After announcing last week that George Zimmerman would seek a “Stand Your Ground” hearing to get the murder charges dismissed in the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said Monday that his client would now be relying on a traditional self-defense argument instead. The lawyer argued that Zimmerman had no way to flee as Martin had him pinned to the ground, making “Stand Your Ground” protections unnecessary to win the case.
The latest development also proved to be an embarrassment for activists and anti-gun journalists who sought to demonize the Stand Your Ground law in the wake of the shooting. When the tragedy became national news, in typical fashion, anti-gun zealots and some Democrats promptly tried to exploit it, lobbying for more restrictions on the rights to self-defense and to bear arms. Certain establishment media outlets attempted in vain to manufacture a bogus “controversy” over Stand Your Ground laws, too.
Following months of phony hysteria, however, polls still showed that Americans were overwhelmingly in favor of concealed-carry laws and the right to use deadly force in self-defense even in public settings. Zimmerman’s defense team indicated early on that they may not invoke Stand Your Ground in the case. But now that it has become official, more than a few mainstream media outlets and anti-Stand Your Ground lobbyists have been left with egg all over their faces.
The defense team still plans to seek immunity from criminal and civil charges during a hearing before the judge. Under state law, before the case goes to a regular jury trial, defendants may request a separate proceeding. The burden is higher: Zimmerman will have to persuade the judge that the evidence points to justified self-defense, rather than prosecutors having to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But it could bring the case to an early close.
If the defense succeeds during the hearing, the criminal charges against Zimmerman would be dropped and he would be protected from civil actions related to the fatal shooting. Prosecutors may appeal the ruling if Zimmerman is cleared. However, if the court denies Zimmerman’s motion to have the charges dismissed, absent a plea deal, the case will eventually go to a trial by jury.
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Photo of George Zimmerman: AP Images