Enough already... Zimmerman, Martin, and Florida's self defense laws
by, 05-16-12 at 12:15 PM (1242 Views)
OK, it's time to put an end to the baseless speculation and mis-characterization of
Florida Law by Thunder, and a handful of others on this forum who believe
Zimmerman should be held criminally accountable for the death of Trayvon
Zimmerman's legal defense against the charges pending against him, is that he
shot Trayvon Martin in an act of self-defense. Zimmerman claims that while
returning to his truck, Martin approached him and physically attacked him,
knocking him to the ground whereby Martin proceeded to get on top of him and
repeatedly slam his head into the concrete sidewalk. A struggle for Zimmerman's
holstered weapon then ensued, and ended when Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Trayvon Martin supporters have come up with evidence or circumstances that they
believe legally disqualifies Z from claiming self-defense, and/or will nullify
Zimmerman's "self-defense" claim in the eyes of the jury... Such as:
1. The use of the words "A-hole" and "F'ing punks" along
with other statements made by Z during his conversation with police that night,
which they claim shows him to be aggressive and determined to "take the
law into his own hands if necessary" to prevent Martin from escaping
2. That Z's assumption that Martin was possibly engaging in, or possibly
planning, criminal activity, along with the fact so many robbery's had taken
place in the area and no one arrested for them, lead to Zimmerman attempting to
confront and/or illegally detain Martin until police arrived.
3. That Martin, being afraid for his life, was the one acting in self-defense
based on 2 scenarios. He was confronted by Zimmerman and then either a) Z
initiated the physical contact or b) Z allowed (either by accident or on
purpose) his gun to become visible to Martin, thereby justifying Martin
initiating the attack, fearing he was going to be shot.
4. That the act of following Martin was illegal and/or an act of aggression,
nullifying Z's self-defense claim and/or justifying Martin's use of physical
force as a means of self-defense.
(for the purpose of clarity and conciseness, I will be citing Florida law using
Martin's and Zimmerman's names, along with omitting options and certain
behaviors described, that do not apply to this particular incident.)
Based on Zimmerman's 911 call to police, cell phone records, testimony from
Martin's girlfriend and eye witness accounts, we know pretty much everything
that took place that night. What we don't know however, is what took place between
the time Z hung up with police and the fight breaking out which ended with
Martin being fatally shot. Unfortunately, it's that 3 or 4 minute gap that's
most important in understanding how this tragedy actually unfolded, and since
the only surviving witness to that period of time is George Zimmerman himself,
it's lead to a broad range of speculation and alternate scenarios from those
who don't accept Z's self-defense claims.
The 4 scenarios from Martin supporters I listed above, basically break down into
3 different categories:
a) Zimmerman's beliefs and state of mind prior to the confrontation.
b) The legality of Zimmerman's actions prior to, and including, the point of
c) Legal justification for Martin's actions just prior to, and during the
The first one, "a" is irrelevant because even if the allegations are
true, self-defense laws are based on a person’s actions, not their motives or
state of mind prior to an altercation. Besides, as I will show you a little
later, even if such evidence does sway a jury, it won't matter.
As for point "b", the legality of Z's actions, as far as I could
discover in my research, it was not against the law for Z to follow martin,
therefore can't be used as a legal basis to nullify his claim of self-defense.
Following or harassing a person falls under Stat.§ 784.048. regarding
"stalking". It states that if Zimmerman willfully, maliciously, and
repeatedly followed or harassed Martin, he would be guilty of misdemeanor
stalking... So all 3 of the prerequisites must be true, to make following
Martin a crime. He did follow Martin willfully, and it could be argued there
was malice involved in doing so, but since this was the first and only known
encounter between the two of them, Zimmerman could not have
"repeatedly" followed Martin, therefore he is not guilty of stalking
and as far as I can see, his actions did not break any laws.
This leaves point "c", the question of whether Martin's actions,
based on the several scenarios put forth by his supporters, qualifies under
Florida law as legal self-defense on his part. The short answer is
"yes" his initial actions can be seen as Martin acting in self-defense,
but at the same time, doesn't nullify Zimmerman's claim of self-defense by
By now, most people interested in this case have a general idea of what
Florida's laws are on self-defense. When you closely examine them however, you
will find that even in the scenario most prejudicial against Zimmerman, his
actions still qualify legally as an act of self-defense. Let's assume that:
* Martin feared for his life.
* Zimmerman is the one who confronted Martin.
* Zimmerman initiated contact with Martin (threw the first punch)
Even in this scenario, based on the testimony of the eye witness closest to the
confrontation, George Zimmerman was still acting in self-defense, even though
the same can be said of Travon Martin.
We know Florida law says that based on that scenario, Martin is justified
using force against Z because he reasonably believed he was in imminent danger
of being harmed by him. As for Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, Florida law
states that being the aggressor (confronted Martin and forced the situation), the
self-defense law does not apply to him if 1) he was committing a felony at the time
or punched Martin to escape capture for committing a felony, which does not apply
here... or 2) he initially provokes the use of force against him by throwing the first punch
(which he did) *unless a) Martin's retaliation was so powerful that Z felt he was in
imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and hadn't thrown the first punch and
tried to escape, which he does not qualify for, or b) stopped fighting Martin and clearly
indicated to him that he gives up and wants the fight to end, but Martin continues to
beat him up anyway. According to the eye witness closest to the confrontation, that
appears to be exactly what took place... According to him, Martin was on top of
Zimmerman beating him up and Z was screaming for help. Those calls for help by
Zimmerman clearly indicated he wanted to withdraw from the fight and end the
physical confrontation. So much so, that the eye witness from his patio, told
Martin to stop beating Zimmerman and then stated that he was going to call the
This means that even if this scenario turned out to be accurate and it was Z
who confronted Martin, Z who threw the first punch, and Martin did in fact fear
for his safety, Zimmerman's claims of self-defense are still legally justified
under Florida law.
The bottom line here is, all the speculation about Zimmerman's actions, motives, and state of mind prior to the confrontation are meaningless and totally irrelevant in this case. The jury will not be allowed to take into consideration any of it when determining if Zimmerman was acting in self-defense or not, because those issues have no impact what so ever on whether Zimmerman was legally acting in self-defense or not.
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