Trayvon Martin, Cont.

Channel 9 in Sanford interviews one of the witnesses in the Martin killing who says the cops "blew us off."

"The cries stopped as soon as the gun went off, so I know it was the little boy," Cutcher said. Cutcher said a cry for help got her attention on the day Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in her backyard by Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood vigilante. Cutcher said that until now, she ignored repeated attempts by national and local media to share what she saw, partially out of fear. 

"We said, 'Is everything OK? And he just looked at us. Selma [another witness] asked him again, 'What's up, what's going on, everything OK? And he just said, 'Call the police,' kind of nonchalantly, kind of like, 'Leave me alone,'" Cutcher said. 

According to a partial police report, Cutcher is one of six witnesses that Sanford police took a statement from. Cutcher said it was short, and police never questioned her in detail until after she repeatedly reached out to them. 

"Blew us off, and I called him back again and I said, "I know this was not self-defense. There was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling,'" Cutcher said. Cutcher said she believes whatever confrontation there was, it ended before they got to her backyard.
Channel 9 also calls into question the decision to not arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman:

Sanford police pointed to a state statute for not making an immediate rest, and they sent WFTV a copy of the law entitled, "Justifiable Use of Force." 

However, WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer reviewed the statute and said that if Zimmerman was told by 911 to not confront Martin and did anyway, the statute is not on his side. 

"The use of deadly force in this case was unlawful and a valid arrest could have been made," Sheaffer said. Sheaffer also said that ultimately an arrest could be, and likely should be made, and then the state would decide if the charges stick. 

"Under the facts, it is an abuse of discretion for Sanford not to affect on arrest and then send it to the State Attorney's Office," said Sheaffer. 

Sanford police have said there was no probable cause for an arrest of Zimmerman.

You can read Florida's "Justifiable Use of Force" Laws here

Also, from comments, more analysis of the "Stand Your Ground" laws:

In Florida there exist three separate statutory standards of self-defense: the first applies to a passive innocent using deadly force to protect himself in public; the second to a person at home when faced with an intruder; the third to a person who was the initial aggressor and who subsequently escalated the physical encounter by using deadly force. 

Both the first and third standards require a reasonable apprehension of imminent death or severe bodily harm before one may resort to deadly force in self-defense. This is an objective standard, where the court looks to what a "reasonably cautious and prudent person" would do under the same circumstances. 

 Even if there are no other witnesses, the court will weigh Defendant's testimony against this standard; that is, the court will look to the surrounding facts to determine whether the Defendant acted rationally. Here's where it gets interesting for the Zimmerman case. As has been pointed out by you and others, the first standard--for a passive innocent--does not require retreat. 

What I haven't seen yet in these parts** is the fact that the third standard--for an initial-aggressor--actually does require retreat. That is, a person who initially provokes a physical encounter must exhaust "every reasonable means to escape such danger" before resorting to deadly force. § 776.041(2)(a).


The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who: 

(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or  

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless: 

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or 

(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

In other words, no you can't provoke a confrontation, and upon taking a bloody nose, shoot to kill.

I want to thank everyone who's looked through Florida's laws to shine some light (as opposed to heat) on all of this. More please.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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