Zimmerman Verdict Brings Renewed Focus to Stand Your Ground Laws

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George Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” defense in winning his acquittal of murder in last year’s shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, but the specter of the 2005 law loomed over the proceedings, reports NPR. It was inevitable that the racially fraught trial would again catapult Florida’s law — which extends protections for the use of deadly force far beyond the traditional bounds of one’s home — as well as those in 21-plus states with similar self-defense measures into the nation’s consciousness.

Trayvon Martin’s family is said to be considering a civil case against Zimmerman, and in a civil proceeding they would have the opportunity to challenge a central and controversial section of Florida’s stand your ground statute. The section is titled, “Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.” The section provides the opportunity for pretrail immunity for potential defendants who can prove in a hearing before a judge that a “preponderance of evidence” shows that their deadly or potentially deadly actions fell into the category of reasonable self-defense.

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