A Question for Our Legal Eagles



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

Related Post Roulette

40 Responses

  1. Avatar trumwill mobile says:

    Hannity is correct. The standard in Florida is reasonable doubt even for justifiable homicide. This team contrary to what I had thought was the case as well.Report

  2. Historically it is the defendant’s burden, so on that you are correct. But in Florida the burden on self-defense is that it may be used to create reasonable doubt, so in the case of Florida, Hannity is correct.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Thanks Mark and Will.

      With that in mind, how is ANYONE ever convicted of murder there? Save for a sniper or a situation with quality eye witnesses, it seems any suspect can construct a scenario that would at least suggest self defense.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Looking at the stats, Florida had 985 murders in 2011 and 1,009 in 2012. They’re listed as “murder” rather than “justifiable homicide”.

        So I’m guessing that juries are told that some doubts are reasonable and some doubts are unreasonable.Report

      • Avatar Thoreau says:

        I second this. If I assert “Greedo fired first” does the prosecution then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Greedo fired first? Or do I have to present at least some evidence that Greedo fired first?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          It seems like Florida law only requires that you offer enough evidence to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. I find this problematic. But it means the issue is with the law… and what that law incentivizes people to do.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I think the argument that “Dude, he had a gun in his hand, should I have waited for him to fire *BEFORE* I was allowed to fire?” resonated with the right politician.

          From what I understand, the SYG laws arose during the spate of carjackings. A guy gets carjacked, shoots the carjacker, then goes on trial… and there’s a small group of vocal folks who say “He got arrested? He should of (sic) gotten a medal!” And that argument resonated as well.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            But what if he only took out his gun because he saw you with yours?

            I understand the basis for SYG laws and can probably agree with them to an extent… but as I understand Florida’s, it seems to go too far.Report

            • Avatar Cletus says:

              Thunderdome, baby.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Well, if a person is carjacking you, they are committing a felony & don’t get to raise self-defense as a defense.

              At least, that is the way it supposed to work.

              I still haven’t quite figured out exactly where the Florida SYG law goes wrong.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Even that isn’t obvious… since it seems one can still claim self-defense in a fight they started, and presumably starting a fight is a felony.

                But I was referring to two people meeting in an alley. “Hey! That guy has a gun! Good thing I have mine drawn!” That seems a bit perverse.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The Florida SYG law goes wrong in allowing a claim of self-defense to interfere with the investigation of the incident. Also in allowing the nonsensical result that no matter who winds up dead, the survivor has a valid SYG claim.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    By the way, watching HLN, I’ve learned that one of the tag lines for Nancy Grace’s show is, “There is so much more to the story than the facts.”


    • Avatar Glyph says:


      I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Heh… it seems like it might be the tag line for an entire lineup of shows, which Grace’s is included in. But… yea… that is ridiculous, right? I’m not missing something?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      “We make shit up. You decide.”Report

    • Ok, I really don’t like Nancy Grace, but isn’t that a pretty defensible statement? There are a lot of people affected by crime. The stories they tell and the emotions they feel aren’t really “facts”, are they? And isn’t that kind of her schtick, parading victims and other people in front of the camera?

      It’s probably more accurate for her to say, “There is so much more to the story than facts. There’s sensationalism and exploitation, too.”Report

  4. Avatar Shepard says:

    It appears that everyone is going to be surprised by the verdict here. What is being discussed in the media/public sphere is radically different then what is going on in the courtroom.

    As the law reads lethal force can be used even in a fight that you start. So regardless of the foolishness in chasing Trayvon down, George was still permitted to shoot him when Trayvon starting swinging. This has actually been used in trials like this before.

    The public may want to hang him, and not without reason, but the way the law stands I don’t see good odds that he’s going to jail. The SYG law in Florida is just to liberal for that.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Zimmermann is claiming straight self-defense; he explicitly waived an SYG hearing.

      Which leads to another question for our legal beagles: In explaining why he waived SYG, Zimmermann’s lawyer said that he could, if he chose, file for an SYG hearing after the regular trial, even in the case of a verdict of guilty. Is that correct?Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Except that Zimmerman’s not claiming SYG.

      So legal eagles, how does this change things?Report

      • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

        It doesn’t change the answer to the original question, the burden is still reasonable doubt.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Is there a legal definition of “self-defense”? Is there any burden that must be met to provide it as a defense?Report

          • Avatar Cletus says:

            There were discussions of the self-defense statute in a previous thread if someone can dig it up. My reading of the law is that if Zimmerman triggered Martin’s right to self-defense that Zimmerman’s own claim of self-defense becomes invalid as per the statutes involved. You can’t walk up to someone with a loaded weapon or a knife and start a fist fight knowing that you have a holdout weapon for if you start losing.Report

            • Avatar dand says:

              i don’t think that’s the case there are times when both parties have a claim to sefl defense such as the Cory Maye case.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              If I remember correctly, Zimmerman had lost sight of Martin & was returning to his truck. If that is true, then Martin had successfully retreated & had no reason to engage Zimmerman. SYG says you don’t have a duty to retreat, but if you do retreat, you do not have a right to re-engage at your discretion.Report

              • Avatar Cletus says:

                That is still a question of fact. Zimmerman may claim to have lost sight of Martin but there is a question of whether Zimmerman simply found Martin again and decided to confront, in his words, the “fucking punk”.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            I think it varies from state to state. I know in Washington, it hinges on defending against the commission of a felony or the infliction of great personal harm to the defender or another.

            The code also defines “necessary” & “deadly force” rather explicitly, although the word “reasonable” does a lot of heavy lifting in there.Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Comments closed, per Kazzy’s request.Report