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Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground

Lost in the debate about whether Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law applies to George Zimmerman’s actions when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin is, I think, the question of whether that same law applies to Martin’s actions.

The law states, in part, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Here’s what we know from Martin’s phone conversation with his girlfriend, DeeDee, shortly before he was killed: Upon returning from a nearby convenience store, Martin sees a stranger (Zimmerman) staring at him from across the street. Martin subsequently sees this same stranger following him in a vehicle. (According to DeeDee: “When he saw the man behind him again he said this man is going to do something to him. And then he said this man is still behind him and I said run.”) But now the stranger gets out of the vehicle and approaches Martin, possibly in an aggressive manner.

Zimmerman claims he had not drawn his gun at this time, and even if that’s true, we do not know if Zimmerman’s gun was visible to Martin on his person. It is quite possible that at this point Martin, approached by a stranger who has essentially been stalking him since he came back from the store, has no reason to believe his life is not in imminent danger. So Martin punches Zimmerman in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him down. After that, either immediately or after further fighting, Zimmerman shoots Martin in the chest, killing him.

This story is eight-thousand kinds of tragedy, with possibly nothing more than a string of misunderstandings and preconceptions leading to the death of an unarmed seventeen-year-old kid who only wanted to go out and buy some Skittles and iced tea; and one of those tragedies is that Trayvon Martin may very well have been killed while exercising his legal right to stand his ground.

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