Immunity from Civil Liability in a justified SD shooting

This is a discussion on Immunity from Civil Liability in a justified SD shooting within the Home (And Away From Home) Defense Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; In the recently closed Zimmerman thread, it was discussed at some length that because he was found "Not Guilty" he was immune from civil suit. ...

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Thread: Immunity from Civil Liability in a justified SD shooting

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    Immunity from Civil Liability in a justified SD shooting

    In the recently closed Zimmerman thread, it was discussed at some length that because he was found "Not Guilty" he was immune from civil suit. Statutes were quoted, assumptions were made, and my opinion was: Not necessarily...

    My view was nothing is "automatic," and that one needs to know the laws of Florida before making rash assumptions about the civil liabilities of someone found Not guilty. Here's a link to an article that explains the FL process a bit better (though not much) and that nothing is absolute. Read Mark O'Mara's comments at te4h end. Consider the consequences should a judge rule "No immunity." Not liable? Maybe, maybe not.

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    Distinguished Member Array onacoma's Avatar
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    Confusing a Federal Civil Rights case with a State Civil case. The Federal case would be a criminal case just like the LEOs went thru with "Can't We All Just get Along!" Rodney King in LA. In Florida no one including the Family will be able to bring any civil legal action based on the acquittal in the criminal case under the "Stand Your Ground Law".

    While the Lame Stream media and the NAACP is ginning up a Civil Rights case, the FBI has already found no evidence to support a charge. The FBI closed the file late last year, but King "O" and his minions can always drum up a false claim!


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    Member Array TelumPisces's Avatar
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    Here is the statute. In my opinion since he has been ruled justified in his shooting as a result of the not guilty verdict, he cannot be sued. Or should I say that the minute it lands on a judges desk, it should be dismissed according to our laws here in FL. The media has no clue about FL law and the Rep quoted in the article posted by the OP has no clue about FL law either. No one can sue GZ as a result of his actions. PERIOD

    If it's ruled justifiable use of force either by not being charged in the first place or through a trial, you are not guilty no matter what court (criminal or civil) here in FL.

    776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
    (2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
    (3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
    History.—s. 4, ch. 2005-27.

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    But the issue with what you quote is the fact that he was charged and prosecuted, therefore, the shooting was not ruled "justified." IMO, a justified shooting is one where no charges are pressed--man with gun tries to rob store and store clerk shoots him, investigation completed and no charges brought. I don't agree that a finding of not guilty necessarily equals--for legal purposes--the shooting was "justified, only that the defendant was found "Not Guilty." I only wish it were as simple as that. Alas, the law never is. That even Zimmerman's lawyers state they will "seek" immunity if necessary tells me it is not automatic with a Not Guilty verdict.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    But the issue with what you quote is the fact that he was charged and prosecuted, therefore, the shooting was not ruled "justified." IMO, a justified shooting is one where no charges are pressed--man with gun tries to rob store and store clerk shoots him, investigation completed and no charges brought. I don't agree that a finding of not guilty necessarily equals--for legal purposes--the shooting was "justified, only that the defendant was found "Not Guilty." I only wish it were as simple as that. Alas, the law never is. That even Zimmerman's lawyers state they will "seek" immunity if necessary tells me it is not automatic with a Not Guilty verdict.
    He was investigated and charges were never brought. It was ruled justified after the incident. That's the reason he was never arrested at first. That is until the media and certain so called "leaders" stuck their nose in it and forced political leaders that are elected to press charges. These people were trying to appease people because they are elected and bent under the pressure.

    The trial was a show. Pure and simple. It should have never happened. Our laws were followed after the incident. It was not until people outside of our state got involved that it went where it did. Like it or not, FL has certain laws. And people in power went against our laws when they charged him however long after the fact. That part pisses me off more than anything. Political pressure was put on our elected officials from outside our state and they bent to the pressure. So I guess laws mean absolutely nothing.

    Zimmerman's Lawyer said in his statements that the next step would probably be to get the hearing to grant his client immunity under FL law. It's a simple hearing that usually happens in a pre-trial motion where a judge says yes, you are immune from prosection. I cannot fathom any judge that could find otherwise since he has been found not guilty of even manslaughter and is a free man. The effect of the not guilty ruling basically means he met force with force as stated in our laws. A judge would be dumb to rule that he is not immune at this point. But we have some dumb judges out there. So who knows.

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    According to the trial, it was not ruled justified, only that the DA, when the investigator wanted to press charges, declined without more evidence. Big difference. Perhaps the DA realized any charges would be weal at best.
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    Z's lawyers may obtain immunity from a civil suit, however a federal prosecution would seem to be a possibility. The FBI may have given one opinion but do you believe that with sufficient political pressure Holder couldn't find a second opinion? The only thing I see stopping this would be concern over a backlash in the 2014 elections.

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    Two points, First, no state law can immunize one from a federal charge (Supremacy clause of the US Constitution). As regards a civil action in Florida, I heard an interesting point from CNN legal commentator and FL criminal lawyer Mark Nejane this morning. He said that by waiving the Stand Your Ground defense before trial, Z may have waived his ability to raise it post trial. He said the way the statute is worded that is one possible interpretation. At any rate, it would be a case of first impression according to Nejane and therefore if it is held to have been waived, would likely go to the FL Sup Ct

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    no evidence of any kind of anything racial on Zimmerman's part, yet I see where Holder is considering filing a Federal Hate Crime suit against Zimmerman.
    Wow. Just keeps getting better and better.
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    Ok about the civil stuff:

    Does the not guilty verdict basically mean that Zimmerman acted in self defense against Trayvon Martin who was commiting a forcible felony of aggravated assault?

    If so, Zimmerman cannot be sued based on regular "non" stand your ground law as well.

    776.085 Defense to civil action for damages; party convicted of forcible or attempted forcible felony.—(1) It shall be a defense to any action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death, or for injury to property, that such action arose from injury sustained by a participant during the commission or attempted commission of a forcible felony. The defense authorized by this section shall be established by evidence that the participant has been convicted of such forcible felony or attempted forcible felony, or by proof of the commission of such crime or attempted crime by a preponderance of the evidence.
    (2) For the purposes of this section, the term “forcible felony” shall have the same meaning as in s. 776.08.
    (3) Any civil action in which the defense recognized by this section is raised shall be stayed by the court on the motion of the civil defendant during the pendency of any criminal action which forms the basis for the defense, unless the court finds that a conviction in the criminal action would not form a valid defense under this section.

    776.08 Forcible felony.—“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TelumPisces View Post
    Ok about the civil stuff:

    Does the not guilty verdict basically mean that Zimmerman acted in self defense against Trayvon Martin who was commiting a forcible felony of aggravated assault?.
    This thread was never about any "Civil Rights" charges, which are federal. It's about immunity against "civil suits."

    I'm sure if you ask any civil lawsuit lawyer he'll tell you being found Not Guilty is not the same as innocent. Plenty of known criminals have been found Not Guilty because the DA failed to prove its case. That does not mean the defendant was innocent, just not proven guilty.

    The point of this thread is to not assume that because you're found not guilty you are immune. It's far more complicated than that, otherwise O'Mara wouldn't have mentioned petitioning a judge for a ruling of immunity.

    I'm not sure why Z's defense waived the STG hearing prior to trial other than they felt if they were ruled against, it would hurt the defense in the trial. That was their call and it's a moot issue now. Whether they can call for one now would be up to judge--another opinion they would have to work against.
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    Based on the outcome from the trial, I am willing to take this quote from Mark O'Mara as a reliable opinion.

    "On the civil aspect, if someone believes that it's appropriate to sue George Zimmerman, then we will seek and we will get immunity in a civil hearing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    This thread was never about any "Civil Rights" charges, which are federal. It's about immunity against "civil suits."

    I'm sure if you ask any civil lawsuit lawyer he'll tell you being found Not Guilty is not the same as innocent. Plenty of known criminals have been found Not Guilty because the DA failed to prove its case. That does not mean the defendant was innocent, just not proven guilty.

    The point of this thread is to not assume that because you're found not guilty you are immune. It's far more complicated than that, otherwise O'Mara wouldn't have mentioned petitioning a judge for a ruling of immunity.

    I'm not sure why Z's defense waived the STG hearing prior to trial other than they felt if they were ruled against, it would hurt the defense in the trial. That was their call and it's a moot issue now. Whether they can call for one now would be up to judge--another opinion they would have to work against.
    I believe it was mostly to mitigate risk. In order to have that hearing, GZ would have had to testify in his own defense and given how the political winds were blowing, I'm guessing they realized that there's no chance they would get a ruling in their favor.
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    "On the civil aspect, if someone believes that it's appropriate to sue George Zimmerman, then we will seek and we will get immunity in a civil hearing."

    So it must not be automatic then, if you must seek immunity (from someone) and get it.
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    A not guilty verdict is not the same as a justified shootings. A not guilty verdict just means that the state did not prove its case, it doesn't state the reason. So there is no justification, if Z is sued, they will most likely request a Self Defense Hearing and try to get the immunity.

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