Sunday, February 16, 2014

In Florida, More Journalistic Malpractice



"The Dunn case has inevitably engendered comparisons with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, but the cases are entirely different. In the Zimmerman case, physical evidence and eyewitness testimony overwhelmingly supported Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. In the Dunn case, there was no evidence to support Dunn’s self-defense claim, other than Dunn’s own testimony, and other facts seemed to undercut it.

What the two cases have in common is terrible news reporting. The concept of self-defense is not hard to explain. This is what Florida jurors are told; the instruction would be similar in any state:
[A] person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony….
Now watch how the New York Times mis-characterizes the scope of the right in the context of the Dunn case:
It also drew renewed attention to Florida’s expansive self-defense laws that allow people who say they feel threatened to use lethal force to protect themselves.

Wrong, on two counts. First, Florida’s self-defense laws are not “expansive,” they are typical. Second, the Florida law doesn’t say that if you “feel threatened” you can use lethal force. That would be a subjective standard. Rather, it says you have to reasonably believe that you are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. “Reasonable” is a term that is used all the time in the law. It is an objective standard: not what the defendant thinks, or would do, but what a reasonable person in his situation would think or do. "

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