Under the law, a shooting can be justified if the gunman believed his life was in danger. Sanford police investigators cited the law as their reason for not arresting Zimmerman in the first place.
If Zimmerman decides to use that defense, Felman said, the judge in the case will call a hearing where he listens to evidence.
“The judge will sit as a finder of fact and make a factual determination about whether he believes Zimmerman’s version or the state’s version,” Felman said.
If the judge determines that Zimmerman was reasonably in fear for his life, the charge will be thrown out. But even if the judge rules against Zimmerman, Felman said Zimmerman can still use that defense at trial.
“He gets a second bite at it in front of the jury,” Felman said.
Though he has used the Stand Your Ground law as a defense for some of his own clients, Felman said the measure should be repealed. “It’s quite a statute.”
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com