“I highly recommend this firm to anyone!”
Read more client testimonials here

Get Your Free Case Review Schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Call 207-879-4000 or email us today.

lawyer scales

Last week I focused on the law of self-defense, generally, in Maine. This week, as promised, I will examine the “stand your ground” defense and offer some comments on the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case.

As I did in my last column (giving the reader the actual jury instruction in Maine self-defense cases in a murder prosecution), I now provide the verbatim written jury instruction in the Zimmerman trial as it regards “stand your ground” (other than the contrast with Maine’s “duty to retreat” language the self-defense instruction is substantially the same in its totality):

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

On February 26, 2012 George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. A lengthy investigation ensued in which Zimmerman willfully participated despite his Fifth Amendment right not to do so. This participation included a “re-enactment” of the shooting. Zimmerman would later conduct televised interviews regarding the specifics of the shooting despite his right not to do so.

Following the lengthy police investigation, the Sanford, Florida Chief of Police, Bill Lee, refused to arrest Zimmerman because he determined that there was no probable cause to believe Zimmerman had committed a crime. He found no credible, let alone sufficient, evidence to refute (remember, the state has the burden to disprove a justification like self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt) Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. This determination was based upon his review of forensic evidence, cell phone calls, 911 tapes and the afore-mentioned re-inactment. When asked why he did not order the arrest of Zimmerman despite growing outrage and pressure from the city manager, the Chief cited the oath which he took to uphold the Constitution —- to not order the arrest of a person without probable cause to believe that person committed a crime.

Shortly after making his decision to uphold the Constitution, Chief Lee was fired.

Enter the “mainstream” media and the Rev. Al Sharpton. In March of 2012 The AP, CBS and Sharpton begin describing Zimmerman as “white” (Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic; The AP would later change its labeling of Mr. Zimmerman to “self-proclaimed Hispanic”). Sharpton and that same media continued to insinuate and explicitly ascribe race as a motivating factor in Zimmerman’s decision to kill Mr. Martin although there was no evidence to support their claim. In late March, NBC news admittedly, doctored a tape of a 911 call in order to portray race as a motivating factor. Not to be outdone, ABC news followed up days later with a story claiming Zimmerman had NO visible injuries. The trial showed otherwise. Those news agencies were not alone, nor was Sharpton, in their efforts to portray the events of February 26, 2012 as a racially motivated, cold-blooded murder perpetrated by Mr. Zimmerman.

Enter Angela Corey, Esq., Florida State Attorney. A month and a half after the shooting, Attorney Corey decided to forego the usual Grand Jury process to charge Mr. Zimmerman with first degree murder and opted to procure that formal charge via her own sworn affidavit which purported to disclose all relevant information to the reviewing judge. She omitted all references, including Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries, and Mr. Martin’s assault against him, to self-defense and obtained an Information (the functional equivalent of a Grand Jury Indictment). This maneuver and specifically the glaring omissions led noted Harvard Constitutional Law professor, Alan Dershowitz, to suggest that Attorney Corey should be disbarred for misleading the court and making possibly perjurious statements under oath. For what it is worth, Attorney Corey requested that the long-tenured Professor Dershowitz be fired. Had the case been presented to a Grand Jury, as is the normal course with first degree murder cases, the grand jurors would have been permitted to ask questions and even subpoena evidence. Attorney Corey obviously feared that those folks would, if made aware of all relevant evidence, reach the same conclusion that Chief Lee did: there was no probable cause to charge Mr. Zimmerman.

The nation watched as the trial unfolded. The nation waited for the State to introduce some semblance of what the media, Sharpton, numerous politicians and advocates had promised: evidence that this killing was perpetrated by a racist white man Hell bent on killing an innocent young black kid for no other reason than the color of his skin. The State never did introduce that evidence. But, it was not for lack of effort. The FBI and the State of Florida spent months (the Feds continued to do so post-verdict) seeking any shred of implicit or explicit proof that Mr. Zimmerman harbored a hint of racist feelings. They have come up with bupkis.

The State, at trial, presented the tapes of Mr. Zimmerman’s police and television interviews thereby relieving him of any need or temptation to testify. Those tapes only bolstered his claims of self-defense. The State offered no evidence to show that Mr. Zimmerman had any other motivation to shoot Mr. Martin other than to protect himself. The State offered no evidence to show that Mr. Zimmerman provoked Mr. Martin’s violent attack. And, the State offered no evidence to show that Mr. Zimmerman did not reasonably believe, at the time of the shooting, that he was confronted with the use of deadly force (force that may cause death or grave bodily injury). Heck, set aside the beyond a reasonable doubt (almost certain) standard; Chief Lee was willing to be fired because he did not believe there was even probable cause (a reasonable likelihood) to believe that Mr. Zimmerman had committed a crime.

Like racism, stand your ground really had nothing to do with the actual trial. From the time that Mr. Martin, unprovoked, punched Mr. Zimmerman in the nose, knocked him down, straddled him and began “punching him MMA-style”, Mr. Zimmerman had no to opportunity to retreat. The “duty” to retreat never factually entered into the equation. Aside from the color of the two participants’ skin, race was a non-factor as an evidentiary matter in the Zimmerman trial.

The Zimmerman matter is a classic example of why criminal cases are tried in courtrooms, not press rooms, and why impartial jurors are chosen to decide them rather than agenda-driven politicians and biased, self-promoting zealots.

For a more extensive and comprehensive analysis of the law of self-defense and other aspects of Maine Criminal Law, you can contact me for a free consultation at NICHOLS & CHURCHILL, PA at 207-879-4000. I’m in The Time & Temperature Building, 477 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).

Experience that counts!
Call Now Button