One thing stood out toward the end of Mark O’Mara’s press conference Wednesday: his comments on Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws. “That statute has some troublesome spots, for sure,” said O’Mara, the new attorney of George Zimmerman. “I think we are now going to have some conversations as a state.”
First reaction: Huh?
O’Mara has been critical of the law before, and when it applied to the Zimmerman case. In this video, he acknowledges that “some people” refer to it as the “‘licence to Murder statute’ because it doesn’t require actions to avoid the confrontation.”
But here is the paradox: On the other hand, O’Mara will likely be using the exact same law as a main tool of defence for the defendant Zimmerman, who is now charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in late February and was taken into custody Wednesday.
But step back and take another look. And it actually makes sense.
Bob Jarvis, a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Fla., puts it this way. Publicly, O’Mara is going to profess that the law is “troublesome,” like he already started doing on Wednesday. This will help endear him to any potential jury and possibly even the general public. In a trial, though, he will plead with the jury to recognise that despite the statute’s severe flaws, it is still law in Florida.
Jarvis said he thought it was a shrewd, “clever” opening strategy for Zimmerman’s defence team.
“When he’s talking, he’s not talking to the press. He’s talking to the potential future jurors,” Jarvis said in a phone interview late Wednesday night.
“He’s going to say in court, ‘Look. You may not, as a juror, like this law. You may, as a voter, hate the legislators who passed this law. You may want, as a citizen, for this law to be repealed. But you have to put all of that aside as a juror and recognise that on the night of February 26, when George Zimmerman defended himself, he was acting within the bounds of existing Florida law.'”
O’Mara indicated Wednesday in his press conference that “Stand Your Ground” would likely be a major part of the defence. Prosecutor Angela Corey also acknowledged in her press conference announcing the charges that the law “will be applied” in the defence.
“Justifiable use of deadly force, as we all knew it before stand your ground was issued, was still a tough affirmative defence to overcome, but we still fight these cases hard,” Corey said.
Here is the most relevant portion of the “Stand Your Ground” law that applies to the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.