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SPOTLIGHT
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Standing ground

Published on -4/13/2012, 9:46 AM

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George Zimmerman is going to get his day in court. The neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Florida two months ago made his first appearance Thursday, acknowledging second-degree murder charges against him.

That this highly publicized, sensationalized and politicized killing has finally made it to a court of law almost seems surprising given the hesitation by prosecutors the past 45 days. Whatever the reason for the delay, Zimmerman does deserve the benefit of a judge and jury -- not the court of public opinion.

Whether Zimmerman is convicted or not appears to hinge on whether Florida's "stand your ground" law was properly applied. The law, which grants those under attack to use deadly force in justifiable self-defense, struck us as an odd excuse why no charges were filed prior to this week.

According to reports, Zimmerman was following the unarmed Martin after the teen went to a convenience store. Zimmerman, who was on patrol, had called a police dispatcher to announce his suspicions. The dispatcher reportedly told Zimmerman to stay in his car, which he did not. The two got into a struggle, which culminated with Martin being shot.

The trial likely will reveal just what happened during the struggle. But had Zimmerman stayed in the car as instructed and let the police department do its business, Martin wouldn't be dead and Zimmerman wouldn't be facing a murder charge.

As most people in America know, Zimmerman didn't stay in his car and Martin is dead. But every call for justice resounding across the country was responding to by saying the gated community vigilante merely was standing his ground.

According to whom? The shooter?

State lawmakers in Florida already have set up a task force to examine whether the stand your ground law needs changing. Elected officials in other states that have similar laws -- there are 24 in all -- are considering the same thing. And this all was taking place prior to charges against Zimmerman were announced.

In our opinion, stand your ground laws should be revisited. Heavily promoted by the NRA, and enacted quite vaguely, they appear to give license to shoot first and ask questions later.

But the Florida law should not be revisited based on what has happened up to this point in the Trayvon Martin killing. Stand your ground might not even be used by the defense team. Even if it is, common sense would suggest a verdict is needed before deciding whether the law was applied properly in this case. The move by Florida lawmakers is yet another knee-jerk reaction by the wide variety of bystanders who have thrust themselves into the vortex of the story.

When an individual is shot to death, the shooter should not be able to claim immunity because of "stand your ground." A death warrants a full investigation, as well as careful preponderence of the evidence in the judicial system. We're pleased charges have been filed. We remain, however, bewildered why they took so long to surface.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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