I briefly discussed the tragic Trayvon Martin killing last night on my radio program. It is a sad, possibly racially motivated, killing of an unarmed teenage boy by an armed neighborhood watch member, George Zimmerman.
CNN’s has a disturbing headline, “CNN poll: Majority call for arrest in Trayvon Martin shooting.” What makes this so disturbing is the concept that because,”nearly three out of four Americans say the police should arrest the neighborhood watch volunteer who pulled the trigger,” a man should be arrested. That is not how the law in our country works. That kind of headline and article hearkens back to mob lynchings from darker periods in our nation’s history. Is that what we really want? Mob rule?
I fully believe that a person who commits a crime must be charged and tried within the framework of our judicial system. If George Zimmerman committed a crime, as defined by our laws, then law enforcement should arrest and charge him.
A civilized nation operates with a framework of laws that protect and defend its citizens. If our laws have a loophole which allowed Trayvon Martin to be killed and the killer to walk away, we can be angry, disappointed, or upset, but that doesn’t change the law. We also cannot write a law that goes back in time to make it a crime either. Ex post facto laws are specifically forbidden in the United States Constitution.
The problem here seems to center on Florida statute 776.013 aka “stand your ground” law. You might have heard of the “castle doctrine” before which allows a homeowner to defend his/her home with deadly force. There are excellent examples where the “castle doctrine” is reasonable such as this one about an Oklahoma mother. Florida’s law takes that further and extends the premise to essentially anywhere that a person “has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
This law in Florida is what has prevented police from arresting George Zimmerman thus far. He is claiming self defense and is therefore shielded by Florida law. So calling for George Zimmerman’s head does no good as the law is protecting him.
To prevent future killings of this type the law must be changed. How about going back to the castle doctrine for these definitions as current laws already allow for flexibility in prosecution when self-defense is truly the reason for a shooting?
We still don’t know all the facts in this case and it is important to continue watching the developments and not jump to convicting conclusions. As always, please do call, write, or email your legislators letting them know what you think needs to change.