Stand your ground: Attorneys explain what law means in La.

Two Baton Rouge attorneys say Louisiana laws on justifiable homicide appear similar to Florida’s stand-your-ground law, mentioned prominently in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, who last year fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Both East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III and veteran defense attorney James E. Boren emphasized they have not regularly followed the Florida trial, which was turned over to a jury of six women Friday afternoon.

“We’re somewhat similar with Florida law,” Moore said. “I cannot say we’re an exact match.”

Stand-your-ground laws generally do not require people to retreat from others they fear intend them serious harm.

Attorneys for Zimmerman have argued that the neighborhood watch volunteer was attacked by the unarmed Martin after Zimmerman followed the teenager closely and persistently through their neighborhood. Prosecutors alleged that Zimmerman provoked Martin, then shot the teenager during a scuffle.

“A jury really has to decide who started this,” Boren explained. “Juries have to decide whether standing your ground is justifiable.”

Often, Boren added, “The aggressor cannot claim self defense.”

Twenty years ago in Louisiana, Boren said, “You could not shoot someone unless you were cornered. Otherwise, you had to retreat.”

During the past 15 years, Boren said, Louisiana law has been amended to the point that a person in his or her home, or lawfully in some other place, does not have to retreat from an aggressor the person fears is about to seriously harm her or him.

Louisiana law, Boren said, now holds that a law-abiding person confronted and threatened by an aggressor “may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

Moore, however, emphasized that someone who kills an aggressor in Louisiana still must have justification for his or her actions.