Dunn, Zimmerman, & “stand your ground”
Let me try to clear this up.
There’s some confusion about Florida’s “stand your ground” law in the Michael Dunn case. Just like during the George Zimmerman trial, many are assuming that Dunn’s case is not a “stand your ground” case. Well, kinda, sorta.
“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
That is what’s commonly referred to as the “stand your ground” law. But that language is found within the “use of deadly force” statute.
Florida law was also updated to include this language:
“Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force …”
This gives a person a right to an immunity hearing in which a judge would determine if he or she even has to go to trial. This has been commonly referred to as a “stand your ground” immunity hearing. Dunn and Zimmerman both waived their right to an immunity hearing. When they did, many people concluded, “OK, they’re not asking for a “stand your ground” hearing, so this is not a “stand your ground” case.”
But then, when the jury instructions are read, confusion abounds when the jury is specifically instructed on considering the “stand your ground” law. And people naturally go, “wait a minute, why are they considering that when this is not a “stand your ground” case?”
Here’s the simplest way to explain: the “stand your ground” law is tucked into a justifiable use of deadly force statute in Florida. The use of deadly force statute is what a defendant might argue as part of his or her self-defense claim. Therefore, anytime you’re arguing that you were justified in using deadly force, a part of that law that protects you is the “stand your ground” language. And, even if you waive your right to a “stand your ground” immunity hearing, it doesn’t mean that “stand your ground” goes away and that a jury shouldn’t consider it during deliberations.