Think the George Zimmerman verdict couldn't have happened under California law? Not necessarily. Florida may have a so-called "stand-your-ground" policy written into its laws, but it is possible that a California jury under very similar circumstances could have also handed down an acquittal.
KQED's Joshua Johnson discussed California's stand-your-ground defense with Professor Rory Little of the UC Hastings College of the Law. From that conversation, here are five things to know about how California handles stand-your-ground defenses:
1) Neither California's constitution nor its statutes contains a stand-your-ground law. They have what's known as a "castle doctrine" (California Penal Code Section 198.5), granting a justification for deadly force inside one's residence. If someone forces his or her way into your home, and you have a "reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury," then you would be justified in using deadly force to defend yourself.
2) Even though it's not in the law, the California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) do allow a jury to acquit someone based on a stand-your-ground defense. The instruction appears in CALCRIM #505 and #506, both of which deal with justifiable homicide:
"A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of (death/great bodily injury/<insert forcible and atrocious crime>) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating."