George Zimmerman's legal team announced on Monday night that it wouldn't argue its case under Florida's stand-your-ground law, instead pursuing a traditional self-defense argument, but that that doesn't mean his lawyers see their case as any weaker. To the contrary, the decision not to invoke Florida's special statute in Zimmerman's second-degree murder case for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin actually suggests Zimmerman's attorneys feel they have a more widely accepted self-defense argument. And they're still going to try to get the case thrown out on self-defense grounds.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, told The Associated Press' Kyle Hightower that the facts didn't support a stand-your-ground argument, which is a Florida statute that gives people the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without backing down. Another 23 states have similar statutes. As a refresher, let's look at the language of that law, via the state's online statutes:
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.
The notion that a person has no duty to retreat, even in a public place, is what's unique about the law (and others like it), compared with states that do require someone to try to avoid a confrontation before finally resorting to deadly force in self-defense. Florida's statute offers immunity from prosecution if a defendant can prove self-defense. O'Mara is now saying Stand-Your-Ground is moot because Zimmerman didn't have any opportunity to retreat. He told Hightower that Zimmerman "wasn't in position where I think there was any suggestion where he could retreat, which he is allowed to do under the statute." That speaks to a different statute of Florida's self-defense laws, which simply says a person has a right to use deadly force if "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." University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave told Hightower: "'Stand your ground' makes it easier to prevail under self-defense theory than the law that existed beforehand," By deciding not to invoke it, "I think what he's saying is, his case is so strong that he doesn't need 'stand your ground.'"
Meanwhile, O'Mara also said on Monday that Zimmerman is once again broke, and that he would seek to have his client declared indigent and have the state pick up his legal fees. This puts Zimmerman right back to where he started with this trial, when he made the case that he had no money while hiding the fact that he'd raised some $200,000 through his website. Only now, he really doesn't have any money, his lawyer says.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.