Stand Your Ground/Stay In The Car – Two Biggest Myths In Zimmerman/Martin Case

*** Updated: A sharp reader on FB points out that George Zimmerman was on the phone with a non-emergency operator, not a 911 operator. I have updated the post to reflect that.

George Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges last night that were brought against him after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin last year. I wrote the following about it last night:

George Zimmerman acquitted. It’s not a decision to “celebrate.” The state did not make its case and the defense made their case for self-defense. That being said, a 17-year-old is still dead. And while Zimmerman may not be guilty in the eyes of the law, it is probably a confrontation between two people that could have been avoided.

Two critical points kept getting raised prior to the trial, during the trial and even after the trial, both of which are completely untrue. It’s one thing for talking heads, pundits and know-nothings on social media to spout such ignorance, but when the mainstream press – supposed journalists and reporters — aides in these falsehoods, they become part of the problem.

First, is that Zimmerman was acquitted thanks in part to Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Simply put, SYG takes the ‘castle doctrine’ and moves it outside the home. The ‘castle doctrine’ pretty much says that if I see somebody breaking into my home, I can use deadly force against that person. Until the SYG statutes were passed, Florida law required a person to ‘retreat’ first in cases outside the home where a person felt threatened.

The problem is, Zimmerman’s defense had nothing to do with SYG. Anybody paying attention would have known this prior to the start of the trial:

George Zimmerman, set to stand trial in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, on Tuesday waived his right to a “stand your ground” pretrial immunity hearing. Zimmerman’s attorneys have decided they will try this as a self-defense case.

Yet this did not stop an MSNBC panel last night (including the fraud Al Sharpton) from constantly talking about stand your ground. Here’s a PolicyMic piece published today:

The Zimmerman verdict, the result of which I need not remind, shook the nation last night. Widespread discontentment arose as George Zimmerman was exonerated, and Trayvon Martin was labeled the aggressor. And Zimmerman can thank the Florida “Stand Your Ground” statute, a statute which exists in twenty-four other states, for his acquittal.

Heather Beaven, who run an unsuccessful campaign for the US House of Representatives in 2012, said this today on her FB page:


Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP said in a NY Times piece:

We stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state,…”

The second myth that has been repeated ad nauseam is the one where the 911 non-emergency operator told (in some cases people are saying “ordered”) George Zimmerman to “stay in his car” and Zimmerman, in his zeal to go after Martin, ignored this directive and followed him anyway.

This is not true.

Zimmerman was outside his car (the audio makes this very clear) when the 911 operator asked if he was following Martin:

Dispatcher: Are you following him?

Zimmerman: Yeah.

Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.

Zimmerman: Ok.

There was no ‘order’ or ‘directive.’ From what I have been told by lawyers, 911 operators are not allowed to give any kind of orders or directives because of liability issues. One may argue that Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator after suggesting he didn’t need to follow Martin (and remember it was a suggestion, not a directive) but it’s false to claim Zimmerman was told not to get out of his car.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped people on social media from repeating it, and the press has continued to spread this falsehood. Here’s a CNN story from today:

A 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman that officers were on the way and not to follow the allegedly suspicious person. But Zimmerman still got out of his car, later telling police he just wanted to get a definitive address to relay to authorities.

The Daily Howler blasted the NY Times for doing the same thing.

Even Dan Abrams, who predicted Zimmerman would be acquitted, repeated this same incorrect assertion.

Criticism of the media in this case is well founded. The media have been awful from the start. The job of reporters and journalists is to report the facts and aim at getting the truth. Instead, they are more concerned with defining a narrative. This is why the media allows people to repeat false assertions about stand your ground laws and what Zimmerman was told by 911 dispatchers and even take part in it themselves.

People are entitled to their own opinions. They are not entitled to their own facts. Shame on the media for not reporting factual information.