Letters: Why George Zimmerman was the deadly aggressor

Posted: April 06, 2012

IN THE Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, much has been made of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, in that Mr. Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense. If "Stand Your Ground" affords Mr. Zimmerman protection, he may not be prosecuted for Trayvon Martin's death.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law is a modification of self-defense laws. Typically, unless one is in one's home, a person claiming self-defense has a duty to retreat before resorting to force. As the aptly named law implies, one need not retreat before defending oneself. This is a defensive statute; one can repel an attack, it does not authorize force on behalf of aggressors.

This is why it affords Mr. Zimmerman no protection - he acted as an aggressor.

Only under limited circumstances can an aggressor resort to self-defense. Such situations occur when a person responds to the aggressor's force so disproportionally that it would cause a reasonable person to fear for their life; or when an aggressor renounces the attack but the victim continues to use force. However, under either scenario, the aggressor has a duty to retreat. If we examine the confrontation in this light, it is abundantly clear that George Zimmerman was the aggressor and his use of force was excessive.

As has been reported, Mr. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer. Many police departments encourage the formation as such organizations as they can act as the eyes and ears of the police. However, being a member of the neighborhood block watch affords a person no special status or protections. You are not law enforcement and if you act outside of being an information-gathering post, you are on your own.

What we can gleam from the factual record is that Mr. Zimmerman called police because he thought Trayvon Martin was acting suspiciously. Next, George Zimmerman decided to follow the teen; and eventually, a foot chase ensued. As we know, the result was Mr. Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin during a struggle between the two. As Mr. Zimmerman had no police powers, his conduct places him in the position of the aggressor and not Trayvon Martin. This is further confirmed by the fact that the 9-1-1 operator told Mr. Zimmerman that there was no need to follow the suspicious teen, advice he disregarded.

Clearly, Mr. Zimmerman was the aggressor. However, even if he was, did Trayvon Martin overreact and use force that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his life? Did Mr. Zimmerman renounce his aggression and attempt to retreat but was rebuffed by the teenager? As of now, there is no indication that any of this occurred. Also, being punched about the face and receiving a bloody nose is insufficient justification to use deadly physical force. Without more, such as a struggle for his gun, Mr. Zimmerman's use of force was excessive.

"Stand Your Ground" was passed in Florida to protect non-aggressors. It was never envisioned to allow someone to pursue and confront people like they are the police. If anyone could have invoked "Stand Your Ground," it was Trayvon. Unfortunately, we will never hear his side of the story.

Louis Lombardi

State College, Pa.

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