Fields: Zimmerman Case Poses Legal Puzzle

BY SAM FIELDS                                                                                                                                                       

It seems pretty clear now that George Zimmerman had a reasonable fear of deadly force at the time he shot Trayvon Martin.

His nose was broken and his head had been banged into the ground.  He felt that he had no choice but to use his gun.

The key issue is the boundaries of the Stand Your Ground law.

The law states that a person “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.”

What if Zimmerman’s actions put into motion the events that led to his own reasonable belief of the need to use deadly force? Should he be allowed to raise the Stand Your Ground defense when he ignited the whole tragedy?

Certain things are undisputed.

There is no evidence that Trayvon Martin was up to no good.

Zimmerman had no legal authority to stop, confront and question Martin.

Zimmerman was told by the Dispatcher NOT to follow Martin.

Martin phoned his girlfriend and told her that he was worried that some guy was stalking him.

Martin’s race and age were the key factors in this tragedy.  To think otherwise is to believe that Zimmerman would have followed and called in a 911 on an unfamiliar 60-year-old White woman.

What if the case was this:

Zimmerman sees a 60-year-old White grandmother who is a stranger in his complex.  He follows her.

Fearful she is going to be raped or robbed by a stalker, she pulls out a gun. Zimmerman then shoots her in self defense under the Stand Your Ground law.

Is he entitled to invoke Stand Your Ground when he put the tragic events into motion?

Let’s change the facts again.

In the course of the struggle the frightened 60-year-old woman takes Zimmerman’s gun and kills the wannabe cop. Would the Stand Your Ground law protect grandma from jail and a lawsuit?

Is Florida a place where the slower gun dies and the faster gun goes free? What are the limits of Stand Your Ground?

The answer to that question will be up to judges hearing the Zimmerman case.  The decision by trial judge, and probably justices in an appeals court, will shape this controversial law and possibly it future uses.

Before coming to a conclusion, the judges will carefully study the exceptions written into Stand Your Ground.  For instance, one exception prohibits the law from being used to protect a person engaged in a criminal activity.

I suspect that the judge will decide that Zimmerman falls under an exception to the law. He will rule that  the law was also never intended to cover George Zimmerman’s brand of vigilantism.

I strongly suspect he will rule against Zimmerman at the Stand Your Ground hearing. He will let a jury of his peers make the final call on George Zimmerman.


Read Florida’s Stand Your Ground law here.


23 Responses to “Fields: Zimmerman Case Poses Legal Puzzle”

  1. Real Deal says:

    If Martin had threatened Zimmerman in a manner not initiated by Zimmerman his right to defend himself is clear. Under normal circumstances, that means using that amount of force necessary to protect yourself. Under the so called stand your ground standard, one could reasonably raise this defence in that instance.

    However, that is not what occurred.

    Here Zimmerman chose to pursue Martin. That pursuit resulted in a confrontation and altercation. The defense should not be available to someone who is the aggressor or in pursuit of another. Otherwise armed persons would be entitled to pick a fight with another, and when that person defends themselves, the aggressor can shoot them claiming they were threatened. If that was the rule, the defense would be converted into a license to kill.

    To protect against that outcome, availability of the defense must be limited to persons defending against threat of serious harm brought by an unprovoked aggressor.

    I see this as a voluntary manslaughter case for which the available defense is use of deadly force to defend against a felony committed against person or property.

    I don’t see that defense being successfully brought based on the facts reported.

  2. Las Olas Lawyer says:

    Great legal analysis. Why not try TV?

  3. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    I told you the Defense would state this was self defense. That the young boy was beating on Zimmerman(broken nose) , but what inatiated this fight was the fact that Zimmerman stalked this boy, called police etc, the Police told him back off, he did not. So in fear Martin confronted Zimmerman, Zimmerman was getting his ass kicked and shot this boy. You cannot state Stand your ground, when you started the confrontation. Really the Immunity should go to Martin for defending himself. The girlfriend who wa s on the cell phone w/. Martin is the key here. Basicly Zimmerman was the aggressor, not Martin. Plea deal, will probably be offered by the Da for Zimmerman, take it, then in prison the Martin family will get real justice. The inmates will make his life miserable. What Zimmerman will end up in Solitary, but just for so long, trust me, after awhile he will request General Pop, same as Jeffrey Dahmer, who wa s then killed by a mob head. True justice will await for Zimmerman.

  4. Sunset says:

    Mr. Zimmerman doesn’t have to stay in the car. Mr. Zimmerman leaving the car didn’t cause the confrontation. The confrontation was a result of Mr. Martin fearing he was being stalked decided to attack Zimmerman as Zimmerman was allegedly walking away. I see the scenario playing out like this. Mr. Martin didn’t realize Mr. Zimmerman had a gun if he had he may not have attacked Mr. Zimmerman. This may indicate Mr. Zimmerman was not brandishing the weapon as he was walking which may indicate he was carrying the weapon legally. If he is walking away he is not considered the aggressor. Tragically Mr. Martin fearing that he was being stalked jumped on Zimmerman and started kicking his butt. Mr. Zimmerman being attacked and having his head pounded uses the gun to protect himself. This is an unfortunate case that had a deadly end. The judge doesn’t throw it out he must let this go to trial. I believe if the prosecution continues to pursue 2nd degree murder this trail will end up with a hung jury. There are too many witnesses with different stories and some that have changed there story. Zimmerman’s lawyer has a leg up because the witnesses have contradicted themselves. The court may throw out some of the testimony.

  5. The Long Black Robe (ret.) says:

    Very nicely done, Sam.
    You have shown how the Legislature, in its “wisdom” and pandering to the gun lobby, have cause yet another problem for the courts and the public. Yes, people should have a right to defend themselves. No, people should not have a right to turn themselves into judge, jury and executioner, which is what it appears that Mr. Zimmerman did. The law needs to be revisited. My fear is that the gun lobby will block any attempt to clarify it.

  6. Normpr148 says:

    Try to get some facts correct Sam. From what was explained is that Zimmerman was told not to follow him and according to Zimmerman he did turn around and was heading back to his vehicle when Trevon attacked him. Whats pathetic about this case is that all they show is pictures of Trevon when he was only 12 years old. Trevon has since been described as 6’2 had gold teeth and was loaded with tattoos all over his body and had a record of being suspended numerous times because he was a trouble maker and was on a 10 day suspension when this happened. I don’t recall them saying he had a broken nose or cuts in the back of his head and Zimmerman was the one with stains on the back of his shirt. I am not trying to be judgemental but under the circumstances I feel Zimmerman was protecting himself. Its a shame Trevon died but under the circumstances if it was happening to me I would feel justified in doing the same thing

  7. just saying says:

    martin is a known burglar. he was suspended from school for 2 weeks for burglary. buddy, check out his long long record with BSO in pembroke park (district 1). he was followed? perhaps he was casing the neigborhood for his next break-in. zimmerman caught on to him casing and LEGALLY followed him. martin paniced, attacked zimmerman and got shot. as i see it…not guilty!

  8. West Davie Resident says:

    “Martin’s race is a key factor”.

    To who? Al Sharpton? The local NBC reporter who was fired for parsing Zimmerman’s 911 call to make it appear a suspicious black person was being stalked by Zimmerman?

    Sam have you seen the latest report that Zimmerman complained to his Sanford elected officials that their police did not repremand a white officer for roughing up a black resident some years ago?

    Zimmerman is not the racist. Those trying to frame this case as such may be.

    I will not disagree that Zimmerman should have let the police intervene after he called them about Trayvon. But Zimmerman contined to trail young Trayvon and will now spend the rest of his life mourning for the tragedy that resulted.

    I am not an attorney but this case sounds like involuntary manslaughter to me.

  9. Elroy_John says:

    “Normpr148” & “just saying,” you both understand that you don’t have to post every stupid thought that manages to find its way into your heads right?

  10. Sam the Sham says:

    There are so many so called “facts” being cited here, both by Sam Fields and the commentors, that it makes my head spin. People say that Zimmerman should not be the “judge, jury and executioner” but that is exactly what you all are doing to him. Most of you would be thrown off a jury instantly for your preconceived notions. And “Long Black Robe”, I doubt that you were ever a judge and if you were, I am glad you are now retired.

    It is such a target rich environment of nonsense here that if I were to comment on all of it at once I would fill the whole page. Let me for a momment concentrate on a few things Sam Wrote:

    “Certain things are undisputed.

    There is no evidence that Trayvon Martin was up to no good.”

    – I agree, sort of. Looking back at Trayvon’s history of being caught with likely stolen jewelry and a burglary tool makes one pause. Also, the night in question was raining, why would Trayvon meander about in the rain instead of making a beeline for his destination? It is not evidence of wrongdoing but is suspicious behavior, behavior that caught Zimmerman’s attention.

    “Zimmerman had no legal authority to stop, confront and question Martin.”

    Zimmerman had no police powers to detain anybody, but he had all the right in the world to ask someone a question on common property where he lives. BTW, there is no evidence that Zimmerman ever did stop, confront or question Martin.

    “Zimmerman was told by the Dispatcher NOT to follow Martin.”

    Again, this is true but as far as I know, 911 operators have no legal authority to give orders and Zimmerman was not obligated to follow those orders. If I am wrong, please cite the statute and I will go along with you.

    “Martin phoned his girlfriend and told her that he was worried that some guy was stalking him.”

    Sorry Sam, but we don’t know who phoned who and exactly when they phoned. On top of that, we have no idea what their conversation was about. The girl friends statements were made well after the facts and are extremely self serving and cannot be trusted.

    “Martin’s race and age were the key factors in this tragedy. To think otherwise is to believe that Zimmerman would have followed and called in a 911 on an unfamiliar 60-year-old White woman.”

    Nonsense. There is no evidence at all about race, age or even sex profiling here. If you think that 60 year old white women don’t commit burglaries, spend a few minutes perusing the daily mugshots on Sun Sentinel.

  11. Biased Field says:

    “He also was the founder of a products liability clearing-house for anti-firearms litigation.”

    This is from your official resume on this website, Mr. Fields. Don’t you think you should disclose your bias when you write stories designed to inflame the public against the Second Amendment and their right to protect themselves with firearms.

  12. ExCompassionate Conservative says:

    What I wonder about is the state of mind when Martin is walking by himself and sees a grown man following him. Isn’t this the usual beginning of attempted assualt of kids by pedophiles or robbers who pounce and then hop in a car to get away? Why wouldn’t Martin be scared for his life that some sicko was going to assault him?

    We have a HOA with a guarded entrance. Requests for armed guards have been turned down because of the potential for real tragedies and law suits. Call the police, video them but do not confront. Martin looked like any one of many teens leaving a Middle school.

    What is God’s Will I think is how the Tea Party Crowd call in and argue with Steve Kane and Brian Craig on their cheap AM Talk radio show about how Martin deserved to be blasted away. Both Steve and Brian have adopted Black Children and they seem clueless about the angry old white guy birther bloc who listen to their show. One of the sidekicks who is alive because of gumint benefits kept on asking Brian “how he got jungle fever” which Brian may not have caught on to as to what that means. Hint, another way of saying “N lover” Brian.

  13. John Henry says:

    George Zimm will walk when all is said and done–rightly so.

    At this point no jury in the world will convict beyond reasonable doubt after the dog-and-pony show Sharpton & NAACP put on. All the defense needs is 1 white juror, male age 35-70.

    I have no pity or sorrow for the Martin family after the mother copyrighted Tray-Trays name. What a gold-digging turd.

    Furthermore all the Dems in the state can cry all they want about the Stand Your Ground Law–its going nowhere anytime soon. At this point, any pol thats pushing for the repeal is simply doing it for the cameras–they are as bad as Martin’s mother.

  14. electricjack says:

    First of all nobody mentioned the fact that 2 hours before this incident Trayvion beat up a bus driver because the driver demanded he pay to ride the bus?????????Hmm

    Second of all Zimmerman was in his truck watching the unknown person called SPD an the dispatcher asked for a address to send the Police by the way the dispatcher is not a cop but a civil service employee….
    There has been over 245 events in that area in the past 2 years.
    Zimmerman had become the unoffical watchman cause the neighbors were scared because of all the violence in there community. Which is private understand the word PRIVATE LAND?????? He had every right to get out of his truck and go to get the address off the building so that makes him fair game for a gangsta wanna be to pound on him???????? Since when is it a crime to defend yourself???? Martin knuckles were damaged as found during the autopsy zim had lacerations on his skull and a broken nose so its his fault that his nose got in the way of Martins fist???????? Baby where I came from Zim is a rightous shoot…….

  15. Lamberti is garbage says:

    Lamberti has evidence that ties Trayvon to criminal acts in Broward and he will not release that info.

  16. Normpr148 says:

    Elroy_John That was the most stupidist thing you can say and it shows you are definitely a Rachel Maddows and Rev. Al Sharpton fan along with the other ignorant commentators for MSNBC with your remarks. My suggestion to you is GET A LIFE

  17. safemike1 says:

    I have an even better idea. Why doesn’t everybody stop thinking that just because they watch NCIS or Judge Judy, they can be lawyers. There is a legal system and this guy will be tried in it. He will either be found guilty or not guilty. And that’s the way it will go. Period! Anything else is just plain speculation.

    The legal system is not a call in show where every body gets to give their opinions to what they think. And a good thing because most of the time, the opinions are wrong, or just a copy of what someone read or heard somewhere.

  18. Jamie says:

    Excellent analysis Mr. Fields.
    How many people who are running from someone they fear decide to turn around and attack the person they’re running from? Zimmerman never backed off. He continued to follow the kid and initiated a confrontation. Zimmerman’s actions did in fact put into motion the events that lead to his own reasonable belief of the need to use deadly force.

  19. sunset says:

    The problem most have is a dead man can’t talk. Hard for the prosecution to build a case when most witnesses can’t get their story straight. There where only 2 people actually there and 1 is dead. The guy is going to walk.
    When this case broke there where so many inaccuracies that most jumped to a conclusion.

  20. Where is Sharpton? says:

    So a black guy eats a white guys face, and Al hasn’t showed up in S Florida? Is this a hate crime? Did race play a factor? If this sounds ridiculous, well your right. But so does the race card being brought into the Zimmerman case.

    And for those of you that don’t like stand your ground, chew on this…. In New York and Ohio where they do not have self defense laws, if someone was eating your face, you couldn’t shoot them. Neither could someone who is watching the attack.

    Every law has flaws and special circumstances. But I think it is completely unfair that we are jumping to conclusions and have already made up our minds as soon as the incident occurred. Let all the facts come out. But as far as race is concerned, if Zimmerman attacked a white girl, I have a feeling that they wouldn’t be calling him a white male.

  21. SHC says:

  22. Citizen says:

    the lying and misrepresentation at the April bond hearing by the Mr. and Mrs. zimmerman has done more damage than anything to date. He made his lawyer look like a fool trying to ‘explain’ the second passport. To his credit, the lawyer is and will do his best to represent zimmerman, but any credibility zimmerman had telling his side of the Feb. 26 events is long gone. It’ll be interesting to watch him if the next court showing is televised.

  23. Jamie says:

    Why haven’t Zimmerman’s attorneys moved to get the case dismissed based on SYG? Could it be because they know it would be denied and they don’t want to risk prospective jurors knowing that a court previously shot down their defense strategy. Even if the judge denied the motion to dismiss, Zimmerman would still have a right to argue that defense before a jury. But Zimmerman’s attorneys are smart and I think they see the writing on the wall.They don’t want prospective jurors going into deliberations knowing that a court had previously shot down the self defense theory. Just my .$02