After appearing in court on Friday, being granted $150,000 bail, and apologizing to the parents of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman could be out of jail any day now, once the logistics of posting the bail and finding him a place to stay are finalized. Also at the bail hearing, Zimmerman’s defense lawyer questioned an investigator for the prosecution, going line by line through the probable cause affidavit that allowed him to be arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Police reports from the night of the shooting were released before the bail hearing, which the Hinky Meter does a good job of analyzing. What’s clear is that Zimmerman saw Martin walking down the street, thought he looked suspicious, and followed him. I think he did act wrongly by doing this. People have a right to walk through publicly-accessible land without being questioned or followed, and what Martin was doing was not Zimmerman’s business. But Zimmerman claims he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin, a claim that the investigator on Friday admitted there was no evidence to disprove.
As I’ve written before, I support Stand Your Ground laws and the concept that people have a right to use force in self-defense, regardless of whether they are at home or in a public place, and regardless of whether they attempt to run away first. But according to a rundown of the pros and cons of the case by Alan Dershowitz, this is what Florida’s much-debated Stand Your Ground law says:
“Though this statute is anything but a model of clarity, it does suggest that whoever ‘provokes’ a deadly encounter has a heavy burden of justification in claiming self-defense. But the statute doesn’t define ‘provokes,’ and that ambiguous word may hold the key to the outcome of this tragic case.
If provocation is limited to a physical assault, and if Zimmerman’s account that Martin blindsided him with a punch is believed, then Zimmerman did not provoke the encounter. But if provocation includes following the victim and harassing him, then Zimmerman may well qualify as a provocateur. Moreover, a jury may believe that Zimmerman started the physical confrontation by grabbing Martin. This would almost certainly constitute provocation.
But to complicate matters further, even a provocateur has the legal right to defend himself under Florida law if he can’t escape and if he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, as Zimmerman claims he was.”
This is one part of the law that I disagree with. In my opinion, a provocateur should not have the legal right to defend him or herself because by definition, that is not self-defense. By deciding to provoke someone, whether by physically assaulting them, following them without a good reason, or insulting them unjustly, you are choosing to become an aggressor. Every person should have a right to self-defense against an aggressor, but an aggressor shouldn’t have a right to self-defense against a victim.
Unfortunately, no one knows what side of this distinction Zimmerman falls on, and perhaps we will never know.