The Times on Stand Your Ground
There are some great pieces in this Room for Debate feature on the New York Times website.
While I disagree with some parts of law professor Adam Winkler’s essay — he’d make self-defense laws considerably narrower than I would — he convincingly argues that the Stand Your Ground authors’ argument as to why the law doesn’t apply to George Zimmerman doesn’t hold up:
Florida legislators . . . insist the Stand Your Ground law does not provide a defense for people like Zimmerman, who pursue and confront someone. Florida Senator Durrell Peadon, who sponsored the law, said that Zimmerman “has no protection under my law.” According to state Representative Dennis Baxley, “There’s nothing in this statute that authorizes you to pursue and confront people.” The law, Baxley notes, was designed only “to prevent you from being attacked by other people.”
The problem is that nothing in Peadon and Baxley’s law says this. It provides that any person may use deadly force when “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” So long as someone reasonably thinks he or someone else is in danger, he can shoot to kill, regardless of whether the shooter is the one who initiated the hostile confrontation.
I think they’d be much better off relying on the exceptions that are actually in the law. It doesn’t protect people who are engaged in illegal activity, and Zimmerman likely committed assault by jumping out of his car and running after a stranger. (As would anyone who “initiated [a] hostile confrontation.”) Further, it applies only in situations where a person reasonably believes life or limb is in jeopardy, and it’s at least dubious that Zimmerman reasonably believed that.