Conflict & Justice

Florida's Far-Reaching Self-Defense Laws May Be At Front of Global Trend

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George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on Saturday for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in this central Florida town in February of last year. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX11MAA

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman's recent acquittal was based on a state law in Florida giving citizens the option of using deadly force in self-defense.

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That Florida development may be at the front of a global trend, says University of Chicago law professor Tom Ginsburg.

Ginsburg says legal developments in the US coincide with more aggressive interpretations of self-defense laws in countries including Belgium, Italy and Britain, and may help drive more far-reaching interpretations of self-defense theory in other parts of the world.

"It's not clear that this Florida law is going to be followed around the world, it just seems like a significant possibility, and it seems like something that is resonant in the culture of many countries."

Ginsburg notes changes in constitutions in Turkey, Peru, Paraguay and Kazakhstan now specify a right to self defense.

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