‘Stand your ground’ legal defenses worked in Florida even when victims were shot in back, investigation finds

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

The Tampa Bay Times combed through more than 200 "stand your ground" self-defense cases in Florida to find that the new defense has worked even in cases where the suspect shot his or her victim in the back.

[Related: Zimmerman surrenders]

Florida's "stand your ground" law was passed in 2005. It goes beyond most states' self-defense statutes because it says that people in public places do not have a duty to attempt to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force if they feel threatened. In the high-profile shooting case of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman must prove only that he had a right to be where he was when he shot Martin and that he had a reasonable belief that he could suffer great harm or die by Martin's hand. (Zimmerman alleges that Martin beat him up after Zimmerman got out of his car to follow him. He's charged with second-degree murder.)

In 200 Florida cases where the "stand your ground" defense was invoked, 70 percent of defendants were let go, according to the Tampa Bay Times. These included cases where the defendant had shot someone in the back, or while the victim was lying down.

In a third of "stand your ground" defenses, the defendant started the fight that ended in the shooting and still went free. Read the whole investigation at the Tampa Bay Times site.