Intercultural Human Rights Law Review


Evelyn Reyes

First Page



On the afternoon of February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman (Zimmerman) drove through his neighborhood when he spotted a "suspicious black male" and decided to inform the authorities. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin (Martin) was walking home after purchasing a bag of Skittles at a nearby 7-Eleven. Instructed by a police dispatcher, Zimmerman was to stay in his vehicle and avoid Martin. Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher's instructions and decided to approach Martin. Zimmerman consequently entered into an altercation with Martin, who was unarmed. Moments later, Zimmerman shot Martin, and claimed self-defense. A claim of self-defense under a Stand Your Ground theory enables an individual to claim immunity from prosecution and avoid trial completely. "Stand Your Ground" or "Shoot First" laws were enacted to guard citizens when confronted with a situation where they fear their lives are in danger. Under Stand Your Ground laws, an individual may use deadly force to defend him or herself without first analyzing whether or not he or she could avoid the situation altogether. These laws eliminate a duty to retreat, which requires a person to walk away from a dangerous situation before relying on self-defense. The result is an easy manipulation of legislative intent in its creation of Stand Your Ground laws and the concept of self-defense. Stand Your Ground created a phenomenon amongst individuals, dividing those who are "trigger happy" and those who favor gun control legislation. The critical issue lies within the judicial interpretation of the law on a case-by-case basis. Was the law created to justify unauthorized killings or was it made to assist those who are in perilous settings?

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