What if things had gone just a little different in Sanford Florida 17 months ago, and we all read a tragic story of a Neighborhood Watch guard killed when he improperly threatened a local teenager?
Tragic Death a Test Case for “Stand Your Ground” Laws
February 13, 2012
Sanford, FL – Trayvon Martin, a young black man coming home from the corner store, knew he was in trouble last night. Just walking home from the corner store he noticed a car slowly following him and got worried he was in danger. He called his girlfriend and told her he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker” and didn’t know what to do.
When the driver, a local community watch member named George Zimmerman, got out of his car and began following Martin things escalated. Zimmerman accosted Martin, and Martin -- fearing for his life -- fought back. Unfortunately for the unarmed Martin, Zimmerman had a gun and pulled it. Martin grabbed at the gun in terror after being followed in a car, then accosted on the street then seeing a weapon pointed right at his heart.
They wrestled for control, twisting and turning the firearm like in a Carl Hiassen caper movie, and a shot rang out. One shot, one bullet wound, one man dying on the sidewalk.
George Zimmerman died later that night while being worked on by EMTs.
Trayvon Martin is now being held under suspicion of manslaughter, and his attorneys and supporters say he simply followed Florida law and stood his ground when justifiably fearing for his life.
This is just as likely an outcome, as possible as George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin by standing his ground due to fearing for his life.
The difference is Trayvon Martin did nothing but wear a hoodie and go to the corner store. He did not follow anyone, accost anyone, or make any sort of contact … until he was in fear for his life. He really had no idea what was happening, was not in control of the situation, had no means besides his body and a paper drink cup to defend himself from a stalker.
George Zimmerman, on the other hand, created the situation. He saw a black teenager in a hoodie walking at night and decided that in and of itself was suspicious (perhaps riffing off Michael Bloomberg). He then followed in a car and, seeing no other suspicious behavior beyond a young man scared of being followed by a stranger, got out of the car and followed on foot. Then Zimmerman, with a holstered gun, accosted this teen without cause. At any time Zimmerman could have backed off, stayed in his car, called the police, walked on the other side of the street -- but he chose the actions that led to the fight.
Who had more right to be scared? The guy with a car and a gun? Or the kid with a hoodie and a soft drink? Who created the situation?
I know these questions have been asked before, but they led me to a thought earlier this week I hadn’t seen anywhere before:
If Zimmerman gets away with the killing of Martin through Stand Your Ground laws, goes free simply because he feared for his life, then dueling is legal in Florida.
Essentially the jury would be saying, “Sure, you created the situation, caused another person to fear for their life and stand their ground legally under our laws, but then you feared for your life so standing your ground was legal!”
Two people, both fearing for their lives, both allowed to kill the other by Standing Their Ground.
It’s like and Old West movie. “You lilly-libbered coward! You meet me at hiiiiiigggghhhh noon in the center of town or I’ll track you down myself!” They stand facing each other, fingers waggling over their holsters, flick off the straps holding in the gun butts while staring each other steelily in the eyes. Neither flinch, but both are terrified that a bullet could end their time here on Earth. Sweat beads on their foreheads, nerves jangle, two men standing their ground, both ready to defend themselves against a threat to their lives, both scared out of their skulls.
Neither one liable for the resulting death of the other in a court of law. Because it would no longer matter if it was your fault your life was in danger -- you can use deadly force if it is.
How stupid is that?