The 17 year old boy went out to get a bag of Skittles for his brother and a can of ice tea for himself. He was heading back from the store after the sun had gone down. Meanwhile, the self-appointed head of the neighborhood watch was driving down the road when he spotted the boy. For reasons he still has not explained, the man became suspicious of the boy and began following the boy from his car. He called the police and informed them that he was following a suspicious person. The police told him that there were officers on the way and that he didn’t have to follow the person.
After that police call we don’t know what took place until phone calls began coming in to the police about gunshots being fired in the neighborhood. What we do know is that the man driving the car was carrying a gun, at some point he got out of his car and approached the boy and that the boy was shot and killed by the man.
The shooting of Treyvon Martin is in the forefront of the news for weeks. The fact that George Zimmerman, the shooter, was referred to as white in initial news reports and the fact that Martin was black added to the outrage due to racial tension. With 73% of Americans calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman, it seems insane that he is not in jail already. However, due to one single law, Gerge Zimmerman will likely never see the inside of prison walls for his crime against a boy and his family.
I would like to preface my explanation of the “Stand Your Ground” law with the understanding that there is nothing I would rather see than George Zimmerman getting a life sentence for the death of Treyvon Martin. I will now explain why that will likely not happen.
In 2011 the Florida legislature added statutes to “Justifiable use of Force”. These new rules, which came in under what has been called the “Stand Your Ground Law” Removes any obligation by an individual to remove themselves from a potentially volatile situation before it becomes violent. The law authorizes the use of deadly force in situations of home invasion and if a person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”
The second part is the real issue in this case. All George Zimmerman needs to say is that he was acting in self-defense, and then any prosecution against him has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense. This is the highest burden of proof known to law and in this case there were two witnesses to the situation which led to Zimmerman shooting Martin, and one of them is dead.
But despite the perfectly reasonable public outcry for Zimmerman to be prosecuted, it is likely he won’t be thanks to the law. The statute stipulates that any person protected under this law are immune from prosecution. The law is worded so that people like Zimmerman cannot be arrested, detained, or charged for what he did.
The only possible chance the prosecution could have would be to argue that by getting out of his vehicle and approaching Treyvon, that Zimmerman initially provoked any force that was used against him. However, the “Stand Your Ground” law still states that even if Zimmerman provoked the situation, he can still use deadly force if he thinks his life was in danger, which Zimmerman can simply say it was.
The prosecution has to choose one of two options in this case. Either they don’t prosecute, or they do and lose the case anyway. Either way, George Zimmerman walks free.
If not for the “Stand Your Ground Law” then it would be relatively simple to prosecute Zimmerman for 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. However, with this law, there is almost a legal prodding for people to go around like cowboys with guns on their hips and settle disputes with gunfire. Consider a situation where two men with guns get into an argument and they both know the “stand your ground law” both know that the other can shoot them and claim self defense, so both have a reasonable fear for their life and well-being. Both have a right to shoot first. This is literally a modern day, and completely legal, duel.
I’m not trying to assert that this NRA backed law was created so that people could just take the law into their own hands, it just happened to be the result. The NRA didn’t plan for this law to be used to shoot innocent black people, it’s pure coincidence that the NRA was formed the same year the U.S. Government listed the KKK as an official terrorist organization. And I’m not saying that this law was created so that anyone can shoot anyone anytime if they simply claim they thought it was reasonable, that’s just what happened.
The only real justice that can legally come from the shooting of Treyvon Martin is a repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law. If this controversy dies down without the removal of this law, then you can be sure that it will just be used again and again as an excuse for trigger-happy morons so that they can go back to their normal gun-slinging lives without fear of any consequences after killing an innocent.