Castle Doctrine laws are a well-reasoned and necessary response to abuse of the lawful right of self-defense by politically motivated or lazy prosecutors. In many cases, such cavalier prosecution has ruined the lives of the innocent.
As with the Florida statute, Castle Doctrine laws commonly have these features:
– When attacked in your home, car, business or other place you are legally allowed to be, you may defend yourself, including using deadly force if necessary and lawfully justified.
– Anyone breaking into your home, car, business, or other place is presumed to be up to no good of the violent and deadly kind.
– When you are attacked in this manner, you don’t have to run away and can “stand your ground” and defend yourself.
Imagine that: you don’t have to flee your home or car to defend yourself, and people who break into your home at 3:00 a.m. are presumed to intend you harm. Who could possibly object to that? As it turns out, a great many people do, as Castle Doctrine laws are not yet universal. One of the primary objections is that they give carte blanche to murder and later claim self-defense.
But a closer examination of the Florida law reveals no such thing. At best, 766.013(3) simply makes it hard — not impossible — for prosecutors to indict people defending their own lives or the lives of others.
In the Martin case, a proper police investigation — which may well have been completed — would have asked and answered these primary questions:
– Did Zimmerman have reasonable grounds to believe that Martin might have been up to no good?
– Was Zimmerman breaking the law in watching and pursuing Martin (a police dispatcher’s advice is not the law)?
– Did Zimmerman reasonably believe he was in danger of great bodily harm or death when he fired the shot that killed Martin?
– Was Martin committing a forcible felony and did Zimmerman understand that?
There are, of course, many other questions and matters of evidence, credibility, and motive to consider. If left to the local authorities, the current outcome of the case — that there was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman with a crime — might be the right outcome, and the case would never have come to the attention of the nation, as virtually all similar cases do not.
Ironically, Obama has provided Zimmerman’s possible defense with a compelling issue: since the president of the United States has injected himself into (yet another) case, can Zimmerman, if charged, receive a fair trial anywhere in America?
The case is in doubt, but the legitimacy of Florida’s Castle Doctrine is not. Repealing or changing it is not sensible.