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Profs to Analyze Trayvon Martin Case Monday

By John Masson
July 19, 2012

With the Trayvon Martin case still dominating the news almost a week after a Florida jury verdict freed George Zimmerman, Michigan Law Summer Starters have a special chance Monday to learn about the case from a couple of criminal law experts.

Professors Eve Brensike Primus and Beth Wilensky will discuss the case during a brown bag lunch beginning at 11:45 a.m. July 22 in Room 1225 of South Hall. Brensike Primus was a public defender in Maryland before she came to Michigan Law, and Wilensky has been teaching about Florida's quirky laws on self-defense since before Martin was shot to death during a struggle with Zimmerman in February of 2012.

Members of the audience may be surprised at what they hear, Brensike Primus said.

"We're going to talk about how Florida law is different, but in the end, none of the differences that Florida has really mattered in Trayvon Martin's case," Brensike Primus said. "So we'll talk about how 'not shocking' this case was, on the law."

Some of those differences on the books in Florida include the essence of the "stand your ground" law: you don't have to retreat from a confrontation in order to claim self defense. But Brensike Primus said that wasn't relevant in the Martin case.

"This case was not a "stand your ground" case," she said. "In the end, none of the differences that Florida has would have mattered in the Trayvon Martin case."

That doesn't mean some of those legal quirks didn't contribute to the politics surrounding the case, she said. For example: police didn't arrest George Zimmerman immediately after Martin was killed—a move that outraged many, even though Florida has an "immunity from arrest" clause covering people using a self-defense argument.

"This was not a slam-dunk case for prosecutors," Brensike Primus said. "Would it have come out the same way if the races had been reversed? Who knows? But I tend to think that, on this evidence, it was a very strong case to defend."

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