George Zimmerman’s Defense Team To Request ‘Stand Your Ground’ Hearing

Big news in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

The George Zimmerman case is about run head first into the controversy that erupted when the story first broke in March, Florida’a Stand Your Ground Law:

George Zimmerman’s defense team formally announced today that it would seek a “stand your ground” hearing because case evidence shows “clear support for a strong claim of self-defense.”

The announcementcame via Zimmerman’s legal defense website.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of unarmed teenagerTrayvon Martin in Sanford.

The law has been a subject of debate since Sanford police said the evidence they collected at the scene supported Zimmerman’s claim that he shot the teen to protect himself. Police didn’t arrest Zimmerman because of it

He was not arrested until six weeks later after a series of civil rights rallies around the country by protesters, demanding that he be taken into custody and charged with a crime.

The law, enacted in 2005, allows someone to use deadly force is he has a reasonable belief that he will face death or great bodily harm.

“The primary focus of a ‘stand your ground’ hearing is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent great bodily harm to himself at the hands of Trayvon Martin,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara wrote on the website.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representating Trayvon Martin’s Family, released a statement this morning saying that the family feels “confident that the unjustified killing of Trayvon Benjamin Martin should and will be decided by a jury.”

“A grown man cannot profile and pursue an unarmed child, shoot him in the heart, and then claim stand your ground,” the statement read. “We believe that the killer’s motion will be denied during the stand your ground hearing, and as justice requires a jury will ultimately decide the fate of a man that killed an innocent child.”

Zimmerman’s attorneys released this statement on the website they have set up to disseminate information about the case:

Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

In the case against George Zimmerman, a “Stand Your Ground” hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

There are significant differences between a “Stand Your Ground” hearing and a trial. In a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, there is no jury; the decision is made by the judge alone. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, the burden is on the defense to prove that the evidence fits the conditions of the “Stand Your Ground” law. If the Court rules in favor of the defendant in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, not only are criminal charges dismissed, the defendant is also immune from civil actions related to the shooting. The primary focus of a “Stand Your Ground” hearing is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent great bodily harm to himself at the hands of Trayvon Martin.

O’Mara goes on to note that there will be several months of preparation necessary for this hearing, including discovery, depositions, pre-hearing motions and other such matters, so we’re looking at several months down the road before this hearing, which will have all the trappings of a trial but without a jury, would even begin. In the event the defense effort fails, then the case would move on to trial and it was quite apparent even before this announcement that a trial would be unlikely until the beginning months of 2013 at the earliest.

Interestingly, while the prosecution would have to prove Zimmerman’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” at trial, at the Stand Your Ground hearing, the Defendant only has to prove their defense by a preponderance of the evidence, which is essentially the lowest standard of proof the law recognizes and the one that typically applies to civil cases. Basically, “preponderance of the evidence” means that the Plaintiff will win if the trier of fact believes that their version of evidence is more likely to be true than not. Another way of describing it is to say that the standard means that there’s at least a 51% chance that the Plaintiff’s case is true, while “beyond a reasonable doubt” essentially means 100% chance that it’s true. (There’s also an intermediate standard of proof called “clear and convincing evidence” has been described as being a 75% change that the party’s version of evidence is true.) Quite obviously, this lower standard of proof benefits the Defendant greatly. More importantly, even if it the defense loses the hearing they can present the same evidence in defense at trial in an effort to create the reasonable doubt that would lead to an acquittal.

Obviously, this is going to renew the debate over the recent changes to self-defense laws in the United States, and the hearing is likely to be closely followed and may even become an issue in the Presidential race. Based on the evidence that has been released publicly, though, it strikes me that that odds are going to be strongly in Zimmerman’s favor in this hearing, especially given the lower standard of proof. The only question will be whether or not the credibility problems he has had with the Presiding Judge will make it harder for Zimmerman in this hearing than it should be. If that happens, then the case could very well go to trial where the prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman committed Second Degree Murder. That isn’t going to be easy.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Can we just get rid of Florida altogether? I’m thinking it (and maybe Arizona too) is just a lost cause…

  2. SKI says:

    I’m wondering whether there might be a pre-hearing legal fight over whether or not an instigator is entitled to stand-your-ground defense.

    In this case, it is possible that Martin may have had a stand-your-ground right to attack Zimmerman. If that can be established, under that same preponderance standard, can it be possible that Zimmerman can use stand your ground against that Martin’s ‘righteous’ attack?

  3. PD Shaw says:

    I also wonder how the denial of the recusal request works out. Is Z appealing it? Does he not appeal it, and if the judge rules against him, use the failure to recuse as an additional ground to reverse for another S.Y.G. hearing?

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @legion:

    Can we just get rid of Florida altogether? I’m thinking it (and maybe Arizona too) is just a lost cause…

    We could sell them to the Chinese, reduce the deficit, and set up treaties whereby outsourced American jobs could be relocated to either state.

  5. mattb says:

    Frankly I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. I see no reason for Zimmerman not to take advantage of the two bites from the apple that SYG allows.

    My prediction:
    1. It is found to be self defense under SYG.
    2. That, along with other incidents, sparks major changes to SY. It’s not repealed but the language of the law is heavily clarified.
    3. Zimmerman is hit with a Wrongful Death suit which results in either a hung jury or his losing outright.

  6. mattb says:

    @SKI:

    I’m wondering whether there might be a pre-hearing legal fight over whether or not an instigator is entitled to stand-your-ground defense.

    I’m guessing it will as STY findings in Florida have been split on this issue.

    “For” see: http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2012/03/fl-man-cleared-in-stand-your-ground-stabbing.html

    “Against” see: http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/stand-your-ground-claim-by-trevor-dooley-in-fatal-park-shooting-rejected/1230020

    Of course, a lot of that ties to the question of who/what instigated. If you consider the act of following instigation, then Zimmerman’s in trouble. If you believe his account that Martin unexpectedly sucker punched him from behind, then Martin instigated.

    Of course, due to the circumstances of the shooting, there was only one direct witness — who also happens to be the plaintiff — and most of this will hand on his credibility.

  7. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Does he not appeal it, and if the judge rules against him, use the failure to recuse as an additional ground to reverse for another S.Y.G. hearing?

    I don’t see why they wouldn’t. Much like filling a habeas claim, there’s no good reason for them not to try to get as many bites of the apple as they can.

  8. @mattb:

    It didn’t happen because the joint discovery phase just completed

  9. bill says:

    i’m just glad this site actually shows what each of them looks/looked like in the past year. zimmerman is like oj now, whatever the verdict his life is over.

  10. @PD Shaw:

    It is a potential grounds for appeal if GZ is convicted but a failure to recuse is generally not the kind of motion that you can appeal before the case is over (those are called interlocutory appeals and usually limited to important issues like a ruling on a 4th Amendment Suppression Motion)

  11. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It didn’t happen because the joint discovery phase just completed

    Ahh… not knowing stuff like that is exactly why IANAL.

  12. legion says:

    @mattb: Depressingly likely, although with a couple of caveats:
    1a. Massive rioting a la the OJ Simpson trial.
    3. According to the legal statement, a successful SYG hearing means Z will be immune to civil suits from the incident. Cue more rioting (1a.).
    4. Eventually, Z has to move his family to avoid persecution; he moves to a gated, all-white community, where he, being of darker skin, is constantly harassed by the local rent-a-cops until he snaps and goes on a shooting spree.

  13. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    a failure to recuse is generally not the kind of motion that you can appeal before the case is over

    Even in a case where there’s a bench finding like this involved? Since that potentially preempts criminal proceedings, it seem to me logical (though that has nothing to do with legal) to have that hearing take place ahead of the trial.

  14. mattb says:

    @legion:

    According to the legal statement, a successful SYG hearing means Z will be immune to civil suits from the incident.

    Oops… there it is in the Florida law:

    776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

    Make sense as to why its there.

    That said, if Zimmerman does get off, I double down on my prediction for #2 (possibly with the revisions to the law ending up carrying Treyvon’s name).

  15. @mattb:

    Zimmerman is hit with a Wrongful Death suit which results in either a hung jury or his losing outright.

    As currently written, a finding of self defense under the SYG law automatically precludes a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit.

  16. JKB says:

    Well, the hearing name will certainly fan the flames but since this situation never involved actual ‘stand your ground” criteria, it is a simple self defense justification hearing. Regardless of all the situational stuff people want to drag into this, it will hinge on whether Zimmerman, unable to retreat because Martin was on top of him, had a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury due to his head being bashed into the concrete.

    As he was unable to retreat, the SYG language does not enter into the picture.

    That he followed Martin doesn’t matter as such behavior is lawful. You may walk about a place you can lawfully be and even follow others. You may even speak to other people even ones you consider suspicious.

    Even if Zimmerman had instigated the physical altercation but did not become an imminent threat of death or bodily injury to Martin, that does not give Martin the right to kill or seriously injure Zimmerman (even if unintentional). Although such a scenario would create a very murky chain of events. But if Zimmerman wasn’t the first to lay the hands on the other, then Martin assaulted Zimmerman, perhaps out of fear, for completely lawful behavior.

  17. Alanmt says:

    @JKB:

    The following under these circumstances may constitute provocation ( I would so hold) making the stand your ground standard the higher “reasonable belief of being in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury and exhaustion of every reasonable means to escape the danger other than deadly force” standard applicable to aggressors. I think he will have a pretty tough time explaining why a shot to some other part of the body or even into heh air would have been unsufficient.

  18. rudderpedals says:

    @mattb: Don’t double down on that! Tallahassee is even more gun happy than it was when the thing was enacted.

    For ex up next for Florida is open carry.

  19. JKB says:

    @Alanmt: explaining why a shot to some other part of the body or even into heh air would have been unsufficient.

    Shooting in the air is a negligent discharge

    Intentional shooting to some other part of the body, I assume you mean to wound, would be a pretty good indication you did not fear imminent death or serious bodily injury as you consciously chose a response that may not have stopped the threat. Not to mention, while such wound might not have been fatal, it would constitute deadly force as all discharges at a person are deadly force since any discharge can reasonably result in death or serious bodily injury. There are no warning shots, there is no intentional wounding. If you, even presuming the calm demeanor such a decision would require, feel you can attempt a so called non-deadly shot, then you are not in a deadly force self defense situation and discharge of a firearm is not appropriate. You shoot to stop the threat. Zimmerman shot the first part of Martin’s body that his muzzle came to bear on and also the center of mass as the largest and slowest moving part of the body.

  20. DRS says:

    Didn’t the Florida legislator who got the SYG legislation through say that Zimmerman’s case wasn’t the kind of situation that SYG would apply to? I seem to remember that from fairly early in the proceedings. I tried to google it but can’t remember the guy’s name.

  21. Nikki says:

    @bill: Yeah. Two murderers getting away with it.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    How can you be standing your ground when you are following someone?
    Well I’m sure the attorneys will be loving the NRA money.

  23. PD Shaw says:

    @DRS: The Stand Your Ground stuff is a red herring. Substantively, there is nothing odd or unique about Florida law on self defense, such as the rights of aggressors, the burden of proof, and no duty to flee. What is unique are the procedures Doug discusses towards the end of his post, the multiple proceedings with different burdens of proof before different decisionmakers, and civil immunity.

    All I took that legislator as saying is that Stand Your Ground didn’t change what is or what isn’t self-defense, it just provides the accused with a legitimate self-defense claim with additional protections against the state and civil litigants.

  24. rudderpedals says:

    @DRS: Dennis Baxley?

  25. Jeremy says:

    @legion: I think we should just let Cascadia secede and let people move to which nation they’d prefer. Much simpler that way.

  26. JKB says:

    Think of the Stand Your Ground statute as the anit-bully law. Where they don’t have such laws, when a thug threatens you in a place you are lawfully allowed to be, you must run away and they succeed in their bullying. With SYG, you may stay where you can lawfully be and defend yourself if need be.

    In other news, the Zimmerman prosecutor “accidently” released jury tainting material

    In an embarrassing screw-up, Florida prosecutors today accidentally distributed a post-mortem photo of Trayvon Martin as well as copies of George Zimmerman’s college records, material that Florida law considers confidential and exempt from disclosure.

    Ironic, they were quick to release Zimmerman’s college transcripts but we can’t see Obama’s.

  27. MM says:

    @JKB: That’s not irony.

  28. Me Me Me says:

    @mattb:

    Of course, due to the circumstances of the shooting, there was only one direct witness — who also happens to be the plaintiff — and most of this will hand on his credibility.

    Do you suppose there is anyone in the potential jury pool who doesn’t know Zimmerman suborned his wife’s perjury?

  29. mattb says:

    @Alanmt:

    I think he will have a pretty tough time explaining why a shot to some other part of the body or even into heh air would have been unsufficient.

    Have to agree with JKB — both of these make absolutely no sense in a self defense situation. First of all, both are extremely dangerous for bystanders. Bullets that go up also have to come down. Secondly, intentionally winging someone is action movie fantasy. Even if you do it, there’s no guarantee that it would stop the attacker (sometimes people don’t even realize they have been shot center of mass). And you are also more likely to miss and end up hitting something or someone else (especially given the stress of a shooting situation).

  30. Me Me Me says:

    @bill:

    zimmerman is like oj now, whatever the verdict his life is over.

    I completely disagree, he’ll be able to make a tidy living as a minor celebrity in wingnutia. Especially if he can find someone to write him some lines to memorize about how Jesus has helped to sustain him.

  31. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Think of the Stand Your Ground statute as the anit-bully law. Where they don’t have such laws, when a thug threatens you in a place you are lawfully allowed to be, you must run away and they succeed in their bullying. With SYG, you may stay where you can lawfully be and defend yourself if need be.

    This is 100% incorrect.

    The idea of duty to retreat does not mean that you cannot defend yourself. It’s that if you have the option to retreat then you need to take it. Those are entirely two different things and are highly situationally based.

    The best way to put it is that “duty to retreat” keeps fights from getting mixed up with self defense.

    If I present a serious threat (either directly and seriously threatening violence or have begun to initiate violence) — regardless of duty to retreat or not — then you have every right to preemptively hit me such that I’m not able to pursue you when you remove yourself from the scene.

    What you don’t have a right to do is escalate a verbal confrontation. What DTR does is legally enshrine the idea of deescalation — not giving you permission to take a war of words to fists.

    Removing DTR, in practice, at best allows people to meet at the same level, and more than likely enables if not encourages escalation into fights (where both parties are consenting to come to blows — versus a self defense situation where asymmetrical violence is involved).

  32. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:

    What is unique are the procedures Doug discusses towards the end of his post, the multiple proceedings with different burdens of proof before different decisionmakers, and civil immunity.

    But that’s a huge thing — are there many other states that have this sort of preemptory hearing in which the Judge can find this sort of “fact?”

    I realize that many states have options for bench trials. But this seems to go above and beyond — especially given the deference provided by SYG to the person left standing and the lower initial burden of proof.

  33. JKB says:

    @Me Me Me:

    So you are saying he can’t get a fair trial?

  34. Me Me Me says:

    @JKB:

    I think it would be completely fair to decide that he has zero credibility.

  35. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Regardless of all the situational stuff people want to drag into this, it will hinge on whether Zimmerman, unable to retreat because Martin was on top of him, had a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury due to his head being bashed into the concrete.

    This is largely correct. That said, the real issue is whether or not that fear was reasonable. And, again, based on the available evidence so far released to the public, Zimmerman’s injuries (relative to his story) and the lack of injury on Martin’s hands, I would hope a reasonable party would realize that Zimmerman over reacted (and then, most likely embellished his story in order to justify the overreaction).

    I don’t doubt that Zimmerman believed his life was in danger. But I also have a hard time believing it ever was (as did the investigating officer who noted that Zimmerman’s injuries were not in keeping with what one would expect to see based on his account of the attack).

    As a conservative friend (pro gun defense, self defense instructor) put it “getting your ass kicked is not enough reason to shoot someone.”

    All that said, given the amount of deference given to the defender under the current understanding of Florida’s self-defense statute, I wouldn’t want to be in the position of the Prosecution (unless they are sitting one something really good).

  36. PD Shaw says:

    @mattb: Florida appears to have based its SYG law on Colorado. I don’t know if other states have it as well.

  37. DRS says:

    Thanks, Rudderpedals, I’ll try that.

    Also, this article from Canada looks interesting, as it shows how once the attack-or-be-attacked mindset takes hold, it threatens to alter the way you look at everything you encounter:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1239438–u-s-tourist-s-pro-gun-letter-sparks-social-media-storm

    It’s not in this article but in the Calgary Herald, that apparently the two young men were part of a marketing team going around the city handing out Stampeded promotional coupons, hired by one of the Stampede’s major sponsors.

  38. Pug says:

    @legion:

    1a. Massive rioting a la the OJ Simpson trial.

    There was rioting after the O.J. Simpson tiral. Who knew?

    Maybe you meant cops that beat the hell out of Rodney King.

  39. Boyd says:

    I have to say I’m amused by all the “triers of fact” here who are omniscient on all aspects of the Martin-Zimmerman case because they read news reports and opinion pieces, picking and choosing which ones they want to believe based on how well each item fits with their own preconceived notions.

  40. DRS says:

    I have to say I’m amused by condescending posts like Boyd’s that imply we’re fools. Thanks Boyd! Good of you to put up with us all.

  41. Boyd says:

    @DRS: If the shoe fits…

  42. DRS says:

    It doesn’t, Boyd. But thanks for playing.

  43. mattb says:

    @Boyd: Just to be clear, for professional and personal reasons I’ve been following this case pretty closely.

    So any “judgments” I’ve made are not primarily based on media reports. I’ve read through as many of the released official documents as possible (including the police reports, the medical documentation, and the medical photography as opposed to the security images).

    And what I’m reading that again isn’t simply a political bias. It’s based in my training and background in the area of personal self defense and discussions with professional self defense trainers (from across the political spectrum) and LEOs.

    I’m fully admit I don’t have all the data and I’m prepared to change my opinion as more material comes out.

    Currently, though, the evidence released does not strongly support the specifics of the account as described by Zimmerman. I also don’t think it supports a 2nd Degree murder charge (a prosecutorial over-reach going far beyond charges brought in other Florida cases involving far mode dubious self defense turned deadly).

  44. mattb says:

    One final point on this subject…
    @JKB:

    Even if Zimmerman had instigated the physical altercation but did not become an imminent threat of death or bodily injury to Martin, that does not give Martin the right to kill or seriously injure Zimmerman (even if unintentional). Although such a scenario would create a very murky chain of events. But if Zimmerman wasn’t the first to lay the hands on the other, then Martin assaulted Zimmerman, perhaps out of fear, for completely lawful behavior.

    This speaks to the fundamental challenge of a self defense situation (and my issue with aspects of SYG and the issue of “percieved threat” — especially n an situation where there is no duty to retreat.

    For all we know, Martin was simply “standing up to a bully.”

    Zimmerman’s continued pursuit of Martin can be easily construed as a threat. Contextualize the event — someone clearly following you on a rainy night in a largely empty neighborhood. It’s easy to see your way to a verbal confrontation between two people who are both fearful of the other individual. Fight or flight is kicking in and probably both people are not being particularly articulate.

    It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Martin’s attack was preemptive due to his belief that Zimmerman meant him harm (in your words was acting as a bully or predator).

    All that it takes from there is a single, off balanced punch or Zimmerman reaching out and grabbing Martin as he fell and we end up in the position of Martin on top of Zimmerman (statistically speaking, both of those possibilities are far more likely than Martin intentionally moving into mount in a controlled fashion).

    BTW — these are all the reasons why 2nd Degree Murder is such an overreach in this situation.

  45. legion says:

    @Pug: D’oh! I’m getting old and misremembering the various miscarriages of justice I grew up on 🙂

  46. LCB says:

    @mattb: If someone is sitting on my chest poudning my head in to concrete, how am I supposed to know they’ll stop before they’ll cave my head in? I’m just supposed to assume he’ll stop before he cracks my skull? Seriously, I’m asking you to explain how the injuries don’t support that Zimmerman felt that his life was in danger? I’m willing to understand your POV on this.

    I think Zimmerman was an ass. He had done his duty as a neighbor when he called the police. Getting out of the car when a “suspicious” person is about when you’re armed (and not a LEO) is seriously inviting some kind of incident. BUT…once Martin had him on the ground and was doing bodily harm, the degree of injury sustained doesn’t seem to matter to me. It’s the potential injury that could have happened had the attack continued.

    Again, I’m not as studied in this as you and I’m looking forward to your answer.

  47. Boyd says:

    @mattb: You’re pretty clearly not one of those whom I was addressing, Matt, since you’re actually thinking about the circumstances, rather than choosing to believe whatever you hear that fits your preconceived notions.

    And DRS, your size 13s are still size 13, even if you claim that you really wear those dainty 6s.

  48. Alanmt says:

    There are just a lot of questions here as to what was reasonable under the circumstances. The person in Zimmerman’s position must prove

    1. that he believed he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
    2. that belief must be reasonable; and
    3. that he exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger other than deadly force.

    I think proof of item 1 is a given. However, it seems to me that both 2 and 3 are in issue, in spite of the fact that some of you seem to believe that if Zimmerman’s account is believed, it conclusively establishes all three elements. I would respectfully submit that even if his account is believed, it only conclusively establishes the first one, leaving conflicting evidence on the second and third ot be resolved by the trier of fact.

    Come on, guys. Claiming a warning shot is not a reasonable alternative to shooting to kill because a bystander might be hurt? That is not a proper legal analysis. There were no bystanders. I am not required to allow my self to be hit by an oncoming car in my lane at night because if I swerve I could lose control, drive through a fence into a suburban backyard, and hit kids chasing fireflies. The small chance of a bullet coming back down and striking someone in that neighborhood at that time was minimal. A gun gives you many options, including warning, using it as a club, firing a warning shot, shooting a leg, creating a distraction to escape. That you are too panicked to take them doesn’t release you from your legal duties to do so, particularly in a case where you provoked the confrontation.

    Undisputed facts place Zimmerman’s judgment and credibility both seriously at issue.

    I do admit to some personal experience bias here. I understand the “oh sh*t I am about to die” feeling. But while I was physically restrained by a much bigger and more masterful assailant much more securely than Zimmerman was here, I nevertheless managed to apply the proper legal degree of self-defense. And my situation involved an actual criminal, not some teen accosted on his return from the convenience store on the mistaken belief that he was engaged in potential criminal activity.

  49. mantis says:

    it will hinge on whether Zimmerman, unable to retreat because Martin was on top of him

    If someone is sitting on my chest poudning my head in to concrete

    I keep seeing comments that assume that Zimmerman was pinned and Martin was “pounding his head” into the sidewalk (or some variation). I have not followed this story as closely in recent weeks. Is there any reason to believe this is true apart from Zimmerman’s own claims?

    Seems to me that Zimmerman has to prove not only did he reasonably believe his life was threatened, but he also needs to prove the circumstances that led him to this believe. As far as I know, those circumstances are not facts, but rather the assertions of the accused.

  50. anjin-san says:

    Zimmerman’s own claims?

    His story did not really pass the smell test from day one. After his attempts to deceive the court about his financial resources, I would say his credibility is somewhere between zero and none.

  51. JKB says:

    @mantis:

    An eye witness reported that he saw two people fighting with one on top of the other. The guy on bottom had on a red jacket (zimmerman was wearing a red jacket). After the shot, he looked out and the guy who had been on top was lying on the ground, not moving. I believe on or two others reported the positioning but couldn’t say who was on whom due to darkness.

  52. LCB says:

    @mantis:One of the witnesses saw one person sitting on top of the other, but couldn’t say for sure who was who. Zimmerman’s head had injuries on the back of his head consistent with some kind of trauma…which is consistent with his claims that his head was being pounded on the concrete at one point.

    Is Zimmerman telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? I don’t know. I actually doubt it. But I do know that what I’ve seen (and yes, seen via websites like this and the press reports) is that the evidence does seem to support his claim of being in fear for his life.

    Morally, if I’d been in Zimmerman’s place I would blame myself for what happened. He saw a suspicious person. He reported it to the police. But as a person with a CCW, I don’t knowingly put myself in a position where there’s a strong possibility I may have to draw my weapon….think “threat assessment”!!! And if I had seen someone suspicious in a neighborhood where there have been a lot of break-ins, that possibility is very high. I would NOT have gotten out of my vehicle.

    But morally wrong is not the same as legally wrong. And if the prosecution doesn’t have any other evidence than what I’ve seen released (as report here and in the MSM)…then legally he should be acquitted. (And no, I’m not a lawyer. This is just my opinion.)

  53. LCB says:

    @Alanmt: My training tells me NOT to draw my gun unless I am in fear for my life. If I AM in fear for my life, then I doubt very much that I’d have time for a “warning shot”.

    Also, in this case, trying to do a warning shot could very well have caused the loss of the gun in the struggle. In my case, I’m sure it would. I’m 52 with a bad back…which keeps me from working out. No way I could keep someone like Martin from taking the gun in a struggle.

    So…IF I’m in fear for my life to such a degree that I feel I have to draw my weopon, I’m either far enough away to cause the attacker to do an about face…or he’s close enough that I don’t have time to do anything but shoot.

    In my training, FYI, we were told to NEVER fire warning shots.

  54. anjin-san says:

    which is consistent with his claims that his head was being pounded on the concrete at one point.

    He had superficial scalp lacerations – I would argue that an injury from being “pounded” onto concrete would be more serious.

    He saw a suspicious person.

    Why was Martin suspicious? He was a kid walking home from the store with candy in his pocket.

  55. JKB says:

    @Alanmt:

    You do not discharge a firearm except to stop the threat. You do not purposely discharge a firearm into the air or as a warning shot. Any such discharge is a negligent discharge and could possibly result in negligent homicide if the bullet does fall upon someone or travels through a wall or window striking someone else.

    Bullets penetrate, bullets ricochet, bullets travel long distances. Bullets skip on the surface of water, travel a mile or then pass through an open car window (which would have stopped the bullet due to the travel distance) striking a woman in the back of the head as she drove down the highway. Actual death investigated where the rifle was fired out of sight of the shore from a boat only to unintentionally kill a woman driving down the coast road. I suggest you read up on musketry which involves firing up an an angle so the bullet drops into the distant enemy so that the beaten zone (area of impact) extends behind the distant hill and out of the line of sight.

    Once you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, deadly force is an appropriate response and does not require the exhaustion of less lethal avenues. As I said, if you feel you can use less lethal responses on purpose, you are not in extremis. But any discharge of a firearm in the direction of a person is deadly force. Any discharge of a firearm away from a person threatening you would be a negligent discharge

  56. LCB says:

    @anjin-san: Doesn’t matter if he was really suspicous or not. He SEEMED to be suspicious to Zimmerman…and he reported it to the police. That’s where I feel it should have ended.

    Superficial scalp lacerations? I though he need stichtes? But this has all been going on so long and I’ve read so much I could be wrong. But I don’t think it matters. With the first blow to the ground (even if it wasn’t contrete), Martin (in Zimmerman’s mind) could have been signalling serious intent to maim or kill. Like it or not, it’s not how you or I would have reacted. It’s whether or not Zimmerman felt he was in danger of losing his life.

  57. mantis says:

    @LCB:

    It’s whether or not Zimmerman felt he was in danger of losing his life.

    You forgot an important word: reasonably.

  58. LCB says:

    @mantis: Good point…

  59. mattb says:

    @Alanmt:

    Claiming a warning shot is not a reasonable alternative to shooting to kill because a bystander might be hurt?

    There is not simple or polite way to explain how wrong your thinking on gun defense is. I would strongly suggest that you do some serious research before you continue to spread these bad ideas.

    The entire concept of a warning shot is something that has been propagated by various fictive media. They are a terrible idea for all of the reasons I and others are outlined.

    If you feel the need to draw and fire a gun, the only way it should be fired is center of mass.

    Period.

    Otherwise you should never have drawn it.

    That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t held to account for the actions of the bullet.

    But the idea of warning shot or winging is just plain wrong on so many levels. It’s the stuff of pure fantasy and your continued clinging to the idea of it simply demonstrates that you really don’t know what you are talking about and refuse to do the necessary work to recognize how ignorant you are being.

    Again, sorry if this seems rude. But sometimes bluntness is the best answer.

  60. mattb says:

    @LCB:

    Seriously, I’m asking you to explain how the injuries don’t support that Zimmerman felt that his life was in danger?

    Zimmerman’s head had injuries on the back of his head consistent with some kind of trauma…which is consistent with his claims that his head was being pounded on the concrete at one point.

    First, I’m not providing links because I don’t want this sent to the moderation cue. If anyone wants a link to my (original) sources, please let me know and I’ll share.

    His injuries were consistent with someone who had been punched in the face, fell to the ground, and contused his head while grappling with his opponent. They were not equal to someone whose head was repeatedly “bashed” against the ground.

    Again, I have no doubt that it felt that way to Zimmerman. Hell I’ve been punched in the face and felt like I was going to die (or at least I wanted to die). That’s not good enough to deploy deadly force. Otherwise every bar fight would end in justifiable homicide.

    In terms of his injuries: No stitches were required to close the wound. In fact, the condition of his cranium upon inspection, beyond surface abrasions was characterized as “normocephalic and atraumatic” (in other words, normal and without significant injury).

    If his head had been intentionally being bashed, as he described, there would be serious contusions, he’d show signs of concussions, and most likely the thin scalp skin would have split and required multiple stitches to close.

    The police investigator, in his final report noted that the injuries were, at best (or worse) “marginally consistent” within the type of “life threatening violent encounter” Zimmerman described. That’s not a strong endorsement.

  61. mattb says:

    @LCB:

    BUT…once Martin had him on the ground and was doing bodily harm, the degree of injury sustained doesn’t seem to matter to me. It’s the potential injury that could have happened had the attack continued.

    And therein lies the problem. As I said, in a general tussle – especially if you’ve never been in a ground fight before — it’s going to feel like your head in being bashed in. Hell I do it on padded mats and it feels like my head is being bashed on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean its legitimately the case.

    I’m 52 with a bad back…which keeps me from working out. No way I could keep someone like Martin from taking the gun in a struggle.

    Correct. And because of those factors, you would have a lower threat threshold in this type of situation. Zimmerman was close in age to Martin, was taller than him (I believe) and definitely outweighed him. And to our knowledge Zimmerman had no physical impediments — that means he his held to a higher standard than you are.

    And on the subject of weapon retention, the claim that Martin reached for his weapon while saying something along the lines of “you gonna die tonight” is the aspect of the story that rings the most false to me.

    I have no doubt that if Martin saw the weapon he would go for it — that’s human nature (trying to control the weapon). But to have the presence of mind to threat banter in a live encounter is something that any LEO will tell you is *highly* unlikely. The verbal part of the brain largely shuts down in a fight (or goes completely tourettes). That sort of “movie/comicbook dialog” is exactly that.

  62. mattb says:

    Again, while we disagree on a lot, 110% what @JKB wrote here as to why “warning shots” and “winging opponents” are, beyond the stuff of fantasy, irresponsible dangerous to yourself and bystanders.

    If you are not willing to, when you draw, shoot center mass… please, please, please for your sake and ours, don’t ever carry a gun for self defense or anywhere other than the range.

    And, btw, the same hold true for people who pack knives for self defense, or have convinced themselves that all they need to do in a self defense situation is keep blocking until they can talk the person down.

    This sort of thinking makes you a danger to yourself and others.

  63. alanmt says:

    Gentlemen, I think we will have to agree to disagree, although you are arguing what you believe to be appropriate weapons handling in a possible self-defense situation, and I am arguing as to what the law requires, and those are two different things. However, unlike the incorrect assumptions that you have made about me, I will make no assumptions about your legal training because reasonable attorney analysts can disagree, and indeed such disagreement is the basis of our entire adversary system.

    What may be ironic about your “make you a danger to yourself and others” comment, of course, is that I have been in a similar situation which I effectively resolved without injury to myself or undue injury to the criminal, while in the Zimmerman case, the course of action you propose as required resulted in the death of an innocent youth. Anecdotal evidence of course, and you have no way to confirm my story, so that may not be worth much to you.

    I do agree with you that untrained people who carry weapons in self-defense, like Zimmerman, are likely to make a mess of things.

  64. mattb says:

    @alanmt:

    I am arguing as to what the law requires

    As I believe we are as well. There is nothing in the law — including in duty to retreat states — that requires a warning shot. In fact, due to the dangers of that, there is a lot in the law that actively discourages it.

    And, for the record, what we are advocating for is exactly what LEO and lawyer reviewed and approved self defense courses teach. This does vary a bit from state to state, but I’d really be interested in understanding any state that — beyond verbal warning — requires or encourages the concepts of winging an attacker or firing warning shots.

    I can understand a moral argument for these. But not a legal argument.

    @alanmt:

    I have been in a similar situation which I effectively resolved without injury to myself or undue injury to the criminal

    I would be rather curious to hear the specifics of this encounter. Did it involve you discharging a warning shot? Or simply brandishing a weapon?

    Again, anecdotes are specifically that — anecdotes. But without actually knowing the story (and I’m willing to accept it as gospel, since I’m asking people to accept my credentials as such) I have a hard time gauging what constitutes a similar situation.

  65. anjin-san says:

    you gonna die tonight

    Highly unlikely in the real world, but it fits nicely with the meme that blacks are inherently violent and dangerous. There are a lot of people who lap this crap up like it was creme…

  66. mattb says:

    @LCB:

    Morally, if I’d been in Zimmerman’s place I would blame myself for what happened. He saw a suspicious person. He reported it to the police. But as a person with a CCW, I don’t knowingly put myself in a position where there’s a strong possibility I may have to draw my weapon….think “threat assessment”!!! And if I had seen someone suspicious in a neighborhood where there have been a lot of break-ins, that possibility is very high. I would NOT have gotten out of my vehicle.

    Riffing off of this for two other points…

    First in terms of CCW and following people — it again should be noted that the reasons you outline are exactly why Neighborhood Watch organizations explicitly prohibit their members having a CCW on patrol. Police don’t like the idea either — because thanks in part to “gun muscles” crap like this happens. Again, not enough in my mind for Second Degree murder — easily enough for manslaughter.

    Second, and this gets to Zimmerman and ignorance, is that the majority of break-ins in that area (as with in most areas) did not occur either at night or on weekends. Most break-ins occurred during weekday daylight hours. So beyond the fact he was already breaking standard protocol by going out on patrol armed, he was doing it at the wrong friggin’ time if he wanted to actually make a difference!

    This, again, is like the issue of whether or not his life was in jeopardy. I firmly don’t believe he went out “hunting” in order to shoot someone. I am sure he did think his life was in jeopardy.

    Again, 2nd Degree Murder really feel like over reach in hopes of a plea. I think it was a largely political move that will probably backfire.

    The issue continues to be — and the facts that stack against Zimmerman in my mind/somewhat informed opinion — is that he was someone who lacked the fundamental training to safely do what he set out to do. And since he was the one who voluntarily brought the weapon into the equation and instigated the confrontation to the degree he was openly following Martin armed, he bears both moral and some degree of legal responsibility for what transpired.*

    * – this isn’t to discharge Martin’s responsibility. He could have kept walking instead of standing up to a perceived bully. But chances are, if a gun had not been brought to the scene, the worst that would have happened was that Zimmerman would have ended up bruised from an ass kicking, and depending, Martin might have been brought up on lesser assault. In then end though, two scared knuckleheads + one gun ended up = lots of lives messed up for good.

  67. mantis says:

    @mattb:

    this isn’t to discharge Martin’s responsibility. He could have kept walking instead of standing up to a perceived bully.

    How do you know that?

  68. mattb says:

    @mantis:
    Fair question…

    Short answer is I don’t. But — as with my analysis of Zimmerman — I suspect it to be the case based on looking at all the evidence.

    We know from the phone call to the female friend that Martin knew he was being followed and was concerned about it. And at some point the two of them ran into each other.

    From here it’s all assumptions, there are three possibilities:
    1. Martin goes looking for Zimmerman and he finds him on the way back to his car (Zimmerman’s account)
    2. Zimmerman, instead of returning to his car, continues to look for Martin in order to provide the police with more details when they arrive and runs into Martin who was trying to avoid him. (Speculation 1)
    3. Zimmerman was attempting to get back to his car, Martin was attempting to get home, and the two bumped into each other accidentally (Speculation 3).

    I’m not going to pretend to know which one is true. The better question is what were the specifics of the meeting. And unless the two men bumped into each other turning corners, one or both of them had to cross distance to get into each others grills.

    If it was a corner turning incident then nothing could necessarily could be done.

    But if there was distance between them, this entire thing could have been resolved *at distance.*

    Generally speaking, if gotten close enough that someone you are confronting can throw a punch at you, you’ve already failed at self defense (this is much like the terrible self defense training that happens at most martial arts schools where they focus on what do when you’re grabbed versus teaching people not to be grabbed in the first place). In both the case of empty hand or someone with a weapon, distance is always your friend.

    I’m not saying that Martin didn’t most likely do what would “come natural” to a older, teenage male. But that doesn’t (and I realize how crappy this sounds) doesn’t absolve him of some responsibility for escalating the situation.

    This ISN’T a both sides are equally at fault. Nor is it suggesting that Martin deserved what he got. Nor does it absolve Zimmerman of bearing the majority of the responsibility for this.

    It’s simply my saying that chances are (and again I say “chances”) Martin, himself, contributed to the tragedy that took place that night.

  69. anjin-san says:

    perceived bully.

    Perceived bully? Please. A bully is the guy you hated in gym class in 8th grade. Martin was dealing with a perceived nutjob stalker… and that perception was not far off the mark.

  70. LCB says:

    @mattb: Thank you for the thoughtful replies. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  71. mattb says:

    @LCB:

    Thank you for the thoughtful replies. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    I couldn’t ask for a nicer reply… Please share your thoughts when they come to you as I’d be interested in hearing them.

    @anjin-san:

    Perceived bully? Please.

    For what its worth, I’ve been trying to get away from the use of “scare quotes.” When I wrote that comment (which was intended to be a riff on @JKB comparison of SYG to anti-bullying legislation) it was intended to be ironic. It doesn’t read that way. Scare quotes were definitely needed there. My bad.

  72. mantis says:

    @mattb:

    Short answer is I don’t. But — as with my analysis of Zimmerman — I suspect it to be the case based on looking at all the evidence.

    Available evidence.

    In case anyone is missing the point of my comments, there are a lot of unknown details about what happened that night. There are a lot of “witness” accounts that came out of the media that may not actually be witness accounts. There is surely evidence the public has not seen. Even when all of the evidence is presented to a jury, this will likely be a very difficult call to make. Trying to reconstruct the events of that night based on what the media has reported is, to my mind, pointless.

  73. mattb says:

    @mantis:
    *Sigh* see my comments here for how I am basing all of my analysis: @mattb

    To some degree I agree with your point. But there is a LOT of daylight between reckless speculation and having all the facts at hand.

    I realize that its always taboo to talk about the role of the “victim” in a crime. And I hope I have been clear that I do not (a) think Martin deserved this or that (b) he is primarily to blame.

    However, we do need to be able to divorce the issues of “responsibility” (and again, I don’t mean total here) from morally loaded ones like (just) “deserts.”

    At the risk of coming across like a complete asshole — no one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Unfortunately many people (men and women) have to take *some* (not all, not total, not moral) responsibility for helping create the situations that led to the assault. The amount of that responsibility will vary (in some cases it’s completely outside of their control, in other cases it was largely within their control). It never means that any of them deserved to have it happen to them. It doesn’t mean that they are bad people. But if we want to help those people — and prevent such things from happening to them or others in the future — we do need to discuss all aspects of responsibility.

  74. mantis says:

    @mattb:

    Unfortunately many people (men and women) have to take *some* (not all, not total, not moral) responsibility for helping create the situations that led to the assault.

    I get it, but you don’t actually have a factual basis for assuming that Martin was responsible in any way. Zimmerman could have chased him down and tackled him for all you know. You assume facts not in evidence and then try to assign responsibility to the victim based on those assumptions. All you really know is what Zimmerman said to the 911 operator before the altercation, what Martin’s friend says he said to her before the altercation, and conflicting witness reports about the altercation and it’s aftermath. You don’t know how it started, so you can’t reasonably assign responsibility to anyone. Sadly, we may never really know how it started.

    It is safe to say that had Zimmerman not made the choices he did, Martin would still be alive today. The same is not safe to say about Martin’s choices (unless you mean the choice to leave the house in the first place).

  75. mattb says:

    @mantis:

    Zimmerman could have chased him down and tackled him for all you know.

    You’re right. Though I’m willing to stake a signifcant amount of money, based on Zimmerman’s injuries and statistics around this soft of encounter, that this was not the case.

    The fact is that, generally speaking, these things really do have a pattern to them. And in a case where, to your point, we can never be 100% sure, we need to work with the most reasonable construction based on what we know of the incident at a given time and broader patterns that emerge when doing meta studies of these sort of confrontations.

  76. JKB says:

    @mantis: It is safe to say that had Zimmerman not made the choices he did, Martin would still be alive today. The same is not safe to say about Martin’s choices (unless you mean the choice to leave the house in the first place).

    I’m afraid as a matter of reality if either of them had made different choices, Martin would probably be alive today. That is how accidents and tragedies happen. It’s taught as chain of events, break one and you avoid catastrophe. None of the choices either made, individually, would have resulted in the tragic outcome but collectively they did.

  77. MarkedMan says:

    The idiocy of SYG is that under its auspices, both Martin and Zimmerman could have felt their lives in danger and both could have been legally justified in killing.

  78. anjin-san says:

    I’m afraid as a matter of reality if either of them had made different choices, Martin would probably be alive today.

    Martin was walking while black. He should have known better…

  79. IWright says:

    and that’s a fact Zimmerman can bank on!

  80. IWright says:

    @legion:

    aka Karma. It’s a b—h, for real!

  81. IWright says:

    @JKB:

    Why do we need to see President Obama’s transcript?

  82. IWright says:

    @LCB: No disrespect intended, but do you really believe Zimmerman feared for his life? I don’t. Zimmerman did what he intended to do: Murder the “suspicious” looking teen, because “they always get away.” Imo, it could have been anyone; it just happened to be Trayvon Martin. We all need to fear for our lives. The lunatics are roaming the streets, and any one of us could be next. Think about it. Whatever the outcome of the legal proceedings, Zimmerman needs intensive therapy. I hope he gets it.

  83. IWright says:

    @mattb: Of course Martin contributed, but not willingly. So a murderer took his life. Yep, Martin contributed.

  84. JKB says:

    @IWright: Why do we need to see President Obama’s transcript?

    For amusement. Olympics and Presidential elections are good quadrennial sport and organized for our entertainment.