By now many of you have heard about the Trayvon Martin Murder Case. Well, actually it’s not really a case yet due to the Florida prosecutor’s failure to file criminal charges against the murderer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case, here’s a very basic summary:
On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin (pictured above), and his father were visiting a family member in Florida. During the visit, Trayvon walked to a nearby store alone. While on his way back from the store, he was spotted by a man named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the town’s self-appointed “neighborhood watch leader.” (I’m sure most of you are familiar with these “neighborhood watch leaders,” every neighborhood has at least one. I prefer to call them the “nosey neighbor who minds everyone’s business, but their own”).
After spotting Trayvon, Zimmerman called the police, claiming Trayvon “looked suspicious” and reported Trayvon’s presence in the neighborhood stating “He looked like he might be on drugs” or “ up to no good.” Upon learning that Zimmerman was following Trayvon, the dispatcher specifically instructed Zimmerman not to pursue him. However, Zimmerman disobeyed said instruction and confronted the teenager. Although it’s still unclear what exactly happened after that, the fact that is very clear is that Trayvon was killed by Zimmerman that day. Admitting to pulling out a loaded gun, and pulling the trigger, Zimmerman claims that he was acting in self-defense. Based on this claim, prosecutors have still not filed charges against Zimmerman because according to them, Trayvon started an altercation with Zimmerman which lead to Zimmerman having no choice, but to defend himself.
The above is a mere summary of the facts. Unfortunately, there are many more issues in this case which have caused an uproar throughout communities across the country; specifically:
- The racial sensitivity of the case,
- Why Zimmerman found Trayvon suspicious?
- Why Zimmerman pursued the boy when the dispatcher instructed him not to?
- Why Zimmerman got out of his car, and why he took a gun with him?
So, is it possible that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense? Well, I guess it depends on who you ask; but, if you ask me, based on the information known so far: “No.”
Although I don’t know Florida’s law verbatim on the subject, most laws on murder and self-defense are parallel with a few minor differences.
The basic idea behind self-defense is that one should not be punished for injuring or killing another while trying to protect him or herself so as long their conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.
According to California law (which is pretty standard in regards to self-defense), your injuring or killing of another may be justified if:
- You reasonably believe that you are in immediate danger of being killed, seriously hurt, or unlawfully touched;
- You reasonably believe that immediate force is necessary to prevent that danger, and
- You use only enough force to combat the force being used against you.
*Deadly force may only be used if you are about to suffer great bodily injury or death and if there is no other alternative.
Additionally, if you are the one who starts the fight, you are typically prevented from asserting self-defense unless:
- You make a good faith effort to stop fighting and clearly indicate that you are trying to do so (but the other party doesn’t stop fighting), or
- The other party counters your initial non deadly attack with deadly force
Now, let’s apply this very basic concept of self-defense law to the Trayvon Martin case in the simplest sense:
As noted above, in order to lawfully use self-defense, you must have had an honest and reasonable belief that you faced immediate harm. Whether or not you acted reasonably is an objective standard; this means that ultimately a judge and/or jury will place themselves in your shoes to determine if you were reasonable according to the circumstances. So, when placing myself in the shoes of Zimmerman, It’s hardly reasonable for a 28-year-old man to believe that a 17-year-old boy, (who according to the picture above was not abnormally large for his age) with no weapon was going to cause severe danger to him, especially danger serious enough to justify the use of deadly force.
Since Zimmerman was following Trayvon because he thought Trayvon was “suspicious”, it’s highly probably that Zimmerman was the started whatever altercation ensued between the parties. Therefore, Zimmerman should be prohibited from asserting self-defense unless he can show that he tried to stop the fight, but Trayvon kept fighting or that Trayvon used deadly force on him once the non-deadly fight began. (which clearly wasn’t the case here unless it can somehow be shown that skittles and tea were used as a deadly weapon :/)
The Trayvon Martin case is an all-around sad story. It’s especially disturbing to me to know that it’s possible that one of my children, can be classified as “suspicious” simply because one is unfamiliar with him, and later killed because of that unfamiliarity and to top if off, the killer possibly won’t even be charged because of his self-absorbed twist on the concept of self-defense in order to fulfill his obsession with being a hero and leading the “neighborhood watch”.
For full details on the Trayvon Martin case, click here. To join me in supporting his family, sign the Petition to encourage the state to file charges against the man responsible for his death, click here