Why George Zimmerman’s SYG Defense Won’t Stand
Irrespective of which of the myriad of versions George Zimmerman has given on the events that led to him shooting Trayvon Martin dead and which you want to hang your hat on, not a single one of them equates to a successful Stand Your Ground defense. The reason I feel confident in saying that is that the Florida Stand Your Ground law is a DEFENSIVE law which allows both for the Castle Doctrine (protecting yourself and any other occupants of your house or vehicle from an intruder), and when not in your home allowing you, as long as you have an issued Conceal Carry License (CCL) to “stand your ground” (i.e. not have to flee) when someone threatens your life or someone else’s and deadly force is required. Unfortunately, for every single one of George Zimmerman’s versions of what occurred the night he shot Trayvon Martin, not a single one of them fall within the DEFENSIVE envelope of the Florida Stand Your Ground law.
So let’s get straight where I stand so that I’m not labeled erroneously. I’m a gun owner. I’ve gone through CCL training for my state and am currently in the process of being issued my CCL. I have no problem, once I’m allowed to, in carrying a weapon and I have no problem in using it if some freak goes postal on me. As most know my house has been robbed and if someone breaks back into my house while I’m at home, the Castle Doctrine of both the Florida “Stand your Ground” law, as well as the Oklahoma “Make My Day” law allows me to shoot first and collect myself later. Forced entry under the Castle Doctrine equates to intent to harm and I will defend myself and my family. Included in the Castle Doctrine of both states is your occupied vehicle. So just as if you were at home and someone threatened your life in your home; if they do the same when you are in your vehicle, you can shoot to defend yourself.
However, neither of these laws allows you to pursue a potentially dangerous situation that could result in you having to use lethal force when the pursuit could have been avoided. So let’s go through some scenarios, as taught in self-defense classes, and delineated in the Florida “Stand Your Ground” statute.
1. You’re sitting in your living room watching the Olympics and a man kicks in your front door and enters your home. You can drop him. You don’t need to see a weapon, you don’t need to ask “Hey, Buddy, are you up to no good?”, you can just drop him. That he forcibly and unlawfully entered your home is equivalent to imminent danger under Castle Doctrine and you can immediately defend yourself.
2. You’re in your car, you have a CCL and you are armed. A man enters the passenger side car and says: “Take me to the 7-11 or I’ll kill you.” If he has any type weapon for sure you can shoot him. If you’re a 110 lb woman and he’s a full-grown man, his statement and physical attributes for sure allow you to shoot him. If you’re a full-grown man and he’s not armed you can shoot him and take your chances…don’t know, but the law seems to state you can shoot him. Not going to interpret that one.
3. You’ve put your baby in the car seat, got her buckled in the backseat and realize you don’t have your checkbook. You hurry into the house to get it and upon exiting your home some dude is getting into the driver’s seat of the occupied car (your child occupies it). You shoot him.
4. Same scenario as No. 3, but there is no child involved. You exit your home to find a man entering the driver’s seat of your car and attempting to steal your car (no baby in the backseat now). Okay, I’ll tell you what our SDA instructor stated, and I’ll quote the law, and I’ll let you decide. The SDA instructor said, “NO, don’t shoot him because the law was not written to protect property, but defend against imminent danger. Retreat to your home and call the police.” Here’s how the Florida law reads (and the Oklahoma law is similar in wording):
A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
Okay, so for the State of Florida it comes down to what are “forcible felonies”. Here is Florida’s legal definition of “forcible felonies“:
776.08 Forcible felony.
“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.
5. You have a CCL and you’re walking down the sidewalk and a dude jumps out and does any of the following: pulls a knife on you, pulls a gun on you, starts beating the puss out of you, puts a choke-hold on you, body slams you down or against something…anything that makes you fear for your life and you do not feel you can get out of. You don’t have to retreat under the “stand your ground” law. You don’t have to call the cops. You can shoot the dude. He was endangering your life, you can defend yourself with deadly force to save your own life.
6. You are sitting at the park in your car and you see a guy on top of another guy beating the piss out of him. You have a CCL and you are armed. You get out of your car to break up the situation, and the dude turns on you and you shoot him. According to my SDA instructor you could be in trouble. In fact, the instructor stated that if you are going to be silly enough to engage the person beating up the other person, you need to disarm yourself (i.e. put your gun in your console) before getting out of your car and be darned sure you can handle the situation with your own hands and bodily strength. The instructor stated that you should remain in your car and call the police.
7. If you change 6 to the dude on top is repetitively stabbing someone in the chest, it’s a different story. I’m not going to sit and say what you would be legally able to do. I just know what I would do. Pretty hard to eat a sammich and watch someone get stabbed to death while you’re waiting on the cops to come save him.
8. You’re in your car and someone starts harassing you…hollering at you, calling you names, racial epithets, etc. Sit there and take it homey. Roll your window up, start your car and drive away. You have a responsibility as a licensed gun owner to AVOID a situation that can lead to you using deadly force. If you get pissed at the meanie and you decide you’re going to get out of your car and tell him to bring it on, you better lock your gun in your glove box first…and then hope you win the fist fight…and also hope he didn’t have a knife hidden some place. You could have avoided the situation. Sticks and stones may break my bones…but those words don’t really hurt me.
9. You’re in your car going to the store one night and you see someone walking down a street in your neighborhood and for some unknown reason you decide the dude looks “suspicious”. You pull over (in front of the club house of your neighborhood) and you call 911 to report that a suspicious dude is walking down the street and that they need to come check him out. You have a CCL and you are armed. You get out of your car to follow this person and you do so while carrying your weapon….
…and then stop right there.
Doesn’t matter what you insert past opening the door. You just lost your right to stand your ground. Your ground was in the most protective environment you start at. YOUR ground is in your original position and your obligation as an armed CCL carrier is to AVOID any act that INCREASES the potential to put yourself in danger and result in you using lethal force.
From the Florida Stand your Ground statute:
The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
It doesn’t really matter which scenario you want to accept from George Zimmerman on what led to him shooting Trayvon Martin and resulted in Martin’s death. When George Zimmerman left his vehicle, a vehicle he could have stayed within and kept law enforcement on the line, or he could have fled the scene (a scene which did not include imminent danger while in his vehicle!), he removed himself from a Stand Your Ground defense.
That’s the way I see it.