I need to vent a little
Los Angeles times - Trayvon Martin case: Sanford police chief temporarily steps aside
Christian Science Monitor - Will Trayvon Martin case spur rethinking of Stand Your Ground laws?
By now you have no doubt heard about Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old boy shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, variously described as nice guy, one man neighborhood watch, vigilante or wannabe police officer claims the shooting was self defense under Florida’s “stand your ground law”.
I’m not buying it. 911 tapes reveal a dispatcher telling Zimmerman to stop following Trayvon. Minutes later 911 tapes of neighbors reporting a voice pleading for mercy clearly record a gunshot, apparently the shot that ended this young man’s life.
My family owns and uses firearms. My wife and I have held concealed handgun permits for the past 11 years and I have extensive military training and experience with firearms dating back to the late ‘70s. We live in and our permits were issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia, one of the 24 so called “stand your ground” states. The following excerpt from Virginia Common Law covering the use of deadly force by non-law enforcement personnel was included in an e-mail reminder to members from the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League.
“Self-defense in Virginia’s common law goes back over 400 YEARS. If attacked, Common law allows an innocent citizen to be able to defend himself wherever he may be. Deadly force can be used in such a case if the victim REASONABLY feels that he is in IMMEDIATE danger of death or GRIEVOUS bodily injury. If you REASONABLY believe that a person who is attacking you is armed, then you can use deadly force even if, in the end, he was unarmed. Or, if you REASONABLY feel that an unarmed person, who is more powerful than you, is going to kill you with his bare hands and/or feet, you can use deadly force to stop that attack.
The key in Virginia’s Stand-Your-Ground common law is that you are not somehow an instigator of the violence so as to use that violence as an excuse to kill the other person. If, for example, you are closely following a suspect, or are confronting a suspect in some way, (both of which Zimmerman *appears* to have done) you may suddenly find yourself on very thin legal ice if attacked. This is where the extraordinary powers we give police come in handy for them. You and I lack many of those legal protections.
If you do find that you goofed up and are "part of the problem, " then you need to retreat as far as you can, indicate you have given up the fight, and only if cornered and the person persists in what you REASONABLY believe is a deadly attack, may you then use deadly force to protect yourself. You will certainly have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities if you find yourself in this kind of situation.”
In the United States a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. I readily admit that I do not have all the facts in this matter but from what I’ve read, heard and seen in the media when Zimmerman started following Mr. Martin he was no longer standing his ground. When he continued following Mr. Martin after being told to stop by the 911 dispatcher he was no longer standing his ground. By continuing to do so he became an instigator and, at least under our definition of Stand-Your-Ground, committed at the least manslaughter if not premeditated murder when he pulled the trigger.
Zimmerman’s continuing to follow Mr. Martin, in my opinion, constituted legal justification for Mr. Martin to defend himself, not the other way around. I for one think Zimmermen should be charged and made to answer for his actions in a court of law.
The police report for this incident, heavily redacted, has already been posted online and can be read by clicking the this link.