Mark O'Mara, attorney for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot Trayvon Martin, told NPR that any trial won't begin for months. Meanwhile, on Friday, April 20 he will try to get Mr. Zimmerman released on bail. At his first appearance, Zimmerman did not plead to the charges against him, but did request release on bail. A second hearing was scheduled, at which Mr. O'Mara will again request bail for his client, and Mr. Zimmerman is expected to plead not guilty.
The nationwide interest in this case has focused international attention on Florida, and on its "Stand Your Ground" law, a law passed several years ago in a storm of controversy, as the NRA lobbied hard for its passage, and most police agencies lobbied against it. This law, being among the first in the country, has some special provisions that allow the shooter four separate bites at the apple. The law provides that:
"Under the State's "stand your ground" law, a person attacked in any public place "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." The law forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of those covered by the law."
In other words, once a person is determined by an appropriate person to qualify for "stand your ground" immunity, any further action is forever banned.
In Florida, a defendant may offer that same defense four different times in proceedings against him. The Judge now hearing the case can determine that the immunity applies. Prosecutors can appeal, but if appeal is successful, it's over. No further prosecution, not even a wrongful death suit by Trayvon's family, can go forward. If the appeal fails, or is not taken, the same defense can be offered in first motions at trial. If that fails, it may again be offered to the jury as an affirmative defense. In none of these cases can the prosecution appeal if the defense is accepted. Of course, it may be that it can even be worked into the appeal of the lower court ruling if the defendant is found guilty. It seems that rejection of the defense at any stage except final appeal does not negate it, and it can be reintroduced at every level.
Aside from gathering evidence and seeking witnesses, the defense will be concentrating on developing a persuasive presentation for the "Stand your ground" defense. Months of search and research lie ahead for both prosecution and defense, and for as long as it takes the State of Florida will suffer the intense scrutiny of an interested national citizenry. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.com, the arrest of George Zimmerman "...was also a step toward repairing the reputation of Florida, whose lax and confusing gun laws have generated debate and criticism worldwide..." The editorial also suggests that "...Florida legislators should be among those watching closely to determine if the state has gone so far in granting gun owners rights that it has jeopardized public safety."
Whether those laws have jeopardized public safety is a bit iffy. In fact, they seem to have had little effect at all. But it seems there IS a disturbing trend in Florida at least - the "Stand your ground" defense has become a very popular defense. In the absence of witnesses, and without rear-entry wounds, that defense is hard to refute. And make no mistake, police contact or not, directive to not go after Trayvon or not, the lack of direct witnesses will make the prosecution's case a most difficult one. All the information that really matters is wrapped in speculation, and that does not bode well for a ringing closing persuading the jury of guilt. Do not assume that arrest and charges mean guilt, or that guilt means conviction, in this case.