Court Radio: Dual Topics – Birth Injuries, and the Trayvon Martin Case, Self-Defense and “Stand Your Ground Laws.” Tune in at 7 a.m. Sunday
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on March 24th, 2012
On “Court Radio” tomorrow on Sunday morning, join MyPhillyLawyer managing partner Dean Weitzman and his co-host David Rapoport as they tackle two issues in the news – birth injuries and the tragic case of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down in a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood one night last month as he walked home wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles candy and a bottle of iced tea.
Court Radio is broadcast live at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning on Philadelphia’s WRNB 100.3 FM, with a simulcast on Magic 95.9 FM in Baltimore. You can also listen live on the Internet at WRNB 100.3 or on Magic 95.9 via streaming audio.
The special guest for the birth injury segment of the program will be attorney Shanin Specter, a partner at Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, which specializes in birth injury litigation cases. Specter will discuss the different facets of birth injury cases and how they are handled by the legal system.
During the show, Weitzman and Rapoport will talk about the disturbing story of the shooting death of young Trayvon. News of the shooting is everywhere today. The 17-year-old high school student was gunned down Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., north of Orlando, by a neighborhood watch volunteer who was on patrol, according to ABCNews.go.com.
“Several eyewitnesses report to police that they heard a scuffle, then a cry for help, and then a gunshot,” the ABCNews.go.com story reported. “According to the Sanford police report, George Zimmerman, 28, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, is found armed with a handgun, standing over Martin. He has a bloody nose and a wound in the back of his head. Martin is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. He has no weapons on him, only a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. Zimmerman tells police he killed Martin in self defense. Taking him at his word, police do not arrest him, nor administer a drug or alcohol test. They also did not run a background check.”
Public reaction to the case is growing each day, with protests, rallies with crowds wearing hoodies in solidarity with Martin and public discussions about how such a shooting could have occurred.
“Petitions calling for justice for Martin have exploded, amid allegations of racism and calls for more scrutiny into how local police handled the investigation,” ABCNews.go.com reported. “George Zimmerman has yet to be charged in the case.”
The case itself is still very much in flux as police and other agencies continue to investigate what happened and as they investigate whether charges will be filed.
The core issue in the case is these kinds of self defense laws, which give people the right to defend themselves or their property from intruders or attackers.
In the Martin case, the facts are still being gathered, so it’s impossible to know what happened that night with complete certainty, at least at this point.
“The Trayvon Martin case has brought national attention to ‘stand your ground’ laws now in place in dozens of states, including Pennsylvania, which say a person can use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight,” according to a story today in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Police in Sanford, Fla. used the law to justify not charging George Zimmerman who said he acted in self defense when he shot 17-year-old Martin during a neighborhood watch patrol.”
Critics, however, say that these laws can lead to unintended problems.
“Bad laws have consequences,” Dan Muroff, president of the gun control group CeaseFirePA, told the Inquirer. “Pennsylvania’s legislature needs to recognize that blind allegiance to the NRA brings with it real potential for tragic results.”
The Pennsylvania stand your ground law, which went into effect last year, was opposed by The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and by many police chiefs across Pennsylvania, the Inquirer reported. Leaders of those groups “said it could lead to situations where criminals use the defense as is the case in a number of states.”
Now the discussion is wide open on this topic across the nation.
The stand your ground laws were allegedly intended to protect residents who are being threatened on their own properties. In the Martin case, Zimmerman was not on his own property, according to reports, and was actually following the boy in the neighborhood as part of a neighborhood watch before he shot him.
The laws concerning self defense are similar, but different. Under self defense, if there is a way for you to leave a dangerous situation without a confrontation, then you have to take that option and not cause harm against someone else. If you are attacked directly, then you can take action in self defense, under those laws.
Yet under the stand your ground laws, you don’t have to back down. You can fight fire with fire.
That’s just ridiculous.
If you can walk away from harming someone else and can remove yourself from a danger without force, then that is a better option, even under a stand your ground law. If you choose not to turn and walk away and then you kill a person in response to a perceived threat – even after you could have walked away without harm – that is an unnecessary killing in our view.
We hope the national discussion that this tragic case has inspired is deep, thoughtful and helps bring about changes that protect all citizens better.
There need not be any more tragedies like this one.
Be sure to listen in to Court Radio at 7 a.m. Sunday to hear the whole discussion on these topics with co-hosts Dean Weitzman and David Rapoport. And remember to call in with your own questions and comments.
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