The Zimmerman Case: Florida and North Dakota Self Defense Law C - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

The Zimmerman Case: Florida and North Dakota Self Defense Law Contrasted

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In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman after an encounter in the Florida neighborhood where Zimmerman lived and Martin was staying.
Zimmerman claimed self-defense, but was eventually charged with second-degree murder.

At issue in Florida is the "Stand Your Ground" law.  For States adopting this approach, a person may use force -- including deadly force -- in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat.  There is no obligation to retreat first. 

In North Dakota, deadly force is not justified in self defense if it can be avoided, for example, by retreat.  But there's an exception if the person honestly and reasonably believed safe retreat from the attacker was not possible.

"It comes back to the perspective of the accused -- whether their force is necessary to protect themselves from death or serious bodily injury," says Dawn Deitz, Assistant State's Attorney, Burleigh County, North Dakota.

So how would a Zimmerman-type case work out in North Dakota?

"You know, it's really difficult to say, as it is really up to the jury.  So they have the opportunity to listen to all the facts; weigh all the facts; determine what they think is significant and insignificant," says Deitz.

In the Zimmerman case, the defense is expected to deliver closing argument tomorrow.  The case will then go to the jury to begin deliberations.  If convicted, Zimmerman could be sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for manslaughter.


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