March 29, 2012 1:46PM

The Trayvon Martin Shooting: Just the Facts

Americans use guns to thwart a lot of crime, very often without having to fire the weapon. When citizens do use deadly force, the legal system will adjudicate whether that force was lawful or unlawful. With respect to the Trayvon Martin case, our focus thus far has been on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and what role, if any, it has played in that case. I have concluded that there is no connection between that law and the Martin shooting at all. The Stand Your Ground law simply does not apply—so other legal principles will govern the legality of George Zimmerman’s conduct. My legal analysis will be published in an article next week. Walter Olson has related thoughts here.

With new developments in the case coming to light almost every day, it is difficult for outside observers to do anything but speculate. To take but one example, initially it seemed as if the Stanford police did a cursory investigation the night of the shooting. It seemed as if they simply accepted Zimmerman’s claim of self‐​defense and let him go. That would have been inexcusable. Yesterday, however, there was a report that Zimmerman was handcuffed, taken to the station, and questioned for about five hours. And the police questioned him again at the scene the following day. This is not to say that that was the best way to handle the matter; it is just to point out how we are getting new pieces of information each day. Today the Associated Press has this helpful article that cuts through the charges and counter‐​charges and simply summarizes what we know so far.

The central point to keep in mind is that deadly force is serious business. George Zimmerman took a life. Intense scrutiny into what happened is warranted.