In all the endless talk of hoodies and race and skittles and “white privilege” and other assorted nonsense in the Zimmerman/Martin case, it’s more and more obvious how useless the mainstream media is. In all of the discussions, not one source (other than blogger David Kopel) has talked about a special Florida law that makes the usual cop approach of arrest-and-figure-it-out-later different in self-defense cases. Instead there was a big focus on “stand your ground,” which really has no bearing on this case. However, under Florida law, if there is a colorable self-defense claim, charges are not allowed until probable cause exists; because of Florida’s (majority view) requiring proof of the case and disproof of any affirmative defense, there must be probable cause both that deadly force was employed and that it was unlawful. In some jurisdictions the self defense claim is an affirmative defense on which the claiming party has a burden of proof, but in Florida the prosecutor must disprove that too “beyond a reasonable doubt” once evidence of self defense is raised. In other words, if there’s a toss up in Florida, there cannot be an arrest and prosecution. The statute below simply reiterates this requirement.
Florida Stat. Sec. 776.032 says, “person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force . . . A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.” The statute also, unusually for a criminal matter, allows the award of attorneys’ fees to defendants wrongfully arrested or prosecuted when they have the statutory immunity.
It would have been nice if someone had spoken intelligently about this 2005 statute before we all wondered why in the devil the prosecutor might have been extra cautious in this (and similar) cases and before we heard the anti-stand-your-ground propaganda, even though that allowance not to retreat is the law in many states either through their common law or as a statute.
On another note, the media is finally learning the value of maps.* The NY Times at its interactive feature, unfortunately, neglects to highlight the one and only eyewitness of the two fighting (a man named “John”) who saw Martin pummeling Zimmerman, heard Zimmerman crying for help, and corroborated the bulk of Zimmerman’s story. Instead, post-shooting eyewitnesses, the boy who lost sight of the fight, and the “earwitness” who “felt it was Trayvon” screaming are featured as being of equal value.
The Wagist blog has does a better job analytically of addressing the 911 calls, physical scene, and various witnesses, and it does not seem as results-oriented in its editing.
* I noticed in the NY Times map was oriented North down. Huh? Is this some new way of not showing the dominance and ethnocentrism of Europeans and the Northern Hemisphere. Who the heck does that? Anyway, I confirmed on google maps that there is indeed a 7-11 in that shopping center where indicated; it’s a pure convenience store without gas pumps. It’s curious, of course, we’ve not seen surveillance footage of Trayvon nor an interview with the “last person to see him alive!” Was he shoplifting? Did he even go to the store?