Since the Trayvon Martin case began, there's been a lot of talk about Florida's Stand Your Ground law.
The law protects people from prosecution if they use lethal force, as long as they had a reasonable fear that their life was in danger.
George Zimmerman was brought to the Sanford police department the night of the shooting in hand-cuffs but was then allowed to go home. They didn't arrest him because he told them he acted in self-defense.
A local law professor predicted problems with Stand Your Ground law and explained some of the complexities in the Trayvon Martin case.
Will George Zimmerman be charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin?
One of the legal cornerstones of the argument centers on the Stand Your Ground law.
Barry University Assistant Professor of Law Elizabeth Megale offered some insight into the complexities of enforcing the law.
“When the law changed, basically what the legislature did; it eliminated the duty to retreat. So if you were in fear for your life before 2006, you had a duty to try and get away, get out of the situation. And only if you could not safely leave were you then permitted to act in self-defense,” explained Megale. “Since 2006, you no longer have a duty to retreat. You can stand your ground, meet force with force and if you perceive any reasonable fear you can basically kill someone.”
As for what evidence a prosecutor would need in order to charge Zimmerman, Megale explained what the investigation needs to do.
“It’s hard to say exactly how much they would need, but as a legal matter, what the investigation needs to do is disprove that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. In other words, if there is any sort of conflicting testimony and there is still some evidence that indicates he acted in self-defense, he is entitled to immunity under this law. Immunity means immunity from prosecution and prosecution is defined very broadly as starting at detention,” said Megale. “So, Mr. Zimmerman cannot be detained, taken into custody, arrested, charged or otherwise prosecuted or found guilty if there is any evidence that he acted in self-defense.”
As for how Florida’s law compares with other states, Megale shed light on the differences.
“Many other states still do have a duty to retreat so in those states he likely would be under arrest. Back in 2006, there was a movement to for other state to adopt laws similar to Florida’s. It was a movement advanced by the National Rifle Association. I don’t know for sure how many of those states have implemented now with stand your ground,” said Megale.
“Many states that have the stand your ground, do not couple it with immunity. They have another mechanism for asserting it so you can still get arrested, but you can assert you’re entitled to immunity and ask to be released and there would be a hearing where a judge would determine whether you were entitled to immunity,” she explained further.
Megale wrote an article two years ago for a law review predicting the type of situation happening with the Trayvon Martin case.
You can read it by clicking here.