Trayvon Martin's Death and Highlights of California's Law on Self Defense

Given the uproar over the shooting of the unarmed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida -- well he was holding a bag of Skittles wasn’t he? -- I thought I would try to explain why everyone, including President Obama, is so outraged that the shooter was not arrested for murder, and why his claim of self defense is regarded as absurd.

In California, you have a right to use a reasonable amount of force to protect yourself from an assault, which can amount to deadly force if needed. Unlike other jurisdictions, in California and apparently Florida, you can stand your ground and defend yourself. Remember, you cannot use deadly force on an unarmed man, unless you honestly and reasonably believe that the person you shoot is about to use deadly force against you. If the jury believes that your self-defense claim is honest and reasonable, you are not guilty. If the jury believes that your fear that the dead guy was about to use deadly force against you was genuine, but that your fear was unreasonable, you are guilty of voluntary manslaughter. If the jury believes that you committed an unlawful death without the intent to kill, you are guilty of involuntary manslaughter-- like the Bart Police Officer Oscar Grant. A great example on the law of self-defense comes from my mom in Bakersfield, CA.

It was always a rough and tumble hard-scrabble existence in the early 70s inside the honky tonk bars in those tin buildings along Edison Highway just outside Bakersfield. Mom loved the excitement of the Edison highway bars where one could always count on a night of dancing to country music, or an occasional good old bar-room brawl in the sultry summer night heat. One day, mom was trying to help a barfly find work as a fry cook in one of the greasy-spoon diners, so she drove over to his half-way house to give him a ride. When she picked him up, he was already drunk and acting surly, so mom turned the car around to drive him home. On the way back to the half-way house, he pulled a knife on her. Big mistake.

When the gentleman pulled the knife out, she elbowed the drunken savage in the throat, took his knife away from him, and in her own words, “slashed on him.” He immediately jumped out of the car and dove under the porch of the half-way house and cowered there like a wounded animal until the police arrived to rescue him.

The drunk was bleeding profusely when the police showed up and found mom holding the man’s bloody knife in her hand. Seeing him hiding under the porch in mortal fear, the police believed the drunk was the victim and placed my mom in the back of the police car while they asked the bleeding guy about the whole sordid affair.

Luckily for mom, the drunk told the truth and demanded she return his knife. Since he admitted to the officers that he had pulled his knife on my poor defenseless mother, they let her go. Given that he looked like he had picked up a feral cat and mom was not interested in pressing charges, they let the drunk go too. Clearly mom was tough as nails, but she could have been in serious legal trouble if that guy had the wits to act like a real victim. Remember one should only use that amount of force legally necessary to defend oneself. Don’t over-do it, or the police could get the wrong idea and confuse the perpetrator with the victim.


  1. Since self-defense raised it must be said that what 'gay panic' defense is man reacting to crime the homosexual did. Most 'gay bashings' are men reacting to crimes the gay did. Whether it's just or excess force is jury topic. If a homosexual is going to repeatedly propose after a man has said not or harass a man in public restroom then it's harassment. If homosexual is going to pinch a man's butt or groin against will, then it's minimum assault & battery if intent isn't sexual but it could be something more serious such as sex abuse if it is. If a homosxual exposes himself to others, then it's indecent exposure.

    If a man in those situations kills a gay, then it's possible he killed in self-defense ifhe can prove the gay had more serious intent. If the gay's high on drugs or has past violent history, then case can be made that man was protecting himself from violent crime the gay did-these situations are unpredictable. Most gay bashings are men reacting to crimes the gay did.

  2. Added comments to elaborate. Gay panic defense is arguing gay basher reacted to crime the gay did. A man could argue that deadly force was justified if he can convince a jury or prosecutor (who can dismiss case if they don't think they can win) that the homosexual intended to commit homosexual rape or other violence when the homosexual committed indecent exposure, harassment, etc. These situations are unpredictable and if the gay is high on drugs or has history of violently attacking others, then a case can be made that a man who kills a gay after the gay pinched the man's butt or groin against will was self-defending from a more violent attack the gay was trying to do. With 'gay bashing' cases, what the defense should do is try to subpoena the gay's medical history and investigate if a homosexual has violent history (violent propensity) if they want to convince that a man was justified when he killed a gay after the gay committed harassment or pinched man's butt or groin against will.

    Also with 'proposals' it's a crime to repeatedly propose after some1 has said no. If a gay proposes to a man while man is guest in the person's house, then the right thing to do is for the man to say no thanks and leave. If the gay repeatedly propose after a man has said no and follows the man into the lot, then it's @least harassment-which gets to is it self-defense if a man kills a gay in that situation-it can be if it can be shown the gay has a violent propensity or if the gay is high on drugs. If the gay has a history of violently attacking men after he followed them into the lot, then yes, it can be said that a man was justified in using deadly force in that situation because the gay intended to do something more violent besides harassment, given the gay's history of attacking others in the lot after following them and proposing again. Each case is different so it's not so easy.