On Friday, Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, called Judge Nelson’s decision to allow the school and social media subpoenas a travesty, suggesting that by opening up Trayvon’s records it would allow defense attorneys to “make a dead child seem as if they’re the perpetrator.”
Yet there’s a sound legal reason for the judge allowing the defense to go on the offense, says George Dekle, a law professor at the University of Florida. True, he says, the prosecution has stated that the basic facts of the case – a grown man profiles a boy as a criminal, instigates a confrontation, then shoots him dead when the boy defends himself – substantiate a second-degree murder conviction.
But under Florida law, the nuances of the confrontation, and the actions of the victim, are all admissible in a self-defense claim.
The stand-your-ground law, which was cited by police when they originally let Zimmerman off without an arrest, doesn’t allow someone to instigate a fight and then immediately use deadly force. But if the tables are turned and the person is backed into a corner – or ends up with his back on the ground, as Zimmerman claims – a defendant can still claim that they acted in self-defense, Mr. Dekle says.
“You could analyze a lot of cases that are stand-your-ground cases as not having anything to do with stand your ground, because the person wasn’t in a position to run away anyhow,” says Dekle.
To be sure, race continues to be a simmering undercurrent in the trial. In late September, a Trayvon family attorney, Ben Crump, told the Orlando Sentinel that, “Nobody believes that if you make Trayvon Martin white [and Zimmerman black], there’s no way he would not be arrested. That’s why race is involved in this case.”