A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Not a Stand Your Ground Case

Trayvon Martin

By LASIS Staff

As explained by Dan Abrams, Chief Legal Affairs Anchor at ABC News, the George Zimmerman case did not end up being a Stand Your Ground case. When the defense “waived the Stand Your Ground hearing, this became a classic self-defense case in Florida. Are people going to talk about it? Yes. Are they going to be able to point to this case and say this is the example of Stand Your Ground? No.”

But Mr. Abrams was wrong about one thing.  People are going to point to this case and say this is an example of Stand Your Ground.  And not just any people: the New York Times.  We understand that this case has stirred emotions and we understand the nature of 24/7 news, and both may account for why journalists are getting so much wrong in reporting this story. But we expect more from the Times.

Comments

5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. Frederic M. says:

    I hate the talking heads on TV getting it wrong. I wish a CNN or HLN anchor would get on tv and read this — slowly. Applause to Popehat for getting for this bit of sanity through the miasma of nonsense reporting.

    http://www.popehat.com/2013/07/15/the-zimmerman-verdict-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/

  2. The issues of “stand your ground” and “self defense” are intertwined. It is universal (across all jurisdictions) that we are generally permitted to use justifiable force to protect ourselves and others. When we are threatened with death, we can use deadly force to protect ourselves. However, there are jurisdictions in which there is a duty to retreat if the opportunity arises. In those jurisdictions, if there is an opportunity to run and evade the danger, your duty is to do that, rather than kill the attacker. In stand your ground states, you can do just that – stand your ground and use deadly force if you believe your life is in jeopardy.

    Florida is a stand your ground jurisdiction and the jury was so instructed. Here are the relevant jury instructions:

    JUSTIFIABLE USE OF DEADLY FORCE
    An issue in this case is whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the crime of Second Degree Murder, and the lesser included offense of Manslaughter, if the death of Trayvon Martin resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.
    “Deadly force” means force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
    A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.
    In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.
    If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
    In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.
    If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.
    However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find him guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.

  3. Frederic M. says:

    Actually, this is a fine clarification, from the inimitable Eugene Volokh…
    http://www.volokh.com/2013/07/16/a-correction-and-apology-regarding-the-new-york-times-zimmerman-editorial/

  4. Joan A says:

    Sadly, this appears to be happening more and more often with Times. They have been becoming less trustworthy as of late.

  5. Thanks for the the valuable suggestions…keep writing on this topic. You put a nice twist to it.

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