Trayvon Martin Shooting and Stand Your Ground Law

The Trayvon Martin shooting incident in Sanford, Florida, where an unarmed 17-year old boy wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea was shot to death by a neighborhood watchman with a licensed handgun who was not arrested by the police because he claimed “self-defense” has provoked what may be unwarranted national outrage at the so-called stand your ground law that is in force in more than half of the states in the country, including the State of Nevada.

The outrage may be unwarranted because it may be that it is not the law but the application of that law that is faulty. Even Jeb Bush, the former governor who signed the now controversial Florida statute in 2005, said Greg Zimmerman, the shooter, does not qualify to benefit from the stand your ground law. There just was not enough effort put into disproving his allegation that he indeed acted in “self-defense”.

Nevada, as your criminal defense lawyer will tell you, does not have the same stand your ground law that Florida does, but it nevertheless allows a person to use force, including deadly force, to protect himself, his home and property. The Nevada stand your ground law read as follows:

NRS 200.120 “Justifiable homicide” defined; no duty to retreat under certain circumstances.

  1. Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of habitation, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.
  2. A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person:
  • Is not the original aggressor;
  • Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and
  • Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.

A competent criminal defense lawyer will also tell you that the same rule applies when you kill someone in defense of another or if that someone enters your home with clear intent to commit a crime like burglary or to hurt you or anyone else there. The pertinent provisions of the Nevada statute read thus:

NRS 200.160 Additional cases of justifiable homicide. Homicide is also justifiable when committed:

  1. In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or
  2. In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode in which the slayer is.

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means that if you were the defendant in say a homicide case, you affirm that you did killed someone but you also show that you did so in the honest and reasonable belief that that someone was about to unlawfully use force against you. A good criminal defense lawyer will know how to prove self-defense through clear and convincing evidence or through a preponderance of the evidence. The state on the other hand has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no self-defense in the commission of the homicide. Self-defense cases are decided by the court on the basis of facts.

Contact Attorney Ross Goodman for a legal counsel.