The media circus surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin has largely focused on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. That focus is misplaced.
Stand Your Ground, or SYG, provides certain narrow protections for individuals who use deadly force in self-defense, but the basic standards for whether the use of deadly force is justified are not changed by the SYG law, nor are the penalties and liabilities for the unjustified use of deadly force.
In the Trayvon Martin case, the specific part of the law that has applied so far is a provision that a person claiming self-defense should not be arrested unless there is some clear evidence that self-defense was not the motive. In this case, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin, was beaten and bloody with grass stains and mud on his clothes when police arrived. Zimmerman told them he had turned around and was going back to his vehicle when he was attacked by Martin. There was nothing to suggest Zimmerman was lying then, nor has any new evidence surfaced indicating that his story was not true.