For the people out there wondering what the Zimmerman jury was smoking, I have a partial explanation, thanks to former Florida state Rep. Dan Gelber.
As Gelber explained on his blog, before the Stand Your Ground (SYG) law was passed, convicting Zimmerman would have been a slam-dunk.
In 2005 the Florida Legislature fundamentally changed the analysis used by juries to assign blame in these cases. When the legislature passed the Stand Your Ground law it changed the rules of engagement. It eliminated the duty to avoid the danger and it eliminated any duty to retreat…
Here is the actual jury instruction read to Florida juries prior to the legislature’s enactment of Stand Your Ground.
“The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force.
“The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.”
And clearly, Zimmerman could have easily avoided any need to use force by simply doing as the 911 operator advised, and not follow, intimidate, or confront Trayvon Martin. But, as Gelber explained, under SYG, the George Zimmermans of the world can get themselves into all kinds of ridiculous messes and shoot their way out under no penalty of law.
Here is the actual instruction that was read to the Zimmerman Jury:
“If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
Gelber and I are in agreement that the prosecution in this case made lots of mistakes, which didn’t help win conviction. But it’s hard to blame racism alone for the verdict reached by the five white women and one Hispanic woman on the jury. The gun lobby, which wrote the SYG model legislation and hopes we will all do as some have already declared in the wake of the decision and buy more guns, is also responsible.
There are Stand Your Ground laws in 20 states, with model legislation from the gun lobby up for consideration in most of the others.