By now millions of people have heard of the shooting of a teenager in Florida named Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman. There’s outrage across the nation that a 250-pound man who was carrying a gun shot and killed a 140-pound teen who was carrying a bag of Skittles. Outrage that the teen was black and the shooter is part-white and part-Hispanic. Outrage that the shooter has not been charged with a crime because of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows a person to use deadly force without first trying to flee if he fears for his life. Zimmerman told police the teen began fighting with him and he therefore feared for his life when he fired the fatal shot.
Yet Zimmerman called police to report he was following Trayvon. A police dispatcher warned him not to follow. He did anyway. Moments later Trayvon was dead.
These basic facts suggest if anyone should have been protected by the stand your ground law, it is Trayvon. He was walking down a street, minding his own business. There would have been no confrontation if Zimmerman had stayed where he was — if he had, in fact, followed the police dispatcher’s warnings and stood his ground.
We don’t yet know exactly what happened at the end. At least two witnesses have said they were in their houses and heard Trayvon crying for his life. After hearing the shot they went outside and saw him lying face down with Zimmerman standing over the body, indicating Trayvon had been shot through the back.
Even if Trayvon Martin did fight George Zimmerman, I think a strong case could be made Trayvon had a right to under the state’s stand your ground law. Trayvon would have been the one standing his ground, not Zimmerman. Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, not the other way round.
Trayvon could have picked up a rock and bashed in Zimmerman’s head. He could have claimed to have feared for his life because he was confronted by a grown man who outweighed him by at least 100 pounds — and who, it turns out, was carrying a gun.
If Trayvon had killed Zimmerman, Trayvon would have had a stronger defense under the stand your ground law than Zimmerman appears to have.
And still no charges have been filed.
I can’t help but wonder if charges would have been filed against Trayvon if he had killed Zimmerman.