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Friday, March 23, 2012

Sharp Rise In Self-Defense Claims With ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law In Florida

As prosecutors weigh whether to arrest and charge George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who claims he killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin last month in self-defense, Zimmerman is invoking Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, passed in 2005.

The Tampa Bay Times has dug through the available records and found that since the law was passed, there has been a threefold increase in the number of cases invoking self-defense.

Most involve fatalities where there are a few witnesses and few of the people using the deadly force have been tried in court or spent time in prison.

The law has been invoked by a late-night jogger claiming self-defense when he shot and killed a teenager he thought was robbing him and by a man who went and got a gun to shoot a man he had argued with at a street fair.

The Tampa Bay Tribune reports that:

In the majority of the cases, the person who plunged the knife or swung the bat or pulled the trigger did not face a trial.

In 50 of the cases, the person who used force was never charged with a crime. Another nine defendants were granted immunity by a judge, and nine cases were dismissed.

In 10 cases, the defendant pleaded guilty to lesser crimes.

Of the 28 cases that made it to trial, 19 people were found guilty of a crime.

Twenty-two cases are still pending. (The outcomes of two could not be learned by press time.)


  • Ben Montgomery, reporter for the Tampa Bay Times

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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