A Different Take on the Trayvon Martin Shooting and How It Relates to Nevada’s Stand Your Ground Law
The shooting, and death, or Trayvon Martin captured national headlines for months on end. This unfortunate incident became highly politicized and the debate devolved into one side supporting “Stand Your Ground” laws no matter what while the other side vehemently opposed such laws.
The reality of the situation, and Stand Your Ground laws, is much more complex.
Overview of Stand Your Ground Laws
Approximately 27 states have some iteration of a “stand your ground” statute on the books. Nevada is one of them. Under Nevada law, it is possible to legally justify using deadly force against another person in specific circumstances. For example, if deadly force is deemed reasonably necessary to protect yourself, a loved one, another person needing assistance, or your property, then you could assert self-defense and avoid criminal prosecution.
Nevada has a stand your ground law. Under Nevada Revised Statute § 200.120, justifiable homicide may be asserted, and no duty to retreat exists, when: (i) a defendant was not the original aggressor, (ii) they had a right to be present at the location where deadly force was used; and (iii) they were not engaging in criminal activity at the time deadly force was used.
In addition to being able to stand your ground to protect yourself, according to Nevada Revised Statute § 200.160, you may be able to assert justifiable homicide in defense of your spouse, a parent, child, sibling, or of any other person in your presence or company when one, or some, of these individuals is in imminent danger of being harmed. Homicide is also justifiable and defendable if someone attempts to commit a felony upon you, in your presence, or in your home.
It is important to understand that if you use deadly force while defending yourself or others, you need to have more than general fear or concern. You, through your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, must present evidence reflecting the fact that the circumstances igniting your fear were sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person and you truly acted under those fears and not in revenge or with some other malicious intent.
Let a Jury Decide?
Generally, prosecutors are not supposed to charge someone with a crimes if they do not believe they have sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In reality, many prosecutors routinely bend to public pressure and charge people with manslaughter even though the facts supported a claim of self-defense. This is because, no matter how compelling the self-defense claim, the determination of whether a person was defending themselves was always a question for the jury to decide.
A judge could not dismiss a case, no matter how much they believed the defendant. Therefore, charging someone with manslaughter (and sometimes murder) can be a politically expedient way for a prosecutor to pass the buck and look “tough on crime.”
Was the Trayvon Martin Shooting Even a Stand Your Ground Case?
This is an important question because it highlights how facts can become distorted in an effort to serve a larger narrative. When you examine the facts of the incident, the answer to the above question is quite murky and it is quite reasonable to assert that Stand Your Ground laws did not even apply.
For example, in many states, including Nevada, Stand Your Ground statutes contain provisions expressly stating that a defendant may not be the aggressor and still try to shield themselves under the statute. Basically, if you provoke a fight, you cannot then turn around and assert a Stand Your Ground defense.
The facts of the Trayvon Martin shooting indicate that George Zimmerman (the defendant) ignored a 911 Dispatcher, left his car, and followed Trayvon Martin while possessing a firearm. However, the act of getting out of his vehicle with a concealed firearm and following Trayvon Martin did not automatically make Zimmerman an “aggressor” which would have basically negated a Stand Your Ground defense. Remember, Zimmerman was not breaking the law when he followed Trayvon Martin and was lawfully present in a gated community (Zimmerman lived there). As a result, Zimmerman was not obligated to attempt to retreat if Trayvon Martin either confronted him or physically attacked him.
Therefore, it appears George Zimmerman was entitled to assert a Stand Your Ground defense IF Trayvon Martin attacked him first.
Were His Actions Reasonable?
As mentioned earlier, even if someone is legally allowed to stand their ground, the decision to use deadly use is subject to a reasonableness standard. Unfortunately, we cannot say for certain what happened in the moments prior to the conflict between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
If, for example, George Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin aggressively and grabbed him or waived his gun around, Zimmerman’s use of deadly force would be unreasonable. Though, there is evidence that Zimmerman reported a broken nose, a cut on the back of his head, and grass stains on his back, which may have indicated a physical altercation between the two which got to the point where Zimmerman reasonably feared for his life.
As mentioned earlier, the reality of the situation is complex and murky.
Facing Murder Charges? Contact a Skilled Las Vegas Defense Attorney Utilizes the Stand Your Ground Law
One thing that isn’t murky is the importance of retaining skilled legal counsel if you or a loved one was charged with murder, manslaughter, or other serious criminal offense in or around Las Vegas. The skilled and knowledgeable Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Nick Wooldridge and LV Criminal Defense are here to help.
We will aggressively pursue a claim of immunity on your behalf to prevent arrest, indictment, and/or prosecution. At each and every stage of the criminal process we will be fighting on your behalf.