by Paul Goldman
According to the local police in Sanford, Florida, backed up until recently by the local prosecutor, the Attorney General and the Governor, Chapter 776 of the Florida Statutes created a year-round hunting season on your local homo sapiens. A mean alligator gets more protection in the Sunshine State than humans walking upright on two legs based on how the law enforcement community in Florida interprets what is called the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense statute. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed a month ago by a self-appointed neighborhood “watch captain” a short distance from his the townhouse of his father’s fiance. The killer stood by the body when police arrived, claiming self-defense under Florida’s human hunting license law.
“Stand Your Ground” statutes were originally intended to implement the “Your Home Is Your Castle” doctrine, to allow a family to protect itself from home invaders without having to be constitutional lawyers when deciding whether to use lethal force. I don’t have any sympathy for those who break into someone’s home with felonious intent. As they say, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Someone breaks into my house, I am not about to use a lifeline to call a lawyer and ask whether I might get into trouble should I start unloading a shotgun, or Glock 17, in the direction of those doing the B and E.
But over time, the reach of the “Castle doctrine” has been extended in some states – carjackings is one area – until it set in motion what happened to Trayvon Martin, and many other victims we don’t know about.
Here is a citation to the Florida statute at issue in this matter.
The murderer of Mr. Martin is claiming, without any pushback from local and state law enforcement (at least until the case went viral), that the statute covers this situation. Let’s review what happened: the shooter appointed himself the head of the neighborhood watch, cruised the neighborhood looking for people he believed were suspicious, called 911, talked to a dispatcher who knows him (as these calls have been regularly made for weeks), was told by the dispatcher to back off and call for the real cops if needed, instead kept following Mr. Martin, and thus purposely set in motion a situation where he claims the two of them got into a scuffle, causing the shooter to fear great bodily harm and thus justifying killing an unarmed teenager on his way back home from a convenience store to get snacks.
So I ask: If this killing is considered justified under Chapter 776 (because of which Florida officials say the law protects the shooter from any criminal charges or civil liability), then how does it not create a 24/7/365 hunting season on homo sapiens?
The facts of the case suggest that the local Sanford police were using Mr. Zimmerman as an armed and dangerous neighborhood watch commander, as a human web cam cruising the area to help prevent crime. It is easy in Florida to get a carry permit. Local law enforcement are well aware of these “police wannabee” types.
Mr. Zimmerman, I bet, was well aware of Chapter 776 and read it as a 24/7/365 hunting license, allowing him to use that concealed weapon with deadly force if the right situation arose.
Governor Jeb Bush never should have signed a law that Florida law enforcement officials believed gave Zimmerman a “get of out of jail free” card for premeditated murder.
That’s right: premeditation is clear in this case, because Zimmerman tracked the victim with a concealed weapon, believing Chapter 776 gave him the option of killing if things got out of hand.
To me, this is plain and simple a case of political murder, because a badly written law made such a chain of events inevitable. Indeed, I have a hard time believing it is the only such case in Florida since the law was enacted.
Mr. Zimmerman had been out in his neighborhood thinking he was a quasi-cop for weeks, strapped and loaded with Chapter 776 in the barrel.
If I were writing a novel, it would start with this sentence: The gunshots were fired in Sanford, but the bullets had been loaded at the state capitol, initialed by the Governor.
Jeb Bush says he never intended the law to cover this situation. The time to make that clear was years ago, before he signed it.