The Goetz case Vs. the Martin case.

In the various Martin/Zimmerman threads, I stated I thought that since Martin was in fear of bodily harm, it was ok for him to hit Zimmerman. I was told that fear alone is not a justification for the use of force, the burden is on him to retreat, and therefore Martin was acting like a thug and deserved to be killed.

In the Goetz thread, it seems to me some of the same people are saying the opposite of this. Here is one example.

I’m not understanding why Goetz is seen as a hero defending himself but Martin is seen as a thug that deserved to be killed. Even though he was the one being stalked by a stranger with a gun.

With Goetz, they only had screwdrivers, but on that thread all I see is a bunch of excuses of why it was ok for Goetz to shoot them.

There’s no evidence that Martin knew Zimmerman had a gun. It’s often said, “Zimmerman followed him with a gun”, but that’s not very useful considering that if you leave the house in many states, you’ll be followed by someone with a gun at some point. YOu just won’t know who is carrying and who isn’t.

Martin was not killed for punching Zimmerman, but for mounting him and bashing his head against the ground. Martin was larger than Zimmerman, in better shape and could have run away if he had felt threatened. He also had a phone. He could have run away, called the police, or called his family if he felt threatened. Plenty of alternatives to violence.
The Goetz case was totally different. Goetz was accosted by four men, all larger than him in an closed space where there was no possibility of escape. There was nothing else he could have done to defend himself other than brandishing the pistol.

Whomever told you that is correct that fear alone is not justification for the use of the force.

They are incorrect that Martin, Zimmerman, or anyone else in Flordia has a duty to retreat before using force in self-defense.

Is there one post in particular you can point to?

Setting aside inflammatory value judgments like “thug” and “deserved to be killed”, in the Goetz case, four men surrounded him and demanded money. That is a robbery. Under New York law, deadly force can be used to prevent a robbery.

In the Martin case, Zimmerman followed Martin for some distance, then stopped. He may or may not have resumed following him after hanging up with the NEN dispatcher. Even if he did, following someone is not a threat or a crime. Unless Zimmerman threatened or attacked Martin, Martin was not justified in using force in self-defense.

It depends on what facts you choose to believe, I suppose. Goetz was cornered in a subway car and confronted by four people who (he thought, probably correctly) were trying to mug him.

Martin saw someone who believed (correctly) was following him and looked creepy.

Obviously, neither Goetz nor Martin would have any way of knowing the extent to which the others were armed.

Assume for a moment that both being surrounded by four black youths and being followed by a cracker constitute a reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury, you have to ask whether the attack was necessary to prevent it. If you choose to believe that Zimmerman chased down Martin and confronted him, then the answer is more likely to be yes than if you believe that Martin confronted Zimmerman and attacked him.

Because Martin is black.

  • Honesty

Facts and law be damned, it’s just that simple, eh?


I’m not understanding why you’re contrasting Goetz and Martin. Shouldn’t you be comparing Goetz to Zimmerman, and Martin to Allen/Canty/Cabey/Ramseu?

It’s a minor quibble, but I was trying to parse the sentence and realized it was comparing apples to oranges, if apples had guns and oranges got shot.


I can see the allure of that perspective, it offers simple answers to complex questions, and means not having to put in the work of reading up on the particulars of individual cases. Alluring as it is, though, it’s worthless as a method of answering the question from the OP. Unless, that is, one is willing to embrace a delusion that in all cases in which a black person is shot by a non-black person, the non-black person was in the wrong, and the black person was denied justice.

Because Goetz was attacked, and Martin wasn’t.


I believe you’ve misinterpreted what you linked to.

If so, please explain. The relevant statute is:

Bolding mine.

See subdivision one.

Bolding mine.

… unless the subsection Human Action bolded applies.

Not following you. Deadly force cannot be used under the circumstances of subdivision one (reasonable belief that it is necessary to prevent the imminent use of unlawful physical force). It can be used under the exceptions of subdivision two, including (b), as robbery, rape, and such are inherently threats.

By way of support:

Self Defense Laws in New York

A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial

I believe you misinterpreted what you were told.

You use the word “fear,” without any qualifiers, in a way that constitutes the fallacy of equivocation: fear alone not being a justification for the use of force in the case of Martin, and Goetz’s fear somehow being justification for his actions.

At the outset, it’s fair to point out that Martin’s conduct is viewed through the laws of Florida in 2012 and Goetz’s through the laws of New York in 1984. But putting that aside:

In Martin’s case, it’s absolutely correct to say that his “fear,” alone, is not sufficient. The evidence did not show that Martin had a reasonable belief that he was facing imminent death or great bodily harm, or facing a forcible felony. So you cannot simply shortcut that standard to “fear.” Martin may well have been afraid, but that alone does not entitle him to use deadly force. A reasonable fear of imminent death, great bodily harm, or facing a forcible felony would.

Now, Goetz. Goetz did in fact has reasonable fear of a forcible felony. The evidence showed that Goetz was seated, four men working with each other surrounded him, and one demanded money. The jury that heard those facts credited them as true and decided that Goetz’s fear was reasonable. So, again, to simply characterize this as “fear” is poor analysis: it was a reasonable fear of robbery.

The limits in subdivision one are:

[li]The robber’s conduct was provoked by the shooter with the shooter’s intent to cause physical injury to the robber – no evidence of this in Goetz’s case[/li][li]The shooter was the initial aggressor – no evidence of this in Goetz’s case[/li][li]The robber’s initial force against the shooter was the product of a combat by agreement – no evidence of this in Goetz’s case[/li][/ul]

No. Subdivision two are not exemptions. They are requirements that are necessary to fulfill the justification for physical force listed in subsection one.