A school headmaster from New York feels qualified to weigh in on the use of deadly force in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Let’s play his game.
Think for a moment if all the facts as we know them remain intact except that George Zimmerman is unarmed and Trayvon Martin is 18, not 17, and carrying a loaded 9mm handgun. Zimmerman, in his self-appointed neighborhood watch role, is following Martin because he looks suspicious. Skip beyond the opaque time period when it is unclear who initiated a confrontation. In this hypothetical, Zimmerman is dead of a chest wound. Martin, who had a permit to carry the 9mm gun (which he bought, legally, at a gun shop), claims self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Wouldn’t Martin’s claim of self-defense have arguably greater merit than does Zimmerman’s claim? Martin was the one being followed. Martin was the one with a legitimate reason to be walking in the community. He had a destination in his sights. Zimmerman was cruising slowly in a car and apparently had Martin in his sights for some reason. Martin had reason to be frightened. Neither man had any knowledge as to the other’s purpose. Yet would anyone claim, with a straight face, that Trayvon Martin would be walking free as the State Attorney and Justice Department investigated the matter?
Using Mr. Nelson’s own set of criteria and the circumstances he created, Trayvon Martin would currently be in prison on a number of charges.
At the minimum, Martin would face charges of carrying handgun he was not legally entitled to carry; the law is that you must be 21 to obtain a concealed carry permit in the State of Florida. Oops.
As for his self defense claim, Martin would have to pass the same “reasonable man” standard that any self defense claim–stand your ground or otherwise–has to meet.
The applicable section of Florida law reads as follows:
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.
In the circumstances created by Nelson, neither man was guilty of unlawful activity. Martin had the right to walk through the community, as did Zimmerman, who was merely following an unknown stranger in a public place. Both men had a legal right to be where there were, and continue the actions they were presently carrying out. The same is true of the real-life event up until this point.
Where Martin would be in deep trouble is in trying to convince the prosecutor that he was justified in using deadly force against Zimmerman. Again, in real life as in Headmaster Nelson’s scenario, Zimmerman did nothing remotely illegal in following Trayvon Martin, and had no weapon.
In this scenario as posited by Mr. Nelson, Martin shoots Zimmerman. Why?
In the real life event, Zimmerman, two eyewitnesses, and physical evidence provide at least some support to Zimmerman’s argument that he was being assaulted by Martin, who then took a dominate mounted position on a prostrate Zimmerman and was in the process of pounding his skull off the pavement even as two witnesses said Zimmerman (not Martin) was crying for help.
Martin was using the concrete as a weapon. Under the law, this is assault with a deadly weapon, and more than meets the standard for the use of deadly force in response to what could have led to Martin really maiming or murdering Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s response, after cries for help failed, of drawing his weapon and firing one shot in self defense to stop the attack seems like a textbook example of the proper use of deadly force, very similar to those scenarios used by the North Carolina Justice Academy when I obtained my concealed carry permit.
In Nelson’s scenario, he does not offer any justification for Martin killing Zimmerman, other than Zimmerman was following Martin and Martin did not know why. In this scenario, Trayvon Martin would be in jail, most likely charged with aggravated murder (or similar charge) for killing a man that had not violated a single law.
That’s a far cry from why Zimmerman said he fired his weapon in real life, in what increasingly looks like a legitimate use of deadly force.
Calhoun is headmaster at this school.
I fear for his students, if this Huffington Post piffle–a mismatch of poor research, legal ignorance, and failed logic–is an example of the best mind that the Calhoun School’s board of directors can install to lead impressionable minds.