George Zimmerman’s lawyers did not use Florida’s 2005 stand-your-ground law to defend him against charges in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
But the jury in the case was instructed to determine its verdict based on the stand-your-ground law, which meant that in order to convict Zimmerman for murder, prosecutors needed to prove that Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense.
These laws affect how juries can rule. Someone charged with murder can be acquitted if he believed his life was in danger, even if he provoked the confrontation. This is a change in how the courts deal with homicide charges.
“The defense merely had to establish that there was a perception of risk, of bodily harm, on the part of Mr. Zimmerman for these instructions to be resonant on the part of jurors,” jury consultant Doug Keene told Here & Now. “Under the old law, you were obliged to escape the situation without use of deadly force. Under the new law, you don’t need to establish that.”
Stand-your-ground and other laws allowing citizens to carry and use guns are on the rise. Twenty states including Florida currently have such laws.
These laws reflect that carrying and using guns are increasingly considered a civil right.
“Part of what you see is that there are increasing discussions — not over the literal meaning of the Second Amendment, but over this much broader and more sweeping notion that, ‘I have a right to have a gun, therefore I have a right to have a gun everywhere. ’” Keene said. “And that is a much different conversation than we’ve ever had in the history of the country.”
- Tampa Bay Times: Stand Your Ground law’s impact needs more study, task force told