Criminal Justice

Florida's Stand Your Ground Law Is 'Neither Extreme Nor an Outlier,' Opinion Column Says

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Don’t believe the commentators who assert that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law allows anyone who unreasonably believes he is in danger to use deadly force.

In reality, the law “is neither extreme nor an outlier” when it is compared to legislation in other states, Yale law student Robert Leider writes in an opinion column for the Wall Street Journal. Leider says Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, will have to overcome several hurdles to be protected by the law.

Florida’s law, like the laws in most states, requires people asserting a self-defense claim to show a reasonable belief that such force was necessary to protect against imminent and unlawful use of force by another, Leider says. Deadly force can’t be used absent a reasonable belief that the threat posed could cause death or great bodily injury, or would constitute a felony.

“In short, under Florida’s stand your ground law, Mr. Zimmerman now must show that an average person in his circumstances would have viewed the Skittle-armed Martin as a mortal threat,” Leider writes.

Florida did change its law in 2005, so that people who use deadly force in self-defense are not required to retreat, Leider says. In the past, states have differed on the duty. Older states generally adopted a duty to retreat, while Western states followed the “true man” doctrine that says “true men” don’t retreat when faced with danger.

“Even with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Mr. Zimmerman will have difficulty asserting a successful self-defense claim,” Leider writes.

Prior coverage: “Second-Degree Murder Charge in Trayvon Martin Killing Poses Hurdles for Prosecutors” “Justifiable Homicides Rise, Especially in States with ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws”

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