Monthly Archives: July 2013

Jewish Marksman Learns from Sergey Richter

I recently came across a youtube video of Israeli Jewish Marksman Sergey Richter, highlighting his unorthodox air rifle trigger technique.  However, when I saw it, a light bulb went off for me.  Here’s the video:
Only Sergey can say exactly why he does it. But for me it seemed like an obvious way to “prime” the muscles of the trigger finger to operate independent of the rest of the hand, and thereby avoid disturbing the hold.  Let me give some background.  The standing position without a sling is the most unstable position in the shooting sports.  That makes it the most challenging, most frustrating, and most fun.  The body naturally moves, so you have a sense of a moving target.  It is a lot harder to make the body perfectly still than most people would think.  There are so many dynamics to successful standing shooting: good balance, extremely fine muscle control, and good reflexes.  Depending on the weight of your gun, endurance as well.  And don’t forget chutzpah (you need it most in the standing position), and a bit of mazal never hurts.  In High Power, for the standing stage the target is at 200 yards, with a 7″ 10-ring (3.5MOA) and a 3″(1.5MOA) X-ring.

Broken down, there are two elements to successful standing shooting: your hold, and your triggering.  Your hold is the natural path your muzzle takes as your body moves in position.  Shooters practice making this path as small as possible.  Beginners will have trouble keeping the muzzle within the 7 ring, top shooters can hold the 10 or X.  Right now in NRA High Power my hold is mostly a 10 ring hold, at times an X-ring hold, and sometimes a sloppy 8.5 or 9.  You don’t need a perfect hold if you have good reflexes and can release a shot “on the move” as your muzzle first enters the 10-ring.  Even if you have a great hold, on windy days you’ll have to learn to shoot on the move as the wind blows your muzzle.  On those days, you’ll have literally fractions of a second to let off your shot in the 10, or miss your chance.

Triggering is the other half of the equation.  You can have an X-ring hold, but if during the trigger pull your hand exerts unwanted direction on the rifle, you can end up with a 9 or worse.  This is my major weakness at the moment, even though my trigger pull weight is only about 12oz.  On the SCATT I see my 10′s and X’s turn into 9s and sometimes 8′s because my triggering disturbed a 10-ring hold, or was not fast and aggressive enough.  I have a really hard time activating only my trigger finger on the pull, and instead, almost reflexively, my other fingers move.  (I have heard that this is normal for men, and women tend to be better shooters because their fingers are more inclined to work independently of each other, but it could be a shooter’s wives’ tale….).  I can move my trigger independently of my other fingers, but it takes a lot of concentration, and in standing shooting you don’t have that luxury–the triggering has to be pure reflex.  I find myself not having the confidence to reflexively fire on a good sight picture because I’m not confident my hand is going to do the right thing.  I feel like that is *the* hurdle I need to overcome to move up from Master to High Master.

What Segey’s technique does for me when I do it, is that it helps my short-term “muscle memory” in my hand so that as much as possible, only my trigger finger is moving.  It sort of points out to me any other muscular flaws in my grip so that I can adjust those too, as you do have to exert some force in the opposite direction for your trigger finger to be able to move straight back.  I have a 2-stage trigger with a very long 1st stage pull, so it’s perfect for this technique as I won’t have to worry about accidentally touching off a round.

So far on the SCATT I’ve had tremendous improvement in both minimizing muzzle movement during triggering, and being more consistent with good trigger releases.  I find the technique also lends itself to minimizing over-travel force as well.  I’ve had 10 shot strings with more deep X’s and 10′s and my average is pushing up to 96, which is flirting with High Master territory.  Hopefully it will translate to live fire, and maybe this is the key to me getting off my current plateau!  I’m cautiously optimistic.  Once again, I’m not sure this is why Sergey does it, but this is the effect it has for me.  I could also imagine that it could just be a stepping-stone to triggering technique that does not need it, but I can’t see how it could hurt even then.

Jewish Marksman on REAL Marksmanship

Over at blog, fellow Jew Robert Farago polled his readers’ thoughts on long range rifle shooting.  The poll was inspired by a previous post on that same blog by an author who successfully taught a new shooter to make 750 yard hits on his first day of shooting.  Robert muses as to whether that outcome suggests that “today’s modern rifles, gear and ammo makes distance marksmanship a doddle.”

Oy veh.

The problem with his statement lies with the meaning the present day “gun-enthusiast” community gives to the word “marksmanship.”  By “gun-enthusiast” I refer to people who do not actually compete in shooting sports or seriously train as professional gunfighters.  I think the standard for what gun-enthusiasts consider marksmanship today is vastly different from what it meant a few decades ago.  Today, many seem comfortable to judge marksmanship by what can be achieved under very controlled and stable conditions.  Whereas, a few decades ago, the gun-enthusiast community seemed to have a better sense that marksmanship is judged by what can be achieved under unstable, dynamic, and uncontrollable situations.  So what changed?  Quite simply, the background, experience and knowledge level of the crowd.

Weekends at the local ranges used to consist primarily of people with a lifetime of shooting experience, often with some hunting, competition, or military experience under their belt.  These folks understood that any schlemiel can shoot decently from a shooting bench, but it is quite another matter when a) the shooter is moving, b) time is of the essence, c) the target is moving, d) the wind is blowing or e) all of the above.  They understood that a shooter from a bench can hit a 750 yard target, but miss a deer at 75 feet if he hasn’t the real skill.  Those people are still a component of the gun-enthusiast community, but their voices are being drowned out.  For the past decade or so, the prevalent fad at the public ranges has been what some call the “tacticool” role-playing game, where fun at the range consists of mimicking the firearms of special forces soldiers, SWAT officers, FBI agents, etc.  A day at the range for many of these folks is standing stationary with a black semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight, making two handed shots at targets 7 yards away or less.  Good “marksmanship” is the ability to keep most of the shots somewhere on the bad guy (yes a shoulder or wrist hit counts) on the target.  If rifles are shot, they are AR-15s, used with the rifle supported on some kind of bench set up, and almost always with some sort of scope that likely cost more than the rifle.  A spin-off of the tacticool genre is the wildly popular “Zombie” theme, which as best I can tell means changing the black semi-auto guns to some kind of neon green color, and shooting at targets with Zombie-themed imagery.

Very few of these people go on to actually train or compete in tactical-inspired shooting disciplines like IPSC or IDPA, where “marksmanship” means not only speed, but scoring hits on actual “kill zone” sizes, all while having to actually move around like a tactical “operator” might, and sometimes with moving and dynamic targets.  Many of them have no idea that a sling is for more than just carrying a rifle (and most don’t even own a sling), and without a bench from which to shoot their rifle, I’m not sure they would know how to hold it.  Sure, from the bench they can drill .5″ groups, but ask them to stand and shoot the rifle unsupported, and suddenly you’ll see off-paper misses.

Don’t get me wrong, recreational shooting is supposed to be fun and I do not judge anyone for how they choose to spend their time and money at the range.  Frankly, those cowboy action shooters who get dressed up in period clothes using period guns seem to be having the most fun out of all the shooting disciplines, and more power to them.  But lowering the standard for “marksmanship”  is not helpful or positive to those of us who know that even a 0.0MOA laser rifle with a laser sight and ballistics computer in the wrong hands will loose to a “real” marksman with a 30 year old Remington 700.  Or, as my readers know, with an 80 year old K98 Mauser.  When I bought my current .308 match gun, there was never really any doubt that it was capable of 1MOA or less at 600 yards from the bench.  But it took me nearly a year to prove I could do it from the prone slung position, with irons.

The problem, as I see it, is that statements like Robert’s could have the effect that other gun-enthusiasts, and the non-shooting public, will not appreciate the incredible skill and practice it takes to shoot competitively away from the bench.  They will wrongly assume that shooting for distance while standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone is easy, provided you just buy the right (and expensive) gun.  They will look at Olympic-style and other shooting sports as silly, and have little interest in developing dynamic shooting skills.

I think the proof in this is that most gun-enthusiasts, although passionate about guns and shooting, today probably cannot name a single member of the Team USA shooting team or know that the National Championships take place every summer at Camp Perry in Ohio.  Most do not know what NRA High Power or Bullseye is all about, and probably wouldn’t be interested.  It’s not that they might not be interested or up to the challenge of trying to compete in those sports, but rather, they’ll just assume it’s all about buying the right expensive gun, and not about hours of developing the fine motor skill and above all, incredible mental discipline.  So instead of joining me on the rifle range for a dose of Zen, they’ll sign up for a ridiculous yoga class…

For a great blog that keeps its marksmanship ‘old school,’ check out which the author describes as “A Shooter’s Quest for Excellence in Marksmanship.”  Emphasis on the word “quest,” which is a concept seemingly lost on the modern gun-enthusiast community.  Too many of them think they’ve already arrived, because they bought the same gun used by the Navy Seals.

Oh well, as for me I guess I’ll just keep doddling away.

Maccabiah Shooting Sports Update

If you are or know any of the shooters, please contact me so I an profile them:

50m Prone Rifle:
Gil Simkovitch ISRAEL 618.1
Emmanuel Ben Hefer ISRAEL 615.6
Doron Shaziri ISRAEL 613.7
Micha Berg HOLLAND 589.5
Miron Bilski HOLLAND 584
Jeremy Griffiths MAURITIUS 526.3

25m Rapid Fire Pistol:

50m 3-Position Rifle:

50m Free Pistol:
Evsey Kossover ISRAEL 533
Alex Tripolsky ISRAEL 530
Daniel Katz ISRAEL 529
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 499
Roman Gronsky CZECH REPUBLIC 468
Vered Zur-Panzer GERMANY 461

Jewish Marksman on "Stand Your Ground" Laws

More and more intelligent Americans have finally opened their eyes to the facts, and come to realize that George Zimmerman was not a racist, and that race played no role in his defensive shooting of Trayvon Martin.  In an attempt to save face, many are now blaming Florida’s gun laws, claiming that so-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws need to be “re-examined” or repealed.  In the interest of justice, let’s “examine,” and where possible, compare to Jewish law.

First and foremost, we need to define what we mean by a “stand your ground” (SYG) law.  What we are really talking about is whether or not a person has a duty to attempt a reasonable retreat before using deadly force in self-defense of an objectively reasonable perception of imminent death or great bodily harm.  This is sometimes called a “duty to retreat.”  It will be helpful to understand the history and development of the “duty to retreat” in order to have an informed and thoughtful opinion.

In the old English common law (from which much of US law was derived), a person was required to retreat “to the wall,” so to speak, before using deadly force to defend himself.  That English common law developed in the feudal days when men settled drunken disputes in taverns with swords.  The idea was that if a man pulled a sword on you, you were required to, if possible, retreat until your back was “to the wall” before you killed him.  The hope was that perhaps the man who drew his sword would have second thoughts, or be so drunk that he couldn’t advance on you without stumbling over, and perhaps a life would be saved this way.    It was also thought that perhaps a retreat would eliminate fights and deaths where there is some initial misunderstanding or mistake as to whether one is actually being attacked or not.  It was thought that a defender under actual attack wouldn’t be giving up too much by initially retreating, sword play being what it was.

Over time, the common law duty to retreat proved to have many problems.  In many US states the concept that a person should be required to retreat from an attack within their own home by a burglar is considered morally repugnant.  The idea is that a person’s home is their castle, a quasi-sacred place where a person should always feel safe and free to move about.  When another human being violates that sacred social norm by breaking and entering, in most states the law is that within the home, a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves from deadly force.  This is often called the “Castle Doctrine,” and in some states it is extended not just to a residential home, but a person’s place of business and sometimes their vehicle.  Everything I have read suggests that the Castle Doctrine comports with Jewish law.  In his 2004 treatise, The Torah and Self Defense, David Kopel cites Maimonides:

The great Jewish legal scholar Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, a/k/a “Rambam” (1153-1204))[71] takes a more expansive view of self-defense than does Rashi. Maimonides agrees with all the earlier scholars that the rationale for killing the burglar is the presumption of danger. Specifically, the rationale is explained as “[the burglar]was thought to enter with an intention to murder someone.”[72]
The fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah (“Repetition of the Torah”) by Maimonides elaborated on the law regarding self-defense against burglars:
7. When a person breaks into [a home] —whether at night or during the day—license is granted to kill him. If either the homeowner or another person kills him, they are not liable.[73]

The majority of US states adopt some sort of laws that can fairly be called a Castle Doctrine, but vary by state to state.  Some states do not require that burglar actually attack you in your home before you can kill him, some do.  But generally speaking, in many states you are not required to hide and cower in your bedroom or bathroom, rather, you may confront the burglar if you feel that is the best strategy under the circumstances and not be second-guessed later by law enforcement or a jury.

Thus, what a SYG law does, in practice, is extend the Castle Doctrine to the public square.  To many people, having no duty to retreat and cower within your own home is intuitive and morally fair.  Extending that doctrine to the grocery store is another question, where the Castle Doctrine is based on there being something sacred about the privacy and serenity of a person’s home.  The thinking is that although a person may police their home as they please, society ought to be able to impose restrictions on a person’s self-defense in the public square.

The critical issue though is not whether a person should, morally or otherwise, first attempt retreat when faced with a seemingly deadly attack.  The question, supposing the law does impose a duty to retreat, is how do we determine after the fact whether or not the attempt at retreat was sufficient?

Jewish Marksman’s Day at the Range

Today we had a “practice match” to get the local shooters headed to the Nationals at Camp Perry ready (I’m not going this year).  I started the day rather poorly, and could not figure out what was off.  I eventually figured out that my front sight post was loose with the match almost over.  Oh well, I tightened it down and things went back to normal when I hit the 600 yard stage.

The sight was dialed in for the 600 yard prone stage.  I was eager to see if the concentricity tool had done anything to improve the ammo.  Luckily, the way the pit rotation worked out, I was able to take a picture of my target with the pasters marking my hits.  You see, the way NRA High Power matches work is that competitors take turns doing “pit duty” behind a safety berm, where they raise and lower the targets, marking hits with a large colored disk in between each shot.  This is because it would be almost impossible to see your hits at 600 yards without a humongous spotting scope, but an inexpensive 20x spotting scope can easily pick up the marking disk.  Well anyway, usually I never go back to the pits after my 600 yard stage, but this time I did and was able to see my group as opposed to just one shot at a time.  For perspective, the 10 ring is 12″ wide and the X is 6″.

So I ended up shooting the same exact score as last time (a personal best at 600 yards), a 193, which is pretty good.  I had one mental lapse and shot a 7, and man, if I could have that shot back I could have done 195 or better and been in High Master territory.  Even if that 7 had broken the 8 line I would have had a personal best at 194.  Oh well.  I also got a little lucky where that high 9 just barely stayed in.  It was also very hot and humid, so I was soaked with sweat under my shooting jacket, which makes the sling and shoulder feel unstable–I found myself breaking position to reset things more often than usual.    Otherwise, as you can see the group is relatively tight in the 10 ring.  It was just one of those days where the shots just circled the X ring.  So I think the concentricity tool may have helped slightly at 600 yards, maybe .25MOA or so.  One thing I am now convinced of is that my rifle and ammo are capable of shooting a “clean” (all 10s), take out the human error and the rifle seems to want to shoot 1MOA or less at 600 yards.  I just need to make that happen.  The load I’m using is a 155gr Nosler HPBT bullet, with 43 grains of 4064, which is a mild load.

It was an overcast day and we got all are shooting in before the storms came, here is a view of the range with the targets hidden in the pits.  You can see the wind flag off to the left, very little wind, mile 3-5 mph gusts that I just waited out and shot during lulls:

Friday 7/19/13 Maccabiah Results

First of all, thank you to the American readers who responded regarding the bizarre absence of American Jewish shooters at the games.  It seems as if we were simply unaware that shooting sports were available.  Also, there are already thoughts of developing relationships with the Israeli shooting clubs independent of the official Maccabiah Games.  I and others are going to explore all the options, and keep everyone informed.

Long time readers of the blog know that there are many excellent American Jewish international-style shooters we might have seen there.  In the teen and “young adult” category:

Sandra Fong, Danielle Fong, Abigail Fong – With  Sandra notably competing at the Olympic levels.
Hanna Black, Josh Black –  Hanna competes at the collegiate level in Air Rifle, Josh at the junior nationals level in Air Rifle and Pistol.
Jessica Levine – Won national awards at Camp Perry a few years back in smallbore.
Laura Spector – Olympic biathlete.
Sharon Barazani – Up-and-coming international shooter (not sure, she may technically have been born in Israel…?).

Dmitriy Shteyman – International pistol disciplines.
Sloane Milstein – Air pistol.
The “Blackhawk Bagel Boys” – An entire 2011 team of Jews at the national championships in smallbore prone.

Sorry if I am forgetting anyone!

This does not even include dozens of American Jews like myself who compete at the amateur levels in center-fire sports, but would still be competitive in an international air or smallbore event.   My readers know this because I’ve been documenting them for several years now!  There are many Jewish NRA Bullseye shooters who shoot slow fire at 50 yards who I’m sure would do well at 10m Air Pistol, or already do.  Those of us NRA High Power shooters who shoot prone at 600 yards can also shoot a smallbore rifle prone at 50m pretty well.

So let’s get to Israel soon and show them what we’ve got!

On to Friday’s results:

10m Air Rifle:
Sergey Richter ISRAEL 626.1

Leor Madlal ISRAEL 625.0
Doron Egozi ISRAEL 607.0
Miron Bilski HOLLAND 564.9
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 521.5
Jeremy Griffiths  MAURITIUS 423.8

10m Air Pistol:

Alex Tripolski ISRAEL 571
Daniel Katz ISRAEL 564
Tamir Adler ISRAEL 554
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 552
Vered Zur Panzer GERMANY 530
Roman Gronski CZECH REPUBLIC 517
David Peer SLOVAKIA 456
Robert Gatner CURACAO 377
If you are, or know any of the above shooters, please contact me so I can profile them and add them.  If you are new to the blog, please take the time to browse the right side where all of the profiled Jewish shooters are listed.
Mazal Tov to all the competitors!

Correction and Survey for Maccabiah Games Shooting Sports!

One of our readers in Israel has informed that I was mistaken–there are indeed shooting sports in the 2013 Maccabiah Games!  The events are various international disciplines like air rifle, air pistol, prone rifle and rapid fire pistol. The reader tells me there are 7 shooters from various European countries.  So where are the Americans? Despite being The Jewish Marksman, I had no idea that shooting events were part of the games…I thought shooting had been dropped for lack of interest.  I think other American Jews also did not know.

I know that several of the top tier American Jewish shooters (including Olympians and national champions) have made trips to Israel in the past, and plan on going again in the future.  I have to think they would be happy to combine a trip with a few days of shooting in the Maccabiah Games.  WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I know most of us probably cannot afford the time and expense every year, but what if we organized as many as we could to go every few years?  Please send me an email (jewishmarksman at gmail dot com) if you think you would have interest, and we’ll see if we can organize something!

No Shooting Sports at 2013 Maccabiah Games

The 2013 Maccabiah games are about to get underway in Israel, and sadly there are no shooting sports.  Well, that is not entirely correct, as archery is apparently one of the sports.  My understanding is that it has been a number of years since any firearms shooting sport was part of the games, and archery has been off and on.  Interestingly, shooting sports were a part of the 2012 European Maccabiah games, and I did try to reach out to some of the European Jewish shooting sports competitors that participated (there were only a handful), but with no luck.  

As long time readers know, I have always been open to including archery in the blog’s coverage, but just have not stumbled across any non-Israeli competitive Jewish archers.  I’ll do my best to follow up on the Jewish archers in the 2013 games, but help from readers is always appreciated!

Jewish Marksman on Zimmerman Verdict

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדּף לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ
אֲשֶׁר־יהוה אֱלהֶיךָ נתֵן לָךְ

“Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your G-d is giving you.” (Deut 16:20)

Months ago, it became apparent to me that the state of Florida, the federal government and the media had begun a tyrannical scapegoating campaign against George Zimmerman.  I knew that I was watching a modern day version of the Deryfus affair, or countless other scapegoating campaigns we Jews have suffered for centuries.  Scapegoating in the Torah is the concept of projecting society’s sins upon the goat, then casting the goat away to symbolically wash away the sins.  So what sins did society try to pawn off on Zimmerman?  Deep down, those most outraged by the verdict must know that it is certainly possible that Trayvon Martin engaged in inappropriate violence against Zimmerman.  Whether Martin was a violent young man or not, those outraged by the verdict are simply unwilling to accept responsibility for American society’s sin of producing violent young men, of all races, by our failing public schools, families, and other institutions we are all responsible for maintaining.  It is so much easier to deny that a violent “gangsta” culture has infiltrated American youth, and blame George Zimmerman for the crisis.  How many times did we see the media show the pictures of Trayvon Martin as a young child, but refuse to show the photos of him exhibiting behaviors advanced by the youth “gangsta” culture?  That is simply unfair and unjust to George Zimmerman.  No, George Zimmerman is not Jewish, but Hashem commands us to seek truth and justice for all.  Although I have voiced criticism of star attorney Alan Dershowitz in the past on this blog, even he agrees that the government’s actions here were unjust.  I made a modest donation to Zimmerman’s defense fund, and he was kind enough to send me personalized thank you note you see above.

The fiasco surrounding George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin has severely tried my patience with the media, and the public generally.  In the mainstream media and social media, innumerable ignoramuses have blathered on about Florida’s self-defense statutes, plainly without any legal training whatsoever, and in many cases, without even bothering to read the laws.  Despite being characterized as “complex,” Florida’s self-defense laws are simple and straightforward to those who bother to read them.  There are some technical aspects regarding judicial procedure that lawyers may bicker over, but the general principles that citizens need to know are very straightforward.  Here I try and help.  To the intellectually honest who understand the law and objectively examine the facts, it will be obvious that the case against George Zimmerman was doomed from the beginning.

With respect to deadly force in defense of self, Florida statute 776.012 states that a person may use deadly force if that person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”  Re-read that 10 times if necessary, and think about each and every word.  Understanding that sentence is critical to understanding Florida law.  Florida law is not “crazy,” to the contrary, it is sane, fair and just.

1.  It is critical to understand that under Florida law, self-defenders are allowed to make reasonable mistakes.  Florida law examines what the defendant could have reasonably believed at the time she used deadly force, not whether deadly force was reasonable had all the facts been known.  This may seem odd at first, but after analysis it is clearly fair and just.  For example, if someone pulls an unloaded gun on you in a threatening manner, in truth they are not a threat to you, but you cannot know that at the time.  Suppose you shoot this person with the unloaded gun, using your loaded gun.  In fact, you have made a very unfortunate mistake as to the reality of the threat.  But, any sane person would agree that under those circumstances, the question is not whether your life was really in danger (it never was, remember–the gun was unloaded), instead, the question is whether you had a reasonable belief that death or great bodily harm was imminent.  In other words, you are allowed to make a reasonable mistake.  On the other hand, suppose a child points a clear plastic squirt gun at you.  You can tell it is only a water pistol, but have some unreasonable belief that the squirt gun is filled with deadly acid.  If you shoot the child, no matter how real the fear was to you subjectively, because the mistake was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances you would be acting unlawfully.

So for example, let’s consider the State’s allegations that after the fight, the wounds to the back of Zimmerman’s head did not look so bad, and a medical professional determined that he did not have a concussion.  It does not matter that these wounds were not “serious bodily harm” after the fact.  What matters is what Zimmerman reasonably believed at the time it was happening.  Notwithstanding that the blows didn’t cause any permanent brain damage or death, I think it was reasonable for Zimmerman to fear that at the time, and the six members of the jury obviously agreed.  I know the State tried to argue that the wounds were so light, that at the time Zimmerman was receiving them, he should have known they weren’t serious.  I think that argument is ridiculous, and obviously the jurors did too.

2.  It is critical to understand that a perception of an armed attacker is not a prerequisite to responding with deadly force.  Nothing in Florida law states that a defendant’s reasonable belief of imminent death or great bodily harm needs to be based on the perceived use of a weapon by the attacker.  Plenty of people have had their skulls bashed in, been strangled, paralyzed, and otherwise brutalized by nothing more than another person’s hands.  People who keep repeating the mantra that “Trayvon only had a pack of Skittles” are being intellectually and morally dishonest.  Bare hands can kill, and the real question is to ask exactly what Trayvon was doing with his hands.  Far too many refuse to ask that simple question, and refuse to accept the fact that Martin was indeed engaged in violence with his hands.

2. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) probably had nothing to do with the verdict.  (The so-called SYG law includes some procedural rules, but most Floridians understand it only as abrogation of the common law duty to retreat before responding with deadly force).  Under the aforementioned statute, a person “does not have a duty to retreat” in the face of a reasonable belief that death or great bodily harm is imminent.  This is repeated in 776.013(3).  Under the old English common law, a person had a duty to “retreat to the wall” before defending with deadly force, i.e. exploit all reasonably possible means of escape.  This may have sounded good in theory, but in practice the courts found it unworkable, and the second guessing by prosecutors and juries was incredibly unfair to citizens that had otherwise justly defended themselves.  So Florida and some other States did away with the common law, and explicitly removed a duty to retreat.  In most states, within your home you have no duty to retreat.  Florida extends the doctrine to the public square.

Rather than debate the wisdom of SYG, consider that it likely had no bearing on the Zimmerman verdict.  The evidence was clear that Martin had mounted Zimmerman, and thus, retreat was not reasonably possible for Zimmerman.  In other words, even if you think SYG is a terrible law and Zimmerman should have been required to retreat, that is a moot point because Zimmerman couldn’t have retreated from under Martin even if he had tried.  SYG was included in the jury instructions, so we’ll never know if the jurors agree with me on this point, but I strongly suspect they would, i.e. Zimmerman was trapped under Martin and couldn’t have retreated.

3.  Zimmerman’s following or “profiling” of Martin is legally irrelevant.  Frankly, I am baffled by the idea that somehow, because Zimmerman followed Martin or was concerned he might be a burglar, Zimmerman was not entitled to defend himself.  Even for those that think Zimmerman started some kind of fist fight or shoving match, under Florida law Zimmerman was still entitled to defend himself.  Specifically, 776.041(2)(a) states that even if Zimmerman “provokes” Martin’s use of force by following him, Zimmerman is entitled to defend himself with deadly force if he first tries to escape or defend himself by other means.  Again, the facts show that retreat was impossible at the time Martin began causing Zimmerman to imminently fear for his life (banging his head into the concrete).  So long as Zimmerman did not commit any actual forcible felonies (defined under 776.08) to provoke Martin, Zimmerman was entitled to defend himself.  Shoving, restraining, or taking a single swing is at most, a misdemeanor.  Following someone is not a crime at all (Florida does have a crime of stalking 784.048, but Zimmerman’s acts were unlikely stalking by definition, and one-time stalking is only a misdemeanor, and while aggravated stalking is a forcible felony, it occurs only in violation of a restraining order).

Thus, even if you somehow think Martin’s acts of violence towards Zimmerman were reasonable (albeit possibly mistaken under the circumstances) because Zimmerman somehow “provoked” Martin,  unless Zimmerman actually committed a forcible felony in the first instance, Zimmerman was entitled to defend himself with deadly force from reasonably perceived deadly force from which he cannot retreat.  Again, this makes sense to reasonable people.  If a person starts a simple fistfight in a bar, she should, with few conditions, be allowed to use deadly force against the defender who responds by jumping on top of her and  pulling out a knife.  Even if you believe Zimmerman started a “scuffle,” to argue that once Martin escalated the violence and left Zimmerman no opportunity to retreat, Zimmerman should not have been allowed to take action to stop his fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm is unreasonable.

As far as I can tell, nobody who paid attention to the evidence seriously believes that Zimmerman committed a forcible felony to “provoke” Martin.  However, it is not entirely clear to me why no instructions relating to 776.041(2)(a) were included in the jury instructions.  Perhaps nobody thought of it, or perhaps the defense did not want to plant any seed with the jury that Zimmerman may have provoked Martin, despite the fact that the State seemed to go with that theory.

4. The initial decision by the local police force not to arrest Zimmerman.  In most states, if you shoot someone in lawful self-defense, you will still be arrested nearly 100% of the time.  Whether you will be later charged with murder is another story, but initial arrest is almost always certain.  The police are not required to consider whether or not you acted in self-defense, and rarely will.  In Florida, things are slightly different.  776.032 prohibits Florida police from arresting unless they believe they have probable cause that the shooting was not justifiable by self-defense.  They can continue to investigate and gather evidence, but they cannot arrest until they have probable cause.  ”Probable cause” is an elusive concept.  There is Florida and federal case law discussing the concept at length, but I like to tell people that in layman’s terms it means “reasonably possible.”  This is a very low standard, much lower than “beyond reasonable doubt” that is required to convict at trial.  So technically, one could say the police should not have arrested Zimmerman until they believed it “reasonably possible” that his claim of self-defense was unsupported.  After reviewing the evidence at trial, I believe this decision could have gone either way, and do not fault the Sanford police for their decision.  There is no statutory bar against the State for simply bringing charges.  However, defendants are entitled to an immunity hearing, which essentially tries the case in front of judge solely to first determine if it will ever go to a jury.  Although it would seem that a defendant has nothing to lose by seeking such a hearing, there are complex strategical reasons why some defendants, like Zimmerman, might choose to forego the hearing.  We’ll never know if Zimmerman’s defense team made the right choice by forgoing the immunity hearing, but it all worked out in the end.

5. The burden is always on the State to prove guild beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the shooting was not in self defense.  An incredible number of Americans seem to refuse to acknowledge that our system functions on the principle that the State must prove its case to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.  This includes proving that Zimmerman’s self-defense claim is unreasonable (technically, a defendant must only make a prima facia case of self-defense, then the State must rebut it to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt).  It is not enough that a juror thinks the defendant is probably guilty, rather, the juror’s perception must be that there are no reasonable doubts whatsoever.  How any rational person could examine the actual evidence (not the lies and half-truths told by the media) and not have reasonable doubts (and in fact believe Zimmerman is innocent) is beyond me.

6. Potential for Federal case against Zimmerman
Yes, there are federal criminal laws against committing violence against someone solely based on their race.  But the FBI investigation conducted at the outset of the case revealed Zimmerman was not racially motivated, nor was he a racist. The news outlet NBC is now the subject of a civil trial because they intentionally edited the 911 tapes to make Zimmerman appear racist.  In fact, Zimmerman never used any racial slurs, instead he only identified Martin as black because the 911 operator specifically asked about Martin’s race.  Frankly, I am shocked that the American public is not more outraged by NBC’s behavior.  Nothing Eric Holder’s DOJ does surprises me, but bringing a federal case against Zimmerman would only make things worse the (misinformed) angry public, because Zimmerman would undoubtedly win that case.

7. Potential for Civil Case against Zimmerman
In theory, Martin’s parents could pursue a wrongful death claim under 768.16-26.  The theory would be that Zimmerman was somehow negligent or reckless, and that negligence was the proximate cause of Martin’s death.  However, not only would self-defense be a defense to that claim, Florida adopts the concept of comparative negligence, i.e. Martin could be found to also have been negligent (or reckless) and his percentage of negligence would reduce Zimmerman’s liability.  But perhaps most importantly, 776.032 actually shifts attorneys fees to Zimmerman if he prevails in a self-defense claim.  Normally, plaintiffs attorneys are eager to take wrongful death cases on contingency…they and the plaintiffs have nothing to lose, and would normally not have to pay a defendant’s attorneys fees regardless of the outcome.  However, in this case if Martin’s parents lose their claim against Zimmerman, they could be obligated to pay Zimmerman’s attorneys fees!  That might make them and any attorney think twice about bringing the case, given that the theory of the case has already failed in front of a jury of six mothers.

I hope this post sheds some light on the laws of Florida that affected the outcome of the case.  It is important as Jews that we speak out against persecution of all kinds.  Just because the mainstream media and the government have attacked George Zimmerman does not make him guilty in any way, shape, or form.  Jews who know their history should know better.  Baruch Hashem, George Zimmerman is finally on the path to the justice he deserves.