Stand Your Ground/Deadly Force
From an article in Washington Times by David Kopel
The assertion that Florida law allows shooting whenever someone believes it to be necessary is a flat-out lie. The actual law of Florida is that “a person is justified in the use of deadly force” if “(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony” (Florida Statutes, Section 776.012).
The second part of the law provides special provisions for self-defense against violent home invaders or carjackers. Neither of those is relevant to the Zimmerman case.
Despite what the gun prohibition lobbies claim, the no-retreat rule has deep roots in traditional American law. At the Supreme Court, the rule dates back to the 1895 case of Beard v. United States, in which the great Justice John Harlan wrote for a unanimous court that the victim “was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force as, under all the circumstances, he, at the moment, honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, were necessary to save his own life, or to protect himself from great bodily injury.”
The great progressive Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes also expressed the unanimous opinion of the court “that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and that if he kills him he has not succeeded the bounds of lawful self-defense. … Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife” (Brown v. United States, 1921).