It is said that the Florida “stand your ground” law is confusing. And I can see why based upon the little that I’ve seen of the George Zimmerman trial. Today, Rachel Jeantel, the girl who was talking on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before he was killed, was on the stand. The defense were really pushing on the fact that Jeantel couldn’t say who had thrown the first punch. All I could think was, “Really?!” Is that all this comes down to?
By that interpretation of this confusing law, one could use a very simple process to murder any number of people. Go up to a guy in a bar; really get in his face; tell him that his wife or mother is a whore; when he punches you, pull out a gun and shoot him in the face. If this is what this law allows, it is an evil law.
In the months since this incident, I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty reasonable sequence of events. Zimmerman was following Martin. Eventually, Martin noticed and said something like, “Why are you following me?” This quickly escalated from words to pushing to an all out fight. Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. So Zimmerman pulled his gun and killed Martin.
To me, this means that Zimmerman is culpable. But according to the defense, and apparently even Florida law, the first person to hit the other is in the wrong. That’s outrageous, but hardly surprising. There is a lot of law like that in America, because we don’t dig on ambiguity or complexity. But this strikes me as an egregious example of this.
There are three things that are clear. First, the Florida “stand your ground” law needs to be changed, or even better, repealed. Second, wannabe cops like Goerge Zimmerman should not be allowed to carry guns around. And third, George Zimmerman (based upon justice and not the details of Florida law) should be convicted of manslaughter and given five to ten years in jail. But I suspect if anything, we will see the law stay as it is, nothing will be done to limit fools carrying guns, and Zimmerman will be acquitted.
It is tragic that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I fear we will further disrespect him by providing no justice in this case and no justice in the law generally moving forward.