When SYG was passed in FL, jury instructions in self defense cases were changed to read: "[the defendant] had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." One of the jurors pointed to this in an interview, saying that SYG played a role in the deliberations, particularly in changing the three initial guilty votes (2 murder, 1 manslaughter) to acquittal votes. (That juror - 'B37' - self-identifies as a gun rights advocate and was one of the original three not guilty votes.) So while it is correct to say the defense did not proactively invoke the protection of that law, it's somewhat disingenuous to suggest that SYG played no role in this particular case.
I do agree that putting the onus on the attackee to flee a confrontation is a bit daft. However, I think there is concern that many of the SYG laws have been drafted with too broad a stroke. Which is to be expected, really, since the legislation is often drafted by the NRA.
This ambiguity leads to a great deal of confusion and aimlessness on the part of police and prosecutors. Consider the actions of the Sanford PD the night of the TM shooting: the uniformed officers that initially arrived did not properly preserve the crime scene, did not photograph GZ, did not seek to identify the dead body, etc. The investigating detectives scarcely questioned GZ at the scene, and did a poor job of collecting and preserving evidence. This is a problem for both building a potential criminal case against GZ, but also could have presented GZ with difficulty in obtaining exculpatory evidence to bolster his defense. And going from various accounts around FL, this is sort of par for the course following SYG. Police are specifically instructed to act with deference if they even anticipate a self defense claim.
How bad is the confusion? Even defense attorneys seeking to make use of the law's protections say it needs to be tightened up
"The law has created a massive amount of confusion as to what exactly constitutes self-defense and exactly how to apply the new law,'' said defense attorney Bill Mathewman, who hopes the Florida Supreme Court will grant immunity to a client currently facing trial for aggravated assault in Palm Beach County."
(That's from 2009, btw)
Last summer, a Tampa Bay newspaper began a survey
of the 200-odd self defense cases since the passage of SYG in FL. People who killed a black person walked free 73% of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59% of the time. Correlation is not causation, of course. But 14% is a pretty big difference, so it would be instructive to know drives that disparity. (Is it race bias? Is it something else? Is the sample pool so small that relatively these differences are not even statistically significant?) Conversely, the same survey found that whites and blacks were both charged and convicted at roughly the same rates. So the only real outlier in the data (available as of a year ago) is the race of the victim. (Is victim the right word in a self defense case?) The implication some read into that is that SYG makes it easier to get away with shooting or killing black people. I personally don't think that's the case, but we're still only talking about a total population of 235 cases in FL. The jury's still out, so to speak.