Letting misinterpretations stand is the hallmark of the media’s coverage of this story. For instance, nowhere in NPR’s report did Allen mention that Zimmerman’s defense team never mentioned Florida’s “stand your ground” law. They argued traditional self-defense. The decision not to arrest Zimmerman in the first place wasn’t about that law either, despite widespread insistence that it was.
Much has been made of the fact that the judge’s instructions to the jury included the phrase “right to stand his ground,” without noting that that is part of a standard jury instruction. As prosecutor John Guy declared, “This case is not about standing your ground.”
This is not to say that “stand your ground” laws have no conceivable bearing on the Zimmerman case. Thoughtful critics of such laws, including President Obama, worry that they might create a climate in which people are too quick to resort to deadly force.
But that is an airy justification for the media to treat the law as if it were central to the whole controversy. Is it conceivable that NPR would let, say, a gun-rights activist’s wildly tendentious interpretation of a law stand without some explanation or context? Why should opponents of “stand your ground” laws get different treatment?