It took 44 days before George Zimmerman was arrested for Trayvon Martin’s death because police claimed he was “standing his ground” when he fatally shot the teenager. But these kinds of delays are not all that uncommon under the ALEC-sponsored law, a new report by Tampa Bay Times concludes. The report finds that in nearly one-third of 200 Stand Your Ground cases, the defendant had initiated the fight, shot an unarmed individual or first pursued the victim, and were never even charged with crimes.
Additionally, Stand Your Ground has allowed police a wide latitude of interpretation, resulting in uneven enforcement for whites and blacks. Some of the report’s findings include:
- Nearly 70 percent of those who have invoked “stand your ground” to avoid prosecution have gone free.
- 73 percent of those who killed a black person walked away without penalty, while 59 percent of those who killed a white person went free.
- Attorneys are increasingly invoking Stand Your Ground in ways state legislators didn’t originally intend, and use of this defense has grown five-fold in nonfatal cases between 2008 and 2011.
- Among the incidents where defendants walked free: “One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back.”
- There are three times more concealed carry permits in Florida since 2005, when Florida passed the law.
In Florida, the number of Stand Your Ground cases is on the rise, being invoked in cases with both minor injuries and where the defendants shot a person who was unarmed or whose back was turned. As Tampa Bay Times writes, “If you claim ‘stand your ground’ as the reason you shot someone, what happens to you can depend less on the merits of the case than on who you are, whom you kill and where your case is decided.” For George Zimmerman, these inconsistencies have played out in national media, but many times these cases escape notice and even police records.