Why Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Has Got To Go

stand your ground laws

Unlike so many pontificating about the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder case, NOT GUILTY was the verdict I was expecting. Not at the beginning, though. Back then I thought the jury would find Zimmerman guilty. However, after the judge’s charge to the jury, I knew the verdict would be NOT GUILTY on all counts. And, it was. That doesn’t mean, of course, that George Zimmerman is innocent. It just means that a jury of his peers – who saw far more of the evidence than I did and were not tainted by all the extraneous material flying around the innertubes like I was – decided the prosecution had not proven its case. I accept the verdict because I believe it was the right verdict given the anemic prosecution.

My problem is with Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. It’s Florida’s SYG Law that informed George Zimmerman’s actions on the night he killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman had taken a SYG seminar in Wannabe Cop Class and understood how the law could be bent to his advantage.

IRONY ALERT: In the end Zimmerman’s defense team did not rely on SYG, instead using a self-defense claim. My presumption [based upon no legal training whatsoever] is the defense team felt using the SYG might have been problematic because Zimmerman didn’t stand his ground, but pursued his victim. Yet Florida’s Stand Your Ground was always looming in the background of this trial and it’s the Stand Your Ground Law that’s got to go. Now. It breeds a Dirty Harry attitude.

To illustrate, allow me a personal anecdote:

A couple of years ago, during one of our political debates on the patio of the local coffee shop, I got into an argument with an asshole we’ll call Bob, because that’s his real name. Now it was common knowledge that Bob had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Why? Because it was often not concealed. On so many occasions Bob would stretch and the butt of his gun and entire holster would come into view and would remain in view for long stretches of time.

During this particular political debate Bob started regurgitating every Fox “News” meme about President Obama known to man; many of which I had already debunked at NewsHounds. He was exasperating and it got heated.

When I eventually called him a “fucking a$$hole” he narrowed his eyes, stood up, and walked about 20 feet away. Then he turned back towards me and sneered, “C’mere and say that!”

I remained frozen in my seat, but my stomach lurched like a sudden elevator plunge. I knew instinctively this was about Bob’s gun. I knew that he wanted me to take a step toward him so he could draw on me and maybe even put a bullet thru’ me. For one brief moment it was like a scene from a western.

One of my friends at the table grabbed my arm. He interpreted Bad Bob’s dare exactly the same way I did. He wanted to prevent me from standing up, in case I had any thoughts in that direction. Believe me, standing up was the last thing from my mind and I’m not sure my legs would have complied at any rate. I was as frightened as I’ve ever been in my life.

As my heart pounded in my chest with fear I replied as casually as I could muster, “No. You walked away. You c’mere.”

Realizing the game was up, Bad Bob turned on his heels and walked away without another word.

Now, here’s the other thing: I have often seen this gentleman (and I use the term loosely) glad-handing with some of the Plantation police officers who frequent this coffee shop. If it came down to his word against mine, provided I lived, who would the cops have believed? Would they believe their buddy, the upstanding citizen who has a conceal carry permit because he’s such a highfaluting Big Shot and carries lots of cash? Or, would they believe me, the dodgy non-citizen who looks like nothing more than an unreconstructed Hippie? I’m not giving odds.

George Zimmerman took a Stand Your Ground seminar in Wannabe Cop School. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn that Bad Bob did too. Bad Bob knew exactly what he could get away with. So did George Zimmerman. And, it was the Florida Stand Your Ground Law that allowed him to get away with it, even if it never came up at trial.

Headly Westerfield writes about the media, race relations and Watergate (among many other topics) for his own Not Now Silly blog. For several years he wrote under the nom de blog “Aunty Em” for NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.”

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