New Yorker on Stand Your Ground

A big piece by Mike Spies in the New Yorker on the history of Florida as a battlefield on gun issues asserts that 1) Florida enacted the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law in the early 2000s, and broadly hints that 2) the law resulted in a jury’s 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Is that so? Though both points are often claimed, as we’ve pointed out in the past, neither stands up to scrutiny. As Peter Jamison of the Tampa Bay Times noted in this 2014 piece, the “truth is that Florida did not pioneer the controversial rules” abolishing duty-to-retreat in favor of Stand Your Ground; many states had long since done so through case law development. Much more on the legal background in Ilya Shapiro’s 2013 Senate testimony, which points, for example, to a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1895. (Florida’s statute did introduce new procedural protections at the charge stage for defendants, which is a different matter.)

Meanwhile, Zimmerman’s acquittal came after his lawyers advanced a conventional self-defense theory as opposed to one rooted in Stand Your Ground.

The magazine’s celebrated fact-checking system does not seem to have functioned well in this case.


  • A phrase deserving a place in the common vocabulary: “to lie like a prohibitionist” ( ie grandly and shamelessly).

    Whether discussing guns, drugs, prostitution, abortion, birth control, pornography, violent videos, or whatever else is the current moral panic, the pattern seems to fit…

    • But, but, but … the magazine has a “celebrated fact-checking system”.

  • Don’t all of those qualify as pursuit of happiness? Just askin…

  • Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman pounding his head into the pavement. I don’t think zimmerman had an opportunity to retreat.
    We can see what happens with the opposite of stand your ground or self-defense by looking at England, where you have no right to self-defense. If someone breaks into your house and threatens to kill you and you kill him first, you get charged with murder. The idea that the police could possibly come fast enough to save you is crazy.