your welfare comments, it's pretty clear you're a racist. The idea of one person, one vote must really gall someone as "intelligent" as you.
John B.
7:52PM MAR 23RD 2012
Your comments are almost as stupid as the writer of this article. If you have a law degree, you are a moron. Why would you want people to be stopped from having a say in a DEMOCRACY? Between that and your welfare comments, it's pretty clear you're a racist. The idea of one person, one vote must really gall someone as "intelligent" as you.
Jaime
8:05PM MAR 23RD 2012
Sounds like we have attracted some legal minds to this discussion!

No, I actually don't believe in voting as a Voluntaryist. But given that voting is not even a fundamental right (it only has to be advanced "evenly" under EP) I don't see how voting is so much a pertinent issue to any of this.

No, I'm not a racist in any sense. Especially as someone who speaks publicly against police abuse toward minorities.

I don't think that any person here is necessarily "unintelligent," I just think they are egotistical maniacs who think that you need to be a supreme court justice to even begin to form a legal opinion.

In any case...I appreciate your critique!

It allows me to also mention that, as a believer in the NON-AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE, I think that Mr. Zimmerman needs to be brought to justice!
Guest
7:41PM MAR 23RD 2012
The founding fathers also had slaves. Should we behaving like that too?
Jaime
8:00PM MAR 23RD 2012
Slavery is not in the bill of rights. Nice try though. ( :
Frank
9:50PM MAR 23RD 2012
Technically correct, it was not in the first ten amendments, but in Article I of the Constitution.
Jaime
1:36AM MAR 24TH 2012
Not as a right as passed.

In fact, several of the delegates worked to get an abolition of slavery...but they couldn't get the constitution passed with that in the works.

( :

In any case, the founding father of the constitution had some intent in mind of freedom.

But I side with Lysnader Spooner in "The Constitution of No Authority."

It's a shame they don't teach Spooner in grade school. Maybe we'd have more intellectual honesty if he was taught about.
Frank
8:48AM MAR 24TH 2012
I can't believe you're trying to argue that slavery wasn't part of the Constitutional compromise. Of course there were those who wanted abolition, but that would have lost the southern states. Spooner's arguments came later (born around 1808).
Jaime
1:37AM MAR 24TH 2012
To correct some spelling errors in haste of posting: "Lysander Spooner" & "founding fathers."
FrankFrank
9:13AM MAR 23RD 2012
Guess you don't get out much - perhaps you should go see what the Sanford police said about why they couldn't charge Zimmerman (and therefore didn't investigate). The existence of the Stand Your Ground law intimidated, much like the stupidity of the law that makes water mangement district staff violate the law by taking action against lead pollution simply because it comes from it comes from gun ranges. These are STUPID laws; they are BAD laws. Gang shootings in public must not constitute illegal activity in your world. I'm sure your experience must come from an abundance of enforcing and applying laws in criminal court. Perhaps we should ask someone like law enforcement who actually have to face these situations and who warned against this law when it came up for approval. Perhaps we should all stop going out and jogging in neighborhoods, as someone else may also misinterpret this law. This is not the wild west of the 1870's, althoough some desire to return to that era. I'm so glad that in about 20 years I, as a senior citizen, if I see your kid hurdling towards me on his bike or in his car about to cause me great bodily harm as I legally cross the street, will be justified to whip out my legally concealed weapon and just blow him away. Yes, welcome to your world vision of a civilized society.
Kacie
1:32AM MAR 23RD 2012
Zimmerman was the aggressor; exactly how does this law, which the lawmakers themselves have said should not apply in this case, protect Zimmerman be arrested for murder? Your case of gangs is ridiculous at best.
Frank
11:52AM MAR 23RD 2012
Obviously, ridiculous at best - (since I can't directly post links, put in the "." in the spaces - criminallawbook com/assets/stand-ground pdf

My understanding that the killed 15 year-old was an innocent bystander.
FrankFrank
9:14AM MAR 23RD 2012
Go look up the Tallahassee case, and the prosectutor's frustrated comments.
Eric Giunta, J.D.
10:39PM MAR 22ND 2012
By the way, the preceding does not constitute legal advice nor is it intended to constitute legal advice.
American Eagle
7:48PM MAR 23RD 2012
"By the way", is not a great legal writing phrase, or a way to distance yourself from misrepresentation. Good luck with that disclaimer Mr. Giunta, J.D.-non-attorney.
Tampa east
5:16PM MAR 23RD 2012
It's not legal advice BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT AN ATTORNEY. Just an arrogant gas bag! Someone should file and ethics charge against you with the bar for your representation of yourself. Disclaimers do not usually come in the "comment" section. Perhaps YOU need a lawyer. A REAL ONE.
Jaime
6:46PM MAR 23RD 2012
It's called the 1st Amendment - ANYONE can discuss hot legal issues and current events.

Nice try though. Keep collecting your welfare check while you sit at home trolling the internet. It certainly makes for an entertaining read!
Eve Peele
4:29PM MAR 22ND 2012
This man needs to be brought to justice. The boy was on the phone talking with his girlfriend. Perhaps that's why he appeared to be wandering around in the rain. What 17 year old wants to talk to their boy/girl friend in front of their parents. So he was outside talking and I know when I am on the phone I don't just sit and talk I move about. He chased the boy and the boy ran supposedly. If he ran, how was it then that Zimmerman claims he asked the boy what he was doing there? You know that Zimmerman was approaching the boy and did Trayvon feel threatened? Sure, that's why his girlfriend said run. Was Zimmerman in a uniform where Trayvon could identify that he wasn't in any type of danger? Why haven't these questions come to light? Why is it that all the witnesses that called stated that the cries for help were coming from a young boy not a man of 28 years old. Of course Trayvon is going to defend himself with physical force as he is being chased down and knocked down. His girlfriend states that she knew he had been shoved and then the call was dropped. Everyone heard the gunshot. Why is it that when Zimmerman was questioned several times what was going on he didn't respond to one of the eye witnesses? Why didn't he immediately say call for help this boy has just been shot? What was he doing over his body on top of him while Trayvon was face down in the grass? Why didn't Zimmerman if he felt so threatened by a boy 100 pds lighter than him, just shoot him in the leg or just disable him in some way? Why in the chest? So he was that close to him and decided to use his 9 mm to kill the boy. He was not concerned for this boy and his own safety. This was a hate crime. He clearly saw that the boy did not have any type of weapon to harm him because if the boy did he would have pulled it out and used it. This is all so clear. If I can hear on the internet that the sounds of screaming for help are that of a young boy, then why can't the Florida police and the other officials involved now? This is plain absurd and disgusting that this man has not been arrested and charged. The questions that no one is asking, the assumption that the screaming your not sure of who's voice it is. All of it just doesn't make sense. Then for Zimmerman to make the statements he did such as I think he is on drugs. How can you tell that from your car in the dark and its raining? He didn't mention that he was staggering or doing anything strange that would make him believe he was on drugs. Why didn't he mention those things. When I have called the police on teens who were clearly drunk, I was asked how do you know? The police didn't want to send anyone out unless they knew for certain that they were teens for one and drunk for another. I told them because one is staggering while walking home from a party down the street and when I went outside another was walking to his car with a plastic cup and said directly to me, don't call the cops ok? I was certain and asked. When the police arrived they arrested them for being under age and drinking and driving while under the influence because as the police quietly pulled up to the home their were a few kids they caught leaving the party and got into their vehicles when the police pulled up. Zimmerman had already in his head that he was not going to let another get away. He was told by the police dispatcher to stay put. Did he listen? No he pursued this boy with the intention of catching him. He may not have had the intent at the time to kill him, but he clearly had the intent to capture him. When he then got into the altercation that he started by pursuing the boy and pushing him, he then felt threatened. I am sure he was also angry that the boy was on top of him and that Trayvon had the upper hand and this made him angry enough to pull out his weapon and use it. But again, why did he have to use his weapon when the boy did not have one. 100 pds heavier he would have eventually been able to take control and then shoot him in the leg. With the voice/audio technology that we have today we should be able to know who was crying for help despite the fact that every witness said it was a young boys cry. Again, I can identify it is that of a young boy. Zimmerman's voice on the tapes would not have sounded like that. Zimmerman should have been tested for being on drugs the way he sounded on the tapes. His voice didn't sound alarmed or concerned it sounded irritated and annoyed but yet slow. So did he sound like their was real danger about to happen or already happened? Why wasn't Zimmerman tested for drugs? Did they do a toxicology test for Trayvon since paranoid Zimmerman said he is up to no good and is on drugs or something? Come on this is so clear cut it's not even funny, it's shameful. Shame on everyone. An innocent life was taken and it's bad enough the family lost a good son, but now they can't even get justice served for their loss. Another Floridian is set free for a crime they committed. Wasn't Susan Anthony's (the young mother who killed her own 2 year old little girl "Casey") freedom enough to say that Florida doesn't have the capacity and capability to build evidence and prosecute those that are guilty? Again, Trayvon was the one screaming for help. Those were blood curdling screams for help because he saw a gun. A grown man would not have sounded like that nor acted in that manner knowing he really had the upper hand because he was not just heavier but had a weapon. It was self-defense for Trayvon. It was racial discrimination for Zimmerman. The tapes prove it all. Screaming stopped after the gun went off. Zimmerman finally stopped screaming after he shot him. Anyone would have screamed more for help that someone just had been possibly fatally wounded again, why didn't he cry out for help to get an ambulance if he really is such a good guy. He just wanted to stop a possible crime or defend himself, but he didn't want him dead did he or did he? Also, the racial slur of calling him a *@fing coon. Do some research on that one. Funny how that sounds when magnified on CNN. Just a coincidence that you can hear that? Someone smart who can hear actually picked up that one. I am just so outraged at this, I just want justice to be served. God forgive me if I am wrong, but I don't think so. I don't want to see anyone suffer if they are innocent, but Trayvon was innocent and suffered and so is his family suffering the loss of a child and nothing being done about it. Adding insult to injury. Shouldn't Zimmerman suffer too? One last thing, has an apology been made by Zimmerman to the family? That right there tells you he has no conscience. Anyone who felt remorse and really was just defending themselves and didn't mean to kill someone, would apologize publicly or in a letter to the family or to the public. Even in a letter like his father who has written letters. Zimmerman is 28 years old and he has his daddy doing everything on his behalf. He is a man now or should be. He should have made an apology whether the family rejected it or not to show that his intentions were really good and that he did just defend himself. No remorse, he feels justified. That right there tells me, he doesn't feel bad and is not the person everyone that knows him thinks he is. No one, knows anyone really. Well I pray for the family and pray that they get some justice out of this. This is not a clear cut case of "stand your ground". What a horrible law. I am done. I have no faith in our justice system at all. If it were me, I would be hunting the man down and kill him myself because no one is going to do anything about this. If they were, he would be in custody right now. He has a right to a trial, let the jury decide. Unfortunately, he will lie like he did when he said he was the one screaming. It was all lies from the moment he called the police dispatcher. He knew what he was doing he was covering himself because he knew this was a black male and he knew he wanted to take matters into his own hands. Is he trained to do this? Does he have the authority to make his own decisions when told to stay put. For that alone, should he not be punished. I mean if a real police officer shoots and kills when he was really in no danger, they have to pay the price. I don't understand any of this. My god, my son was in Aphganistan fighting on the front lines every day. War- the rules of engagement are if you don't see anyone with a weapon even if bullets are flying at your head, you can't shoot back. You have to clearly see that individual and see them with a weapon before firing your fire arm and that's war. What a contradiction all of this is. "stand your ground". So fight back if you feel threatened even if they are waving a fist at you. Yet in my daughters high school they have to sign a waiver every year that is a "no bullying" policy that says walk away and don't engage in the conversation and if you can avoid it walk away from any altercation that could possibly arise. Then their's stand your ground if you feel threatened and you have the right to use deadly force if need be. What is it? One or the other. Make up your minds people. We put kids in prison for cyber bullying if someone takes their life if someone makes them upset enough. We have these hate crimes laws and then this stand your ground law that goes against every thing else. Then they wonder why homicides have trippled under this new law. Wow, kill anyone that may make you feel threatened. There are alot of paranoid people in the world and all you have to do is feel threatened and you are legally allowed to use deadly force. Not force and defense but deadly. Deadly? Seriously? I mean if you see they have a weapon that's one thing or they have come into your home that's another, but anywhere, anytime you feel threatened deadly force. This is all too much for my mind to wrap around.
Groscoe
2:09PM MAR 22ND 2012
Why does this case rise to national attention? Why does the Black Caucus (if there was a white caucus it would be called racist) have their shorts in a wad?

Don't the cops vet neighborhood watch people to make sure they are stable?
Frank
10:33AM MAR 23RD 2012
Do you really think Zimmerman was vetted by the Sanford police?
Jaime
12:47PM MAR 23RD 2012
You're completely missing the point - it's ALWAYS up to the police and prosecution whether or not to take a case.

In this case, the police were seen by witnesses tampering, "correcting" bystanders who said that Trayvon was screaming for help.

With or without the 776.013(3), police NEVER HAVE TO arrest someone. It's ALWAYS in their discretion.

The law has nothing to do with police misconduct.

See my video on it here:

"The Stand Your Ground Law and George Zimmerman in the Shooting of Trayvon Martin"
Landshark
8:04PM MAR 23RD 2012
It seems you missed the point. In this case, it will be up to the FEDS and a grand jury to file charges. If you have any legal background, you would know not to use the word "always". Especially in CAPS. Airhead.
Jaime
8:08PM MAR 23RD 2012
Oh thank you wise internet grammar mogul.

The FEDS can and are taking it up to a grand jury. But that didn't absolve local police responsibility from making an arrest to begin with!
Landshark
8:14PM MAR 23RD 2012
You're a fool. Read your own statement about who ALWAYS brings the charges. Didn't do well in law school, and you won't do well in the real world. You apparently can't follow logical arguments. You and Eric could well be the same person.
Jaime
8:18PM MAR 23RD 2012
Yeah, I state again:

"It's ALWAYS up to the police and prosecution whether or not to bring a charge."

I didn't make an exhaustive list about who could bring a charge, only that the option is UP TO the police and prosecution to bring it.

And this beautifully highlights how one line can be read so many ways. (:
Landshark
9:57AM MAR 24TH 2012
Well of course you didn't make "an exhaustive list". You just categorically said "ALWAYS". Which makes you a very bad attorney, law student, or "juris doctor". You wear you ignorance with pride.

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