While I have been busy working on a dumber, more labor-intensive post (watch this space), this George Zimmerman verdict has really annoyed me. It’s not so much the injustice of verdict, it’s the whole “stand your ground” law that helped acquit him.
What’s shocking for me is that the question for the jury wasn’t “Did George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin?”, instead it was “Did George Zimmerman unjustly kill Trayvon Martin?” The reason that question of justified homicide is entertained is because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to murder others in perceived “self-defense”. The Tampa-Bay Times did a really interesting piece reviewing all the cases where the “stand your ground” defense was used. Here’s a telling infographic:
Out of over 150 cases, 135 times the victim killed was unarmed. When you break down how each confrontation went down, the data is even more troubling:
It turns out that the accused killer initiated the confrontation twice as often as not (104 instances vs. 48 when they did not initiate the confrontation). And in 189 instances out of 240, the victim was not committing a crime at the time of being killed. So, it really doesn’t seem like this law is applied reasonably. Finally, if you look at the race statistics of this law, it’s clear that it’s being applied unevenly.
If you’re a Black or Hispanic person, the person who kills you is 2-4 times more likely to be acquitted than if you’re a White victim. That’s independent of the race of the killer (though most crime is White on White, Black on Black, Hispanic on Hispanic).
“Stand your ground” defense has been applied almost twice as often for White accused killers as for Black or Hispanic accused killers. I couldn’t find Florida statistics on violent crime committed by race, but Black and Hispanic people are incarcerated almost 5 times as frequently as white people.
I will definitely not claim legal scholarship, but considering the fact that the concept of “self-defense” is so liberally and unevenly applied, one wonders: “Who gets to stand their ground and who gets their ground stood on?”