Stand Your Ground: A WAFF 48 News Special Report
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a community watchman in Sanford, Florida on February 26th.
As this story plays out in the media, and soon in the courtroom, will the self defense law called Stand Your Ground change as the court case unfolds?
Community Watch Coordinator George Zimmerman told authorities that he shot Martin in self-defense. That claim and delays in Zimmerman's arrest caused a firestorm of controversy.
The debate over the Stand Your Ground Law is on the books in one form or another in some 21 states, including Alabama.
Legal Analyst Mark McDaniel has handled hundreds of cases involving self-defense claims. He said Alabama and Florida's laws are nearly identical.
"In self-defense in Alabama and Florida it says a person can use deadly physical force if he reasonably believes the other person is using or about to use unlawful deadly force against him," said McDaniel.
Richard Hornsby, a Florida attorney, says the Stand Your Ground Law will be front and center if the Zimmerman case goes to trial.
"That is his only defense in this case so, yes, we're absolutely going to have an immunity hearing where the Stand Your Ground Law will be asserted on behalf of George Zimmerman," said Florida Defense Attorney Richard Hornsby.
So does the Stand Your Ground Law provide too much criminal immunity?
"Some people say it is creating an atmosphere of vigilante justice, if you will. I don't believe that. I believe the law should stay the way it is." said McDaniel. "I think if you are reasonable in your belief that a person is about to use unlawful deadly physical force against you, I think a person has a right to defend themself."
So what exactly are your rights under Alabama law?
"You don't have to wait until the gun comes out of the pocket. If you think, 'He is about to kill me,' you are reasonable in that belief, then you can kill another person, but the word is reasonable,' said McDaniel.
McDaniel said regardless of how the Zimmerman case turns out, he believes a change here isn't likely.
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