Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Killing

Martin's girlfriend says that she was on the phone with him at the start of the confrontation:
"He says, 'Oh he's right behind me, he's right behind me again,'" Crump says the girl told him. "She says: 'Run.' He says, 'I'm not going to run I'm just going to walk fast.' She hears Trayvon say, 'Why are you following me?' Other voice says, 'What are you doing around here?'"
She told Crump they both repeated themselves and then she thinks she heard Zimmerman push Martin "because his voice changes like something interrupted his speech." She heard an altercation and then the phone call was cut off.
That's certainly a plausible explanation of what happened.  Or perhaps he pushed Zimmerman.  This really isn't enough to tell what happened.  Even if Zimmerman pushed him, how did they end up on the ground, with Martin on top?  It might well be that Zimmerman struck the first blow, and that still would not destroy his claim that he was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin.  It would, however, argue that Zimmerman was really lacking in judgment in chasing Martin, and even more lacking in judgment if he hit Martin.


  1. My understanding is that FL law says that if you instigate a confrontation you cannot claim self-defense. Give the facts we know for sure: Zimmerman followed Martin despite being told not to, left his car, chased Martin down in the dark and confronted him at least verbally and perhaps physically how can Zimmerman legitimately claim self defense. It seems like Martin had a much better self defense claim.

  2. Verbal confrontation wouldn't destroy a claim to self-defense; if Zimmerman struck the first blow, it would destroy it. But there are only two people that were present at that event, and one of them can't testify because he's dead. Unless there is some witness or hitherto unreported physical evidence, the burden of proof on the government to prove that Zimmerman initiated violence is going to be insurmountable.

  3. In isolation I agree verbal confrontation alone won't affect a claim of self-defense.

    But considering the totality of the facts in this specific case it seems clear to me that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation by chasing a boy down in the dark and accosting him for no good reason. Zimmerman had no, zero, evidence that Martin had violated any law. Given these, undisputed, facts, wouldn't Martin have the stronger self-defense claim. If a man 100 lbs. heavier than I chased me down in the dark for no reason he'd be staring down the barrel of my Colt Combat Commander when he caught up to me.

    As advocates of legal CCW and strong self-defense laws I feel we have a special burden to acknowledge not all claims of self-defense are valid and that some of "our own" turn out to be bad actors. But not to tar the millions of good CCW folks with the sins of a tiny minority. I don't want to risk our credibility by supporting Zimmerman's actions which I believe violated both the letter and spirit of FL's self-defense laws.

    Also, isn't self-defense in FL an affirmative defense? I didn't think the government had to prove the negative, that it wasn't self-defense. But that the burden was on us to prove our actions were reasonable. I know here in TX all such cases go to a Grand Jury to determine if the action was reasonable.

  4. The burden of proof requirement in a criminal trial is going to help Zimmerman a lot. I'm not thrilled about it, but that's what is going to happen.

    From what I have read, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law strongly biases the legal system towards someone engaged in (or at least plausibly claiming) self-defense. If anyone finds evidence that contradicts Zimmerman's claim (not likely), it won't help him. But the lack of witnesses pretty well gives him an out, whether he deserves one or not.