I missed a crucial part of the Florida law, and it is a part of most of the stand-your-ground laws around the country. I feel bad that I missed it, but so did most commentators, and so did the judge (in so far as jury instructions went).

      There’s an instigator exception: if you picked the fight, if you initiated the altercation, you cannot claim the stand-your-ground defense. You can still claim common-law self-defence: you thought your life was in danger, so you did what you had to do. But you might have to prove, or at least argue convincingly, that you had no chance to retreat or descalate. Could you have pulled your gun, and backed away? For instance. And you might be challenged about exactly how and why you got into the situation. You can’t just play the get-out-of-jail-free card.

      There is no real first-hand testimony about the sequence of events, who did or said what first, except Zimmerman’s version (via interviews and videos and statements — he didn’t testify in court). So he might still have won the case. But the dubious jurors might have hung on a little longer, and persuaded some of the others.

      The judge did it.