As Allen Ginzburg correctly writes at National Review, the so-called “stand your ground” law of Florida was never part of George Zimmerman’s defense, and didn’t need to be. Progressive pillorying of the law is a head-fake.
Wonkbook’s second reference to Florida’s laws is clearly referring to the state’s self-defense statute, §776.013(3). Countless members of the media, including the New York Times editorial board, have incorrectly claimed that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was responsible for Zimmerman’s acquittal. However, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum pointed out, this law actually had no impact on the case. Zimmerman’s defense invoked only the regular self-defense portions of the statute listed above, which is very similar to the self-defense requirements of almost every other state. In other words, if this case had been tried elsewhere and the jury considered similar factual findings, the outcome would probably have been the same.
There is one legal concept that many of the media critics seem to be taking issue with: the requirement that the prosecution prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This requirement, of course, is in no way limited to Florida’s laws. The American legal system adopted that standard based on the assumption that it is better that a guilty person go free than an innocent one go to jail. These journalists are free to argue that this standard, which has been central to our criminal-justice system since at least 1798, should be changed in the aftermath of one outcome they do not support. But rejecting this standard should not be confused with exposing a deficiency in Florida’s laws.
Timothy O. Jones
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