‘Stand your ground’ controversy builds, Kendall Coffey comments

Through time, the struggle between whether to entitle the act of killing a man murder or self-defense has been disputed heavily. On one hand, every man should have the right to defend himself. Now, take that one step further. Should one man’s initially defensive action translate into offense? Should the former victim be permitted to attack the original assailant, thus becoming one himself?

Florida legislators say yes. Thus, the creation of ‘stand your ground,’ a state law that gives individuals the right to forcefully defend themselves, even at the cost of the other’s life. According to the law, the victim of a physical attack or an individual facing an imminent threat need not attempt to flee first. He is permitted by law to fight back.

The problem currently facing this law is that it appears, based on statistics collected by the Miami Herald, that there are more people invoking this law in order to finagle their way out of assault or murder charges than attempting to save their own lives at the cost of their attacker’s.

Lately the object of scrutiny for the law has been the backgrounds of those invoking the law. At least one arrest record lingers in the history of nearly 60 percent of those who have claimed self-defense. More than 30 of those defendants had been accused of violent crimes. Several had drug offenses on their records.

According to the Herald, “[One hundred nineteen] people who are known to have killed someone have invoked ‘stand your ground.’ Those people have been arrested 327 times in incidents involving violence, property crimes, drugs, weapons, or probation violations.”

A particularly suspicious scenario of an individual invoking this law occurred when Florida’s George Zimmerman claimed self-defense after killing unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 at a Sanford apartment complex. Due to the fact that officials could not prove the killing wasn’t a result of self-defense, officials did not immediately charge Zimmerman.

Legal experts like Kendall Coffey, who has provided extensive legal commentary for this specific case, agree that it appears the law is protecting a guilty man more so than providing a segue to justice. They are skeptical of the amount of individuals with violent histories who are taking advantage of ‘stand your ground.’

The legislators wrote this law envisioning honest ascertains of self-defense, not an immunity being seized mostly by criminal defendants trying to lie their way out of a murder,” said Kendall Coffey.

Though the skepticism revolving around this controversial law spiked following the Martin killing in February, only time will tell if experts like Kendall Coffey and the enraged communities of Florida see the law curtailed.

Kendall Coffey: Lead investigator in Trayvon Martin Case ignored

On Feb. 26, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin at an apartment complex in Florida’s Sanford County.  According to Zimmerman, the killing resulted from an act of self-defense. According to prosecutor Angela Corey, it was second-degree murder, which is what she charged him with April 11.


Initially the ‘facts’ were mere speculation and bits and pieces were released to an inconclusive end. MSNBC reviewed the case with Miami political commentator and former US Attorney Kendall Coffey in an interview following the crime.


The day of the killing, Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee and State Attorney Norm Wolfinger overruled lead investigator Chris Serino’s request for the arrest of George Zimmerman. “…The lead investigator, the person that normally law enforcement would say is in the best position to assess whether or not there’s probable cause [for arrest, was] effectively overruled by people sitting back at the office,” said Kendall Coffey, adding that the scenario raised questions. Though it is not apparent whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent, the police didn’t so much as detain the suspect after it was confirmed that he killed a 17-year-old boy.


This case is far from simple, especially considering Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law that permits victims of violent situations to forcibly attack their assailants in the presence of danger or an imminent threat. ‘Stand your ground’ is the type of law that could alleviate the legal turmoil an individual would face for having protected himself in a dangerous situation. However, it is also the kind of law that allows guilty individuals with histories of violence to escape the consequences the legal system would impose.


The principle query raised by the actions of the Sanford police department the day the crime took place is, “How can you so quickly dismiss what the lead investigator said when you have somebody dead – an unarmed somebody – that was killed by somebody with a gun?” said Kendall Coffey.


Though no definitive answer has emerged, the case continues to unravel, triggering emotional responses from those following the case.

Why doesn’t George Zimmerman want Judge Lester?

Apparently George Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, is pushing pretty hard to get a different judge for his client.  But it’s not really Judge Kenneth Lester’s fault, after all, Zimmerman did lie to him about his financial circumstances during an early hearing.

But because of Lester’s scathing comments about Zimmerman’s honesty, O’Mara is pushing to have him disqualified.  Mainly because if the case goes to a Stand Your Ground Hearing, having an unfriendly judge almost doesn’t make it worth it.

Which is why Kendall Coffey thinks that the case might not go to a SYG at all if Lester stays on the case.  It might be “better to avoid such a hearing, which would subject Zimmerman to cross-examination and, if unsuccessful, could negatively impact his chances for a trial,” Miami lawyer Kendall Coffey explained to John Capeheart in an interview

But Kendall Coffey also thought that it would be unlikely that O’Mara would end up disqualified, even if the request went to an appeal.  As he explained, “judges are allowed to say someone’s untruthful. That’s their job. To say this manifests bias or prejudice is routinely rejected. ”