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.