Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, et hoc genus omne are desperately trying to have it both ways.
On the one hand, they want it to be the case that George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin was unlawful, so that they can blame the authorities for not arresting and prosecuting him.
On the other hand, they want it to be the case that the shooting was lawful, so that they can blame the law (specifically, Florida’s stand-your-ground law) for allowing the shooting.
So the establishment lapdogs at MSNBC are inconsistent; no surprise there. But which way should they resolve this inconsistency?
Well, here’s the actual text of the stand-your-ground provision, which actually seems pretty reasonable to me:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
(Read the entire law here, including some not-so-nice bits, such as the 14th-Amendment-violating exception concerning self-defense against police officers.)
So unless Zimmerman a) was attacked by Martin, and b) had a reasonable belief that Martin posed a serious danger to him (two conditions that, from the evidence thus far available, do not appear to have been met – and certainly the critics clearly do not believe either condition was met), the stand-your-ground provision offers no defense of his actions.
Of course it is entirely possible that local Florida authorities have been misapplying this law, and indeed that they have been doing so with racist motivations. That wouldn’t exactly shock me. But in that case, the problem lies not with the stand-your-ground law but with the authorities; and the solution is to hold them accountable by depriving them of their monopoly.