Even though the prosecution never mentioned it in its arguments, the trial was really about Florida’s stand-your-ground law; and probably for a good reason. The law is a type of self-defense protection that gives individuals, including criminals, the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous or confronted situation. The term reasonable force is subjective and usually gives anyone with a gun the benefit of the doubt. In Florida, instead of limiting the law to only protecting and defending your home or vehicle, it also applies to all lawfully occupied locations.
Even though they are the instigators, antagonist, bullies, stalkers, thieves or stalkers, or caught stealing their neighbors barbecue grill, criminals have the same right to protect themselves with a gun during a confronted situation. If confronted, they have the same legal right to kill you before you kill them.
Zimmerman had the legal right to kill Martin because he was in a dangerous situation. No wonder incidents of armed robbery have increased in Florida; the law protects the criminal from bodily harm as well as the victim.
A stand-your-ground lawsuit would provide a defense for the accused or give immunity to a criminal charge. Usually, evidence and testimony is used in a criminal case to win in a civil suit. which is what happened in the Zimmerman trial. The difference between immunity and a defense is that immunity bars any civil suit, detention or arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction. Since Zimmerman was tried and found innocent on criminal charges, the state of Florida or the Federal Justice system can take him to a civil court and make him literally pay the price for his actions.
A good example of the differences between civil justices vs. criminal justice is the O.J. Simpson case. Simpson was found innocent in criminal court but was ordered to pay $35.5 million to the families of the murder victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Zimmerman could be working for the Martin family for the rest of his life.
In the gun-toting days of the old west, a gunslinger would walk into a saloon, bait a non-suspecting cowhand to a quick draw contest, wait for his victim's first move toward the holster then shoot him dead on the spot, claiming self defense. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman, armed with a concealed weapon purposely, stalked and baited the non-suspecting Martin into a dangerous and confrontational situation. Not knowing Zimmerman had a gun, Martin tried to defend himself with his hands. Knowing Martin didn’t have a gun, Zimmerman shot the kid dead and was found not guilty in criminal court. Civil court might produce a different conclusion.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.