Since it was reported that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, the media has talked a lot about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But what does that law actually say and how might it affect Mr. Zimmerman’s case?
Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law states in relevant part that "[a] person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he . . . has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his . . . ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he . . . reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself."
If Zimmerman can establish that he was complying with this law when he killed Trayvon Martin, then he should not be convicted of second degree murder. But not only that. If he can establish that he complied with that law, he should not have to stand trial at all. Why not? Because in the case of Clarence Dennis versus the State of Florida, the Florida Supreme Court stated:
"While Florida law has long recognized that a defendant may argue as an affirmative defense at trial that his or her use of force was legally justified, [the Stand Your Ground Law] contemplates that a defendant who establishes entitlement to the statutory immunity will not be subjected to trial. [The Stand Your Ground Law] expressly grants defendants a substantive right to not be arrested, detained, charged, or prosecuted as a result of the use of legally justified force. The statute does not merely provide that a defendant cannot be convicted as a result of legally justified force."
But how would Zimmerman get the judge who is handling his case to actually decide whether he will have to stand trial? According to the Dennis case, his lawyer will have to file a motion to dismiss his case. Of course, whether his lawyer will eventually decide to file such a motion remains to be seen.
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