The lawyers for the man accused of murdering Florida teen Trayvon Martin are having a change of mind. Apparently. “George Zimmerman’s attorneys had said last week that they would use Florida’s controverial ‘stand your ground’ law, which allows people to use deadly force — rather than retreat — if they believe their lives are in danger,” foxnews.com reports. Not anymore. “The facts don’t seem to support a ‘stand your ground’ defense,’ [lawyer Mark] O’Mara said.” Huh. The relevant Florida SYG statute states that . . .

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

It appears that O’Mara has decided to rely on a “simple” self-defense defense, as per 776.012:

Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

So O’Mara’s defense does and does not include the so-called “Stand Your Ground” provisions. Quite how much the announcement is an attempt to control the narrative, rather than outline Zimmerman’s eventual legal strategy, is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, O’Mara says his client is cash deficient.

O’Mara said [Zimmerman’s defense] fund had about $60,000 in it, with $20,000 in bills that need to be paid. If Zimmerman’s financial status doesn’t improve soon, he may ask the judge to declare him indigent, and seek aid from the state to fund his defense expenses.

And then sue Florida for wrongful arrest, should Zimmerman walk? We shall see. Or not.

35 Responses to Zimmerman Shuns Stand Your Ground Defense. Or Does He?

  1. If I were Zimmerman, I would be afraid to rely solely on self-defense, but hey I didn’t go to law school so what do I know?

    • But the Supreme Court just showed us with Obamacare that every time you make an argument and are found “guilty”, you’re allowed to create a NEW argument and try again and again until you come up with some bullshit that the judge likes.

  2. I fail to see how “Stand your ground” law would have any bearing here. Once an attacker has you pinned on the ground, any retreat is a physical impossibility.

    • Agreed. I never saw how SYG applied here either for that very reason. Whatever Zimmerman’s lawyers motive was for referring to it before, I never understood. I only saw it playing into the hands of those that thought they could smear the SYG law by associating it with this case.

  3. “And then sue Florida for wrongful arrest, should Zimmerman walk?”

    Under what grounds does he have to file a wrongful arrest complaint? Even if he isn’t convicted the state had enough evidence to arrest.

    • The validity of a suit is best determined by tort lawyers than anyone else. Those expensive cars and suits are paid for with a cut so they know better than anyone what will fly.

    • What are you talking about? The state has no evidence to meet the standards of Second Degree Murder. Corey’s case required a “racism” finding by the FBI. They found no evidence to support racism on Zimmerman’s part. Now she is boxed in and if she refiles the charges as manslaughter it would expose this as a political case. Corey went for the gold and is now likely to end up with lead.

      • Really? Because she needed was probable cause which could be met by the tapes. There is no case for Wrongful arrest, RF is stirring the pot.

        • What tapes, the 9-11 calls? There’s nothing that even approaches establishing probable cause in them. That’s why the prosecutor and cops who handled the case prior to the involvement of the racist lynch mob declined to arrest Zimmerman.

        • Really, what tapes did you listen to? The ones doctored by NBC? There is nothing in the tapes that indicated that Zimmerman was going to take any action other than follow Martin. How many murderers do you know that like to talk on the phone with the police as go about the business of killing someone?

          You must be the only one who still thinks Martin was an angelic 12 year old rather than the drug using gang banger that he turned out to be.

          [By the way did you watch the security cameras from the Ocala DGU. The two perps looked just like Trayvon. **deliberately inflamatory remark**]

  4. as stated above, i’m not a lawyer but it seems that with the flack surrounding corey’s poorly drawn indictment against gz that he would have a civil suit if found not guilty. and correct me if i’m wrong, but if he prevails on syg he is sheilded from suits from martins family. but if he prevails on self defense does that still leave him open to civil action?

    • Under Florida’s immunity statute it shouldn’t matter whether his defense is SYG or some other justifiable use of force. Also, the text of the statute itself doesn’t explicitly make a successful defense in a criminal trial either a necessary or sufficient condition of immunity from civil action, but it seems that a jury determination that the force was justified should be viewed compelling evidence that it was. I’m sure Florida case law has something to say on the matter. Of course, the same statute also grants immunity from criminal prosecution and arrest if the use of force was justified, so we’re back to the matter of whether or not the use of force was justified and who makes that determination.

  5. I’m sick of these poorly written articles coming out of both major and local news networks about this law.

    O’Mara was saying that essentially, even if the law didn’t exist, his client couldn’t retreat. So there’s no need to invoke SYG specifically. Of course the news media ran wild with it and some tried to portray it as O’Mara jumping ship on his client.

    It’s sick how dishonest they are.

  6. I think in this instance it is a direct result of the hearing filed by the DA to adjudicate whether or not SYG has any bearing. The the court finds SYG can not be used it shoots holes in his defense. In this case he is changing course to simply state self defense. It by passes the entire SYG hoopla.

  7. With respect to the issue of probable cause, I blogged about this a while back:
    http://www.minuteoflaw.blogspot.com/2012/04/zimmerman-probable-cause-and-fs-7760322.html

    As to the difference between a .013(3) versus a .012(1) defense in a case of deadly force, I am not convinced there is one. Notably, .013(3) lacks the term “imminent” found in .012(1), but I’m not sure that matters because it is difficult to imagine the belief that deadly force is “reasonable” unless the threat is indeed “imminent.”

    I suppose there could be some differences if someone is engaged in an illegal act, but I would like to see more comment from his lawyer before speculating on why he would abandon .013(3). I’m not even sure that’s what he meant to say.

    • I thought the whole purpose behind creating the SYG laws was to protect an individual from civil suit after the fact.

      • The problem is that people tend to use these terms sloppily. The stand your ground part of the Florida statute is the “no duty to retreat” part. Immunity from prosecution and civil action is a separate issue. It does not require there have been an unused opportunity to retreat, contrary to the claims of the race mob.

    • I’m curious Randon, knowing what little bit we know at this time, what do you think/guess the ultimate disposition of this case will be?

  8. I look at the situation Mr. Zimmerman is in, and I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Casey Stengle. Something like, “everyone has a purpose in life, even if it is to be a bad example”. We can all hopefully learn from this case on better ways to handle ourselves should we ever be on either side of the situation that Martin & Zimmerman were in.

  9. My wife is in the legal biz, and has basically heard and seen it all in the last 30 years. She might end up being wrong, but her take is this:

    1) This case will most probably go to a jury, not that it necessarily should have gotten this far, but because it is now a “national” case (“political and filled with limelight”) and no judge would be willing to stick their neck out on it – best for a jury to decide.

    2) Standard self defense is then the right way to go. She tells me there is no “stand your ground” in this particular case because Zimmerman did not stand his ground in the legal sense, he was already trapped and under attack, based on his injuries, and retreat was no longer an option.

    4) In choosing a jury trial the defense can hold their evidence to themselves until shortly before trial, while the state has to put all of theirs out as quickly as possible.

    3) The jury will decide the case mostly on the physical evidence. Conflicting or recanted testimony by witnesses, and previous behavior of the parties will all go in the jury’s trash can.

    4) The physical evidence alone at this time points in favor of Zimmerman. Distance from Zimmerman’s vehicle will be a main issue. Who had grass clippings and chlorophyll transfer on the back of their clothes will resolve who was on the bottom on the scuffle, not the eyewitnesses. Travon Martin died face down as per released cell phone picture, not good for the prosecution.

    J.

  10. A simple self defense defense seems common sense to me. I never understood the SYG defense bullshit to begin with. It just complicates a very simple issue–Zimmerman was attacked, the attacker was bigger and stronger than Zimmerman, the attacker was able to cause grave bodily harm to Zimmerman, the attacker was in the process of causing severe injuries to Zimmerman and the attacker left Zimmerman no opportunity during the course of the attack to escape the attack. Zimmerman’s attorney can state, “Your Honor, my client was attacked, was in fear for his life and he had no recourse other than to use deadly force to prevent the attacker from killing or maiming him.”

    Of course, getting an American legal system to accept anything associated with common sense is practically impossible since the American news media has already come up with its verdict. So, basically, Zimmerman is screwed.

    • I agree with most of what you wrote. However, it is possible that GZ might be acquitted by the jury. Still, like the OJ sentence, much of society will always believe GZ is a murderer even after (/if) he walks free.

  11. The only drawback I can see to dropping the SYG defense is that it would be a fast ticket out of jail due to the hearing before trial. If the evidence shows SYG applies, the judge has an obligation to drop the prosecution right then and there. Of course, that would never happen because the judge isn’t about to do anything that would make him look bad on camera.

    I do hope the appeal O’Mara filed regarding his motion for the judge to recuse himself is successful. I think the ‘system’, (judge and prosecution), is stacked against GZ and the court is desperately looking for any path to a conviction.

    • The judge has that same obligation if Zimmerman’s use of force was legal, regardless of whether or not stand your ground applies.

      • But I don’t think there’s a specific hearing just for that is there? There is a specific SYG hearing and if the defendant was found to have been within the statute, it’s all over for the prosecution at that point. Otherwise, it’s going to be up to the jury.

        • Under Florida law, a defendant is entitled upon motion to a pretrial hearing after which the charges against him will be dropped if he can show by a preponderance of the evidence that his use of force was justified. It doesn’t matter whether or not he’s claiming to have stood his ground. The label “Stand Your Ground” hearing is just more stupid reporter tricks.

  12. If I were Zimmerman, I’d get a better attorney. Volokh already commented how “Stand Your Ground” does not apply in this case. If Zimmerman’s attorney doesn’t know that, then he’s in for a rough ride.

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