Noted Self Defense Expert Weighs In On Zimmerman

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 7 months ago

Before we deal with the observations of a well-respected self defense expert on George Zimmerman and his case, allow me to make a few observations.

I think that I would have done things differently than Zimmerman.  First of all, I try not to be out like that without my dog, who is an 82 pound Doberman named Heidi.  She is a significant degree of protection.  Second, if you own the light, you own the night.  I wouldn’t have been out without a good tactical light.  So I usually carry my Surefire light with me at night if I’m out, even if I’m walking my dog in the neighborhood.  Finally, my three e‘s are egress, evasion and escape.  If I had been there that fateful night and was close enough to have been jumped by someone, I would consider my tactics to have been faulty.

But in the end, it isn’t against the law to walk at night without a tactical light, without a dog, and without a plan for egress, evasion and escape.  And it’s also not against the law to carry a weapon, and I do that as well.  I said earlier that I think I would have done things differently than Mr. Zimmerman.  Suppose that I didn’t have a tactical light or an 82 pound Doberman.  And suppose further that I was responsible for my neighborhood watch, having seen my neighborhood ransacked by hoodlums, pilfered by gangsters and terrorized by criminals.  And suppose that there was no one else that night, knowing that the police are an irrelevant feature to the security of my neighborhood.  Unless we are in Zimmerman’s shoes in that exact situation, it’s easy to say what we would or wouldn’t have done, but much harder to have any confidence in our claims.

So with that setup, let’s turn to Massad Ayoob (via Say Uncle), who tells us here why he has been silent on the Zimmerman case.  Mr. Ayoob’s entire article is highly recommended, but some of his thoughts are repeated here.

If I’m your criminal attacker, you don’t have to wait for me to shoot you before you can shoot me to defend your life, and you don’t even need to wait until the gun is in my hand. If I announce my intent to murder you and reach for a gun, I’m bought and paid for right there.  And it doesn’t matter whether the gun I’m reaching for is in my holster, or yours. That’s why every year in America, when thugs try to grab a policeman’s gun and are shot, the shootings are ruled justifiable.

Even before Martin’s reach for Zimmerman’s still-holstered pistol, the circumstances that were proven to the satisfaction of the jury showed that Zimmerman was justified in shooting his attacker.  Remember when defense attorney Don West said in the defense’s opening statement that Martin was armed with the sidewalk?  That sounded ludicrous to lay people, and I would have phrased it differently myself, but professionals understood exactly what he was talking about.

The operative principle at law is called “disparity of force.” It means that while your opponent(s) may not be armed with a deadly weapon per se, their physical advantage over you is so great that if their ostensibly unarmed assault continues, you are likely to die or suffer grave bodily harm. That disparity of force may take the form of a much larger and stronger assailant, a male attacking a female, force of numbers, able-bodied attacking the handicapped, skilled fighter attacking the unskilled, or – in this case – position of disadvantage.

Position of disadvantage means that the opponent has full range and freedom of movement, and you don’t.  You’re seat-belted behind your steering wheel while he rains punches onto your skull through the open window…or you are down and helpless in a martial arts “mount” while your opponent pounds you at will.

Finally, we have the clearly proven element of Martin smashing Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk. If I picked up a chunk of concrete or cement and tried to smash your skull with it, you would certainly realize that you were about to die or be horribly brain-damaged if you didn’t stop me. It would be what the statutes call “a deadly weapon, to wit a bludgeon.” There just isn’t a whole hell of a lot of difference between cement being smashed into head, and head being smashed into cement.

Clearly, Trayvon Martin possessed the power to kill or cripple Zimmerman. That is why, under law, Zimmerman was justified in defending himself with a per se deadly weapon.

Bob Owens has similar observations.  When Mr. Martin jumped Mr. Zimmerman and began to beat him, the night could have only ended with one of them dead or crippled and possibly permanently disabled.  The gun saved Zimmerman’s life, and that’s why he carried it.  It performed the function for which it was designed, and while all of us who carry weapons hope that we never have to put it to such use, if we are ever faced with that situation we have what we need to reverse that “disparity of force.”

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  1. On July 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm, John O'Neal said:

    I have always had a great deal of respect for Mr. Ayoob. Not that he cares, but I have lost some of that respect after reading this article. While I understand self defense and the flawed “stand your ground law” and their impact on this case, I have am ashamed at the simple minded interpretation of what happened in this case.

    At the end if the day here is what happened. A 17 year old boy, who was not a gang banger or a violent criminal, but was simply a 17 year old kid who made minor mistakes , leas than some of the sane people demonizing him and almost applauding his death at the hands of what I perceive to be an unbalanced cop wannabe. No one seems to want to look at things from Treyvon’s possible perspective. A teenager notices some guy (who does look creepy by the way) looking at him and watching him. The teenager runs away to get away from the guy, he doesn’t shoot, throw rocks, or even throw his deadly can of iced tea. He runs and the guy chases him. Now imagine you hear on the news every day how some kid vanishes and is found dead and now some creepy guy is chasing you when you know you haven’t done anything.

    Now I’m pretty sure Mr. Ayoob and the rest of those celebrating would have stop running if the guy kept chasing them I mean they big brave men with their 82 pound dogs, not frail skinny 17 year old black kids with iced tea in his hand, how dare he decide to “stand his ground” didn’t he know his place in this country. I mean that law was meant for white and those accepted as white middle class folks to kill “thugs” or perceived “thugs”, not the other way around.

    So, imagine at some point this innocent teenager decides enough is enough, maybe some teenage bravado and even ignorance of the right and wise thing to do, he decides to stop running and confronts Zimmerman and “stands his ground”. So Treyvon was standing his ground” first since he was the one being pursued and in the course of defending himself from a perceived threat, the initial aggressor gets to kill the boy, because he was getting his ass kicked.

    Great law, not. I don’t mind the concept of “stand your ground” but if you chase someone or start an altercation or initiate the steps leading to the altercation you should not be able to use this law as justification.

    I would say to all young black men in Florida, once you are of age and have kept your nose clean, save your money, not for a car, but for a handgun and your concealed carry permit. Be responsible and follow the law, but if somebody (not a law enforcement officer) follows you then chases you, take no chances with your life and put three in the chest. Sounds bad, but your life is just as important and valuable as the person chasing you. Claim “stand your ground” and fight for your right to protect yourself.

    Sounds radical, not really, its the law and I just wonder what Mr. Ayoob and the other half wits will say when middle class white wanna be cops start going to the morgue and nobody is convicted. I can hear it now “The system has failed”. Yeah right, funny how that works when the shoe is on the other foot

  2. On July 20, 2013 at 8:45 am, Dean Weingarten said:

    There is so much wrong with the above assessment it is hard to know where to start. First, while Travon Martin was not convicted of any crimes, he was clearly on that path. He was found in the possession of jewelry stolen in a burglary. He was into street fighting and liked it. That evidence was not allowed into the trial by the judge.

    He was a 17 year old high school football player who was 6 foot tall and at least 158 lbs. That is not a “frail skinny 17 year old black kid”.

    Just a couple of sentences later, that “frail skinny 17 year old black kid” is kicking ass.

    There is no evidence that George Zimmerman chased Trayvon Martin. Following is not chasing, and following is perfectly legal. There is no evidence that there was an altercation until Trayvon Martin suckerpunched George Zimmerman.

    It is really weird to see the mental gymnastics that people go through to try to make Trayvon Martin into the innocent victim, when he was the one who attacked George Zimmerman and all the evidence is consistant with that fact.

    I remember reading, decades ago, that Massad Ayoob said that you should expect criminals to lie. He said that muggers will often say, when surprised by an armed citizen, that they were not trying to mug the person, but that the armed citizen demanded homosexual favors from them, then when they pulled out a knife to resist, the person pulled out a gun!

    It is weird to see Trayvon Martin’s defenders use a variation of this theme. Now it appears that merely because someone is falsely afraid of a person, they are allowed to assault them, even if they are taller, and in better shape?

    More 17 year olds are convicted of murder than are 29 year olds.

    More black people successfully use SYG (not used in the Martin/Zimmerman case) than white people do. The people who benefit the most from SYG laws are minorities in crime ridden ghettos.

    In 2009 a black man shot and killed a white teenager in New York. The teenagers parents said he was a good, gentle boy who was never in trouble with the law. The black man was also acquited. New York does not have a SYG law.

  3. On July 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm, Jim Harris said:

    I tend to favor the outcome for Zimmerman; believe it never should’ve gone to trial, support the 2nd amendment and SYG, etc.

    However — the postings above highlight a fundamental problem with this whole mess: We don’t really know who started the PHYSICAL altercation. We have opposing stories and theories, with nobody able to ABSOLUTELY prove who started it.

    If the situation was reversed — and Zimmerman died, Travon could claim self defense; and applying the law and evidence, he could ALSO have been found not guilty (not the same as “innocent”).

    As it stands, both guys showed bad judgment, one died; but the law has insufficient information to touch either.

    Turning the discussion around — I’d like to see more focus on this Florida woman who is in prison for defending herself. Such focus would support 2A rights, self-defense rights, SYG, etc,; and, she has a better case. … &, she’s African American; so such support would defuse (or at least refocus) the race issues. She is in prison by the same prosecutor that tried to put Zimmerman there; so the issue may be more whether this prosecutor and all she represents are at war with the 2A and all it means.

  4. On July 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm, Texas Topcat said:

    ” innocent teenager decides enough is enough”
    I agree that Travon was a teenager, however, he certainly was a lot more capable in a fight than Zimmerman. “Innocent” up to the point when he chooses to attack Zimmerman, in fact he announced this intentions to his girlfriend prior to the attack. Innocent on previous days not even remotely true. Innocent but using drugs, blood test. Travon was the aggressor and attacked Zimmerman because he thought Zimmerman was an easy target, just did not work out that way. Any person that looks at the testimony and evidence would come to that conclusion, as did the 6 jury members.

  5. On July 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm, Mannie said:

    It doesn’t matter who initiated the fight. Martin might even have been justified in poking Zimmerman in the nose. But once he was in physical control of Zimmerman, he had a legal duty to not kill him. Once he began pummeling Zimmerman’s head into the concrete, regardless of any prior actions, and certainly if he reached for Zimmerman’s gun, Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin. I would argue that he had a duty to do so. Self defense is not just a right, it is a duty.

  6. On July 21, 2013 at 9:39 am, Mike Pelcher said:

    A regular reader, if not a contributer. I’ve followed you since my son was in Afghanistan in ’08 as a young Marine 6 months removed from High School. Liked your comments regarding your Doberman. I’ve always considered myself an above average dog owner/trainer (it all depends on your reference). But, I’ve always been a Lab guy (with a really cool Chessapeke Bay thrown in). My last Choc. Lab was my best budy as I searched the web at 2 in the morning to make sure my son wasn’t one of the 18 souls lost during the 2/7’s deployment. His hips were shot shortly after. Pumped him up on 600 mg of Celebrex for three days to give him some final enjoyment before putting him down. When I got to the point of looking at another dog, I was tired of the hip issues with Labs. I wanted an athletic dog. One that would tire my 50 yr old butt out. Kicked around Rott’s, but they can shed quite a bit. Settled on the Doberman. Did research on the bread. I’m sure not as extensive as you would have. I’m kind of an instinctual guy. End up with what is now a 2 yr old male that weighs 115 lbs. Way oversized for the breed. Which makes him less athletic than your typical “Dobe”. But, he is athletic enough for me. And, he is intimidating!! Love the breed and your comments. Great book out there about Marine War Dogs during WWII (can’t think of it right now), that featured Dobermans prominently. One of the reasons I went for the breed. Rambled long enough. Keep up the good work!

  7. On July 21, 2013 at 9:49 am, Mike Pelcher said:

    Sorry. On a rant today & forgot to mention what promted me to write. I’m 100% sure you are a responsible dog owner & trainer. What I’ve noticed since I’ve gotten a Doberman is a no-kidding increased sense of responsiblity that comes with owning such a powerful dog (they aren’t labs). I’ve really stepped up my training game. I’ve enjoyed your Military commentary & your gun control commentary. Your thoughts on owning a powerful breed of dog would be interesting.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Guns and was published July 19th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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