There is a big misconception in the media about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, even though the crux of the issue is right there in the title of the law: “STAND Your Ground”.

Having had the pleasure of taking a criminal law class in law school, I can tell you that there are two regimes for self-defense involving the use of deadly force: either a victim of a violent crime like burglary (1) has a duty to retreat if it’s safe to do so, or (2) does not have such a duty to retreat and can “stand his/her ground”.  The big thing that is missing from these standards is any implication that the victim can chase after the perpetrator after the violent crime has ceased.  If you need it explained any more simply:

This Isn't Rocket Surgery, Folks

This is exactly what leads the legislators that wrote the Florida stand your ground law to say that Zimmerman should not be protected by the law:

The authors of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law say George Zimmerman should probably be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin, reports the Miami Herald.

“He has no protection under my law,” former Sen. Durell Peaden told the newspaper. […]

It is the fact that Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator’s advice not to follow Martin that former Sen. Peaden says disqualifies him from claiming self-defense under the law.

The guy lost his defense right then,” Peaden told the Miami Herald. “When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.”

Rep. Dennis Baxley, Peaden’s co-sponsor in the Florida House, agrees with his former colleague, telling the newspaper that the law does not license neighborhood watch or others who feel “like they have the authority to pursue and confront people. That is aggravating an incident right there.”

It’s pretty simple.  You can stand your ground and have the defense apply to you, or you can take it upon yourself to chase after the perpetrator (i.e., you are no longer STANDING your ground) and lose the defense.

The cops involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.

  1. Following some one, leaving you car to stalk them, and then causing a confrontation and shooting them is not self defense.

  2. Elle Smith says:

    Thank goodness someone has brought up the most troubling part of these self defense laws being misused and misinterpreted!!!!!!! These laws were meant to protect those in imediate danger. For instance, an armed intruder kicking down a door and entering a home with a sleeping family. That is imediate threat of harm. Then the family members have a right to protect themselves at all cost. This is not the wild west, and if you hae been robbed and find out later after thecrime has been committed, it does not give you the right to stalk and kill anyone. It becomes a police matter at that point. If you follow someone at that point, with intent to harm them… are the criminal. Especially when these are often over very trivial matters that have only become life threatening when the vigilante leaves to carry out revenge. This Florida Law needs to be put under control. A neighborhood watch persn cannot even question or detain anyone….they would be breaking the law. They are only a lookout to give a feeling of safety. Zimmerman needs to be held accountable for a situation that he had no right to have pursued in such a way. He is a murderer, a hot headed idiot who should not have ever had a gun. How terribly sad!

  3. sandy says:

    @ Ellie Smith
    You said a neighborhood watch person could not even question a person? Why would they be a Neighborhood Watch Person? What would be the purpose? If Zimmerman was armed, I can assure you he had a license as a Neighborhood Watch person. They do not give a permit to carry if you are Micky Mouse. If he was carrying at the time he gave himself up w/out a carry permit, I am sure things would have been different. Check out Florida permits for armed security. I have been armed Security in Florida with years under my belt at D.O.C after retirement. I was once felt totally threatened and had to pull out my firearm. Thank heavens, the bad guy stepped down. I was able to re-holster. It was nothing that happens on a day to day event. We report crimes and not arrest and that is why Mr. George Zimmerman placed his call. Did you witness the event because you said Mr. Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin? Where did you get this info?

    • Metavirus says:

      the fundamental point is that there is evidence in the 911 tape of zimmerman pursing the victim. i am not saying he is guilty, my main point in all of this is that zimmerman needs to have a court of law and a jury evaluate the evidence and find him guilty or not guilty. which they will now do. so i’m good to see the justice system take its course.

      • and this happened only after a huge effort by many people to make sure that the locals could not sweep it under the rug. They wanted it to, and tried to, but it did not work.

  4. sandy says:

    Mark Schumaker,
    Who wanted to sweep this under the rug? Who tried it?

    • Metavirus says:

      cover-up = the police and the initial assist district attorneys. after the special prosecutor was appointed and reviewed the evidence, that’s basically the conclusion she came to. she determined that the evidence supported a charge and that the justice system should properly run its course.

    • Try the Standford police and the local DA. It was in all the top Fl newspapers if you missed it.

  5. sandy says:

    When you say Mr. Zimmerman was pursuing, do you mean he was keeping watch on Trayvon Martin or chasing him? Who was the person screaming for help in the tapes? I also understand that it was raining which can be a handicap.
    It was so very unfortunate that this happened and Mr. Zimmerman will never be the same person. Trayvon’s family will forever be w/o a son. Mr Zimmerman has to live and what do you say about the Black Panthers offering a reward? Do you support that idea?

    • Metavirus says:

      the whole thing is a tragedy. do i think zimmerman is some sociopath monster who was out to kill someone? not really. lots of unfortunate murders happen in this country by otherwise normal people. i’m just glad zimmerman will face a judge and jury, who will look at and evaluate all the evidence. as for the black panthers, they’re like 5 guys and are irrelevant to everyone except themselves. citing the black panthers is like citing NAMBLA -- they have no power and are attached meaningfully to no one in any position of power. as a result, they’re meaningless to any intelligent debate.

  6. sandy says:

    News just in today. Photos that have not been shown of the bloody back of Mr. Zimmerman’s head? WHAT SAY YOU!!!!
    The ‘Stand Your Ground Law” was birthed after Hurricane Ivan in Florida. I have been a resident of Florida for over 40 years and have weathered a many hurricane. When Hurricanes destroy your home. business and property the chances are big that some people come along for what they think to be free pickings. Many people protect what is left of their lives that have not been completely destroyed. There are things that we can find a block or two over that has tremendous value, even if it is a baby picture. Some cultures will steal anything and everything. Hurricane Katrina comes to mind.Yeah, I was armed security called to Mobile Alabama to a Target Store that had a gaping hole in it. If you are sleeping in your home and someone comes in (as in the case of the senior citizen couple who was threatened and assaulted by an intruder after a hurricane) would you just cow down and hope you would not be raped or killed? Many culprits do not want a witness to their crime. That is how the law got birthed after a hurricane. I agree with this law because too many times the victim seems to pay the penalty.
    I think too many people may be jumping the gun with Mr. Zimmerman. He may likely be the victim. I looked at the video of him in court today and he came off as sincere in his apologies. Most people who murder never apologize.

    • Metavirus says:

      dude, calm down already. all i was looking for is for zimmerman to face a jury of his peers and raise the issue of self-defense. now that he has been charged, he can have his day in court. that’s what a lot of people were asking for. now that he’s been charged, i’m satisfied. for all your complaining about a rush to judgment, you’re doing just the opposite -- a rush to exonerate. we will see how the case comes out.

  7. sandy says:


    Trying to ask some questions and also give some history about how “Stand Your Ground” got born. If you live where Hurricanes frequent, you would maybe understand how this happened. I went through 6 major hurricanes from 2004-2005. We all know them by their names and which hurricane took off the roof or which hurricane felled the 200 year old Live Oak in your yard, or which neighbors shed wrapped around your home.We remember livestock having to be put out of their misery from injuries. We have to literally stand guard For weeks we heard nothing but gas powered generators and chain saws. The senior couple who shot the intruder only lived 30 minutes from my front door. There had been a hurricane. No electricity at night and can not see, just hear noises. Personally, I want the law to stand as is. There have been no instances of people gone amuck here in Florida because of it.
    I am also glad Mr. Zimmerman will get to appear and think awhole lot more will come out. Gawd, I hope Sharpton, Jackson and the *&$%% panthers go home. There are words in circles that Florida threw the dogs a bone.

    • Metavirus says:

      The issue of whether someone has a duty to retreat isn’t a new one. The common law standard that we started out with was that someone had to act “reasonably” when a crime was being perpetrated. Over time this was interpreted to mean that, when faced with a violent act that threatened your life, you had a duty to retreat if it was safe and reasonable to do so. There have always been exceptions, such as when a person is in their own home and someone is burglarizing your home. This was the case even before “stand your ground” laws became popular. Some states like Florida changed the common law and removed the duty to retreat -- which means that there doesn’t need to be a showing on the question of whether it was safe and reasonable to retreat before acting. The point I’m making in this post is that the authors of the Florida Stand Your Ground law say that the law specifically does not apply to someone that takes it upon themselves to PURSUE someone if they feel threatened. There is evidence in the 911 tape that Zimmerman was pursuing the victim -- which, if true, means that zimmerman lost the protection of the law. All I’ve been saying from the beginning is that a court and a jury need to have the opportunity to review all the evidence and decide what happened. if, after all this explanation, you still don’t get where I’m coming from, I can’t help you.

  8. sandy says:

    What law school did you attend as according to your column?? When you said you had taken a criminal law class in law school I had to wonder where that was. Do not go away now because I am the only one responding to your column.

    • Really? The only one? Just a bit arrogant aren’t we? You do remember the 911 tape that advised MR Zimmerman to stay in his car? You do realize that your example of a hurricane in a mute point, as their wasn’t one. Just a self appointed watch person that was stalking a young man, that continued his stalk on foot. If anyone caused this disaster it was Mr Zimmerman. The authors of the bill that you are trying to use for Mr Zimmerman’s defense claim that it was not written for people to stalk other, but to defend their homes. The young man was not in anyone’s home but on a public street. Not even in a yard.

  9. sandy says:

    Looks like you, Mark Schumaker, have twisted my words. I never ever said there was a hurricane during the Zimmerman/Martin incident. Go back and read what I wrote. I had said April 20 8:31 pm, how I had understood that it had been raining during the Zimmerman/Martin incident. Now go and read April 21 8:09 pm referring to a hurricane in regards to the killing of a man that broke into a senior citizens home that had happened after a hurricane.
    You used the term stalking…kinda severe. You and I were not there. This will all be examined and re-examined and drug and drawn out so the likes of Jackson, Sharpton and S.P.L.C. can keep flaming the flames of hatred. As long as they keep the races separated we all will never be able to get along and they can keep the donations flowing.
    Suddenly Zimmerman became a white hispanic…go figure. Does that make Obama a White Afro? This was all about race. I bet it was a shock to some of the mouth-pieces rushing to Florida that discovered that George Zimmerman (sounds Jewish) was let us call him Zimmerman a White Hispanic.
    Mark, you said that Zimmerman caused the disaster. You have made up your mind.
    Metavirus, I too, want to see all the evidence come out. Every single shred. I want no leaf unturned.

  10. sandy says:

    Goodbye you three people. Good luck here with your site. I feel like this column has gotten the most response from me than any column ever written here. Looking through the past articles, most got zero response.
    Again, good luck and while you are at it, be aware that Martin had been suspended from school (Dr. Michael M. Krop High School in N. Miami-Dade) for 10 days.He did not live in the area. He was visiting because of his suspension. Check out “Waglist” and look at Martin’s accounts and some photo’s .Nice tats and teefusses. Look at some other sites and read up more before you condemn. Remember the LaCrosse incident? Rodney King? Tapes edited.
    NBC edited the tapes called in that night by Zimmerman and that has contributed to some of the anger in what is happening now. NBC cut out the dispatchers questions, maybe trying to assign a racial motive to Zimmerman.
    One day we will know the whole truth. I will think of you then once more.

    • Octavia says:

      I just had to respond to this comment because it’s outraging how people love to mention Martin’s suspension but fail to mention Zimmerman’s history. Yes, Trayvon Martin was visiting after being suspended from high school, not a criminal offense. Hell I’ve been suspended for failing to report to detention. I know dozens of former classmates that have been suspended, of all races, none of them criminals. However, are you aware of Zimmerman’s past?
      No, Martin did not live in the area but he was a WELCOMED guest, not some type of intruder. Zimmerman should have stood down as he was advised by the police dispatcher, not try and take the law into his own hands. He stalked Martin in his vehicle and on foot. The fact that he is claiming self-defense is ridiculous. He pursued Martin, which somehow led to an altercation but if anything it is Martin who if still alive could claim self-defense. Had Zimmerman backed off there would have not been an altercation, there would have been no blood shed. I don’t know about you but if someone were following me (especially at night) I would be afraid for my safety and if it took fighting for life then I would which is probably exactly how Trayvon felt. There was a struggle but Zimmerman had to confront Martin after following him in order for there to be one and according to the law one cannot claim self-defense after provoking violence upon him or herself which is exactly why former Sen. Durell Peaden says Zimmerman lost his defense after telling the 911 operator his intentions to continue following Martin. And how could he be fearful of his life knowing that he had a firearm in his possession. It had to be his intent to confront Martin with his weapon. He approached, Martin defended himself, and once Zimmerman realeased his mistake he decided to shoot. But by all indications of the law it was Martin who reacted in self-defense.
      Are you aware that per policy neighborhood watch volunteers are not permitted to carry any form of weapons?
      Zimmerman has showed he has absolutely no regard for the law and clearly with his record an issue with anger.
      FACT: In 2005, Zimmerman, then 20, was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” both which are third-degree felonies. The charge was reduced to “resisting officer without violence” and then waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Contemporaneous accounts indicate he shoved an officer who was questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking at an Orange County bar.
      FACT: In August 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman counterfiled for a restraining order against Zuazo. The competing claims were resolved with both restraining orders being granted.
      Quote: “Usually he was just a cool guy. He liked to drink and hang with the women like the rest of us,” he said. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When the dude snapped, he snapped.”
      The source said Zimmerman, who made between $50 and $100 a night, was let go in 2005. “He had a temper and he became a liability,” the man said. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted,” he said. “It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”
      Exert: Never carries weapons of any kind — e.g. guns, black jack, mace, baseball bat, or knives.
      The National Sheriff’s Association sponsors neighborhood watch programs. Their manual says patrol members don’t carry weapons

    • Octavia says:

      I see you also made comments about Trayvon’s appearance, the alleged photos of him with tattoos and gold teeth. Well I can tell you my oldest brother happens to have multiple tattoos and when he was Trayvon’s age he wore removable gold teeth but I guess to an idiot like you who apparently judge others by their physical appearance would have assumed he was some type of drug dealer or gang affiliated which couldn’t be further from the truth. He happens to have been a straight A student at MIT finishing with a BS in mechanical and ocean engineering. Not bad for a guy with more ink than Sakata INX Corp. Never judge a book by it’s cover.

      • Metavirus says:

        not to mention the fact that many of the supposedly thuggish photos that sites like the daily caller and fox news found of “trayvon martin” were actually other random black kids, and not trayvon at all.

  11. Elle Smith says:

    National Neighborhood Watch Institute (NNWI) is the premier national supplier of Neighborhood Watch materials. NNWI was the provider of the Sanford Florida sign seen so prominently in recent news coverage.

    Our Participants Handbook states, “Always remember that your responsibility is to report crime. Do not take any risks to prevent a crime or try to make an arrest. The responsibility for apprehending criminals belongs to the police/sheriff.”

    Neighborhood Watch participants act as additional eyes and ears for law enforcement.
    They do not take the law into their own hands.
    We Look Out For Each Other is our motto.

    It is scarey that other people would think that an ordinary citizen can walk a neighborhood area, using subjective, emotional and possible prejudicial feelings to decide whether or not to detain, question, or kill another citizen. When Sandy said what is the purpose of a neighborhood watch then?? Well, “we look out…………” and that is about it. They are not, according to their own guidlines and code THERE TO PREVENT OR DETAIN. DUH!!!!!!!
    Details cloud the very simple nature of this case. I don’t know all the details and I wasn’t there. A young boy goes an area where he is then deemed by an ordinary man to be “suspicious.” He is dead now becuase of that. Really……that cuts to the heart of the matter. If THAT kid had not gone to THAT neighborhod and THAT store, and if THAT man had not followed him……….he would be alive today. Sad but true!! Who is to say the injuries Mr. Zimmerman supposedly suffered were after he tried to hold the gun at the boy and he struggled in fear for his life to get away from the man with the gun. WE DON”T KNOW! These facts are irrelevant to me. He pursued and killed an unarmed child.

    This law in Florida giving people the right to protect themselves is not bad, in and of itself. But room for misinterpretation and usage to protect people NOT in
    imminent danger should not be tolerated.

    Oh, and by the way….I am not for neighborhood watchman carrying firearms or “MIckey Mouse” security people with very little education overall and
    a minimum wage job that may be bringing the long awaited ego boost, needed after a disasterous time during school years. Just saying, just because someone has a gun does not mean the are patient, sensible, or emotionally balanced.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions…..but not their own facts. Some of the facts of this case will never be known because a child was killed. Trayvon can’t tell us what happened.

    So let’s listen to out obviously…patient, sensible, and emotionally balanced Mr. Zimmerman to give us a true account. My heart goes out to all of the family members on both sides, but justice need to be served to save other lives in Florida and elsewhere until we clarify these laws.

    • At last some common sense appears. Yes we want a court decision on this, and it looks like the spot light from the internet will provide one. And yes, not everyone will be happy with what ever is the final ruling about what happened.

  12. […] the authority to pursue and confront people. That is aggravating an incident right there.”…l#.URg02aVX3Sg Now, one of your little friend posted a still picture from the video reenactment in order to […]

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