Recently, the Huffington Post Enquirer ran a post regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, entitled Trayvon Martin Case: ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law At Center Of Shooting. The unwritten implication of this article is that enhanced self-defense laws, such as Florida’s, grant protection to murderers.
The left have already begun spinning this killing into an attack on Republicans. Note, for instance, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski making a sloppy attempt to connect this shooting to Rush Limbaugh. Jay at The Right Sphere reports Media Matters has already begun spinning this tragedy for political points in a number of posts.
Let’s debunk the assertion that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law somehow protected Zimmerman. To do so, we need to examine the 2006 changes to Florida’s Justifiable Use Of Force law, specifically, the portion contended here- Zimmerman’s immunity from criminal prosecution:
776.032 (1) A person who uses force as permitted (…) is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force (…) As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
Stated in plain English, Florida requires police officers to establish probable cause before arresting someone for using force in self-defense. This is a far cry different from HuffPo’s claim:
The Florida law lets police on the scene decide whether they believe the self-defense claim. In many cases, the officers make an arrest and leave it to the courts to work out whether the deadly force is justified. In this case, however, police have said they are confident they did the right thing by not charging 28-year-old George Zimmerman.
The failure, then, isn’t with the “Stand Your Ground” law- a point which even Al Sharpton concedes- but with the failure of Sanford police to thoroughly investigate the shooting. The recording of Zimmerman’s 911 call alone debunks his self-defense claim. From Doug Mataconis’ excellent article:
The police on the scene appear to have reached the conclusion that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense, but the 911 calls from that night raise some doubt about just how much danger Zimmerman was actually in, and the extent to which he may have pursued Martin despite being told by a 911 operator not to do so.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, the author of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, wrote this op-ed for FOX News, summing up the issue thus:
Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the “Stand Your Ground” law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.
The “pursue and confront” phrase is especially applicable here: While Florida has a very well-written and well-articulated law on self-defense, it is one of the few states which has no statute authorizing private persons to use force to pursue and arrest fleeing criminals. Even if Florida did authorize this use of force, however, Zimmerman still wouldn’t be justified, because Martin had committed no crime.
The anti-gun crowd, however, never let facts or the law stand in the way of their political agenda.
This law, championed by Republicans and vilified by Democrats, was contentious when it was passed in Florida in 2006; now there’s a murdered boy, and a wrongful claim of self-defense. This is an election year, and the Democrat attack machine feeds on accusations that Republicans are “bitter clingers” and racists.
Take this for what it is: the Democrat attack machine working to make all Republicans look like George Zimmerman’s accomplices and enablers.