Ordinary self defense law, regardless of any “stand your ground” law, is that one must have a reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death before one is justified in using deadly force in self defense against an attacker. If one is the initial aggressor or provoked another to attack them self defense law is not available, nor is self defense law involved in an agreement of mutual combat, i.e., a bar-room brawl, fist fight, or any other “let’s take it outside” situation. In those cases one of the participants usually goes to the hospital or the morgue and the other one goes to jail.
Until Florida adopted its so-called “stand your ground” law, Florida law imposed a duty to retreat before deadly force was justified even when a citizen reasonably feared great bodily injury or death. Even so, the duty to retreat did not apply unless a safe avenue of retreat was available and known to the person placed in danger by an attacker. Based upon the ancient English Common Law doctrine that a man’s home is his castle, there was never a duty to retreat within one’s own home, i.e., castle doctrine.
Florida “Stand Your Ground” law
2011 Florida Statutes
Chapter 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE
776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
(2) *** [sets forth situations where paragraph (1) will not apply, none of which are applicable to Zimmerman case.]
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
The main thrust of Florida’s stand your ground law is to eliminate the duty to retreat if one is in a place where he has a right to be and he is not engaged in an illegal activity.
Under any set of facts we know about the George Zimmerman — Trayvon Martin case, Florida’s stand your ground law in not involved. If George Zimmerman started a fight with Trayvon Martin he is an initial aggressor and Florida’s stand your ground statute offers him no benefit, nor does traditional self defense law. On the other hand if Zimmerman is not the initial aggressor and if Trayvon Martin had Zimmerman down on the ground bashing his head into the pavement the fact that the stand your ground law relieves Zimmerman of any duty to retreat is purely academic because he had no opportunity or ability to retreat at that point. Thus, under any factual scenario that we know at the present time, Florida’s stand your ground law is simply not applicable to the case.
According the Alan Dershowitz, if the facts set forth in Angela Cory’s affidavit are all the evidence she has, George Zimmerman is not guilty of any crime, and Angela Cory may need her own defense lawyer because she may be held responsible for starting race riots when her case against Zimmerman is thrown out of court, or he is acquitted at trial. Dershowitz hasn’t addressed the issue of absolute immunity that prosecutors have [but should not], or if he has I missed it.