Edward Packard

March 28, 2012

      I read that supporters of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin, said that Martin knocked Zimmerman down and pounded his head against the sidewalk. This version of their encounter strikes me as highly implausible, but let us assume it is true, for it suggests another way of looking at their confrontation:
      It’s undisputed that (a) Zimmerman was armed and that Martin was not, and (b) that Zimmerman was following Martin because, as he told the police dispatcher, Martin “was up to no good.”
    Martin, who was presumably not aware that he “was up to no good,” might reasonably have felt that a man with a gun following him was putting him at risk of great bodily harm. Under the “Florida Stand Your Ground” law, that gave Martin the right to defend himself even if had a chance to retreat. Since Martin was unarmed, he couldn’t shoot Zimmerman, so he defended himself by knocking Zimmerman to the ground and pounding his head against the sidewalk. Since it would be unlawful to discriminate against people just because they defend themselves with their hands instead of shooting, Martin’s defense of himself was lawful under the Florida law. That being the case, Zimmerman had no right to shoot him. Or maybe he did: the law in Florida seems to be kill first, think later.
     One thing is certain: the police were derelict if they did not question Zimmerman aggressively and closely immediately after the shooting, first giving proper warnings of course, and if they did not obtain an immediate medical evaluation of the trauma inflicted on him.

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