The State of Florida had to make the case that Mr George Zimmerman either bore the deceased Mr Trayvon Martin ill-will, or was depraved, and so sought to deliberately kill the child.
Over the five-week trial period, the State’s prosecuting attorney Bernie de la Rionda sought to make the case that Mr Zimmerman initiated the tragic events by purposefully stalking Mr Martin while carrying his loaded firearm. Further, Mr de la Rionda pressed that Mr Zimmerman could not plead justifiable self-defense if he instigated the incident. The prosecution, however, was unable to provide a witness that could directly refute Mr Zimmerman’s assertion that Mr Martin come out hiding in nearby bushes and attacked him.
Mr Zimmerman’s defense maintained that he had every right to discharge his weapon on Mr Martin, as at the point in question, he was being savagely attacked by the teenager. The defense’s position was the circumstances leading up to the altercation were immaterial. Further, Mr Zimmerman’s legal team made the surprising claim that Mr Martin had indeed been armed, using his fists and the sidewalk as assault weapons.
The six-person jury returned not-guilty verdicts on the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. This indicated that the prosecution’s case had been insufficient to convince the jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Zimmerman had acted willfully and maliciously in killing Mr Martin. Indeed, the local Sanford FL police and prosecutor had come to that conclusion soon after the tragic shooting in 2012, and thus had not initially charged Mr Zimmerman for the homicide.
Mr Zimmerman was thus freed and ‘no further business’ with court.
A few comments on ‘Stand Your Ground’ type laws. Natural law holds that one is justified in defending one’s life if one believes it is in imminent danger from another individual or individuals. However, I look to Police Departments’ standard procedure of putting officers involved in homicides on administrative leave, pending investigations of the killings. It is not clear to me what provisions Florida’s particular ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute make for investigating the circumstances of a ‘self-defense’ homicide.
What makes Mr Zimmerman’s case particularly irksome is the absence of witnesses to corroborate or contradict his version of events. In this absence, the local police authorities made the decision to believe Mr Zimmerman’s account, ultimately not holding him criminally liable for Mr Martin’s shooting death.
This is where I believe the Florida statute may be lacking.
This ‘Stand Your Ground’ law should be revised to automatically bring at least manslaughter charges in the event of a citizen using is as a defense for killing another person. The burden of proof should be on the shooter to justify his or her actions. However, this goes against the established principle of presumed innocence, where the prosecution has to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There is also the matter of the Constitution’s stance against forced self-incrimination.
As it stands now, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law appears to allow for an individual to commit and be ultimately be held blameless for a homicide in circumstances where there are no witnesses or even corroborating evidence. That’s a troubling thought.
I look forward with great interest to the future Constitutional challenges to such laws. Because, while natural law condones the commission of a homicide in self-defense, it also cries out for an overwhelmingly reasonable justification for the extinguishing of another human life.