The Corner

Re: Harry Reid’s Super PAC Ties GOP Candidate to Trayvon Martin’s Death

Joel, you write:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s super PAC tied Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis to the death of Trayvon Martin in an attempt to motivate black voters to support Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.).

“Tillis won’t fight for us,” the ad says, per the New Yorker. “Instead, he made it harder for communities of color to vote, by restricting early voting and voter registration. Tillis even led the effort to pass the type of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”

For all the obvious reasons, this is extremely ugly. One hopes that Tillis will demand an apology. But it’s also flatly dishonest. Stand You Ground had absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin’s death. And nor, for that matter, did George Zimmerman even hint at invoking the defense. As ABC’s Dan Abrams noted during the Michael Dunn trial:

As in the case of George Zimmerman, acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the public outrage was often directed or misdirected, at the Florida law.

Many, including legal commentators who should know better, repeatedly citing the statute as a crucial issue in both cases.

And yet neither defendant invoked the controversial aspects of Florida’s law. In fact, both defendants argued basic self defense law that would have been similar in just about every state in the nation.

The relevant portion of the law of self defense in Florida reads: “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself”

The controversial section of that law relates to the fact that there is no “duty to retreat,” meaning that in non-stand your ground states one must, in most cases, first attempt to get away if he or she can.

In Florida, however, there is no such requirement and the shooter may “stand his or her ground” when firing in self defense.

But the duty to retreat was not an issue in either Dunn or Zimmerman. In both cases the defendants argued that deadly force was used because they “reasonably” believed that it was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury. That, is at its core, no different than the law in almost every other state.

Zimmerman claimed Trayvon Martin was pummeling him and Dunn that he had a shotgun pointed at him by a young man saying “I’m going to kill you.” If Dunn’s account were true — and it was contradicted by other witnesses — then retreat hardly seems like an option.

Those who are angry with the result of the Zimmerman trial have a number of options. They can condemn the prosecutor for having overreached; they can condemn the jury for its decision; or they can come out against the very concept of legal self-defense (not advisable). What they absolutely cannot do – at least not without lying — is to blame Stand Your Ground.

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