[ SOURCE ] Florida’s controversial 2005 “Stand-Your-Ground” self-defense law could hamper any efforts to charge a Sanford man who fatally shot an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager, legal experts say.
An arrest could hinge on whether prosecutors believe neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman acted unreasonably when he encountered the teen, Trayvon Martin, whom he suspected was a prowler. A 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman he didn’t need to follow the youth, and now attorneys want to know whether he did so anyway.
“If he was attacked, he can stand his ground,” said retired Miami-Dade prosecutor David Waksman, who is not involved in the case. “But if police say back off and we’ll take care of it, he’s not covered by the law.”
Florida’s controversial self-defense law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to confront an attacker. Police and prosecutors statewide have derided the measure, saying the law fosters a shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality and gives criminal a pass on facing justice.
The law also included a provision that grants “immunity” from prosecution or civil suit if a person is deemed to have acted in self-defense, though lawmakers did not clearly specify exactly who bestows the immunity.
Legal experts say Zimmerman, if arrested, would probably be charged with manslaughter and not murder — and would have a strong defense under Florida’s law, with a judge needing to decide first whether he is immune from prosecution.