|04-19-2012, 11:56 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Task force to review Fla's 'stand your ground' law
Lieutenant governor to chair 'Citizen Safety' task force
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -
The task force Gov. Rick Scott promised to look into the law expected to be central to the self-defense claim of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin took shape on Thursday.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who will chair the task force, and co-chair Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., of Tallahassee's Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, announced the 15 people who will serve on the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection.
"We are a nation of laws, and I am committed to letting our legal system work to ensure the people in our state are safe and protected," Scott said. "I have the utmost confidence that Lt. Gov. Carroll and Rev. Holmes are the best people to lead the review of Florida's citizen safety laws."
Zimmerman persuaded the police not to charge him for killing the unarmed teenager, but six weeks later, Angela Corey, appointed special prosecutor in the case, charged the 28-year-old with second-degree murder.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said his client will plead not guilty and seek dismissal of the charge using the "stand your ground" under Florida Statute 776. Many legal experts think he's got a good case, particularly if there are medical records backing up his claim that Martin broke his nose and slammed his head on a sidewalk. Other experts say, however, that the law will not protect Zimmerman if he was the aggressor.
Corey said she fully expects a fierce battle over the self-defense claim.
"If 'stand your ground' becomes an issue, we fight it if we believe it's the right thing to do," she said.
The wave of National Rifle Association-backed legislation that began seven years ago in Florida and continues to sweep the country has done more than establish citizens' right to "stand your ground," as supporters call the laws. It's added second, third and even fourth chances for people who have used lethal force to avoid prosecution and conviction using the same argument, extra opportunities to keep their freedom that defendants accused of other crimes don't get.
Martin's shooting has unleashed a nationwide debate on the validity of these laws, which exist in some form in most of the country and which prosecutors and police have generally opposed as confusing, prone to abuse by criminals, and difficult to apply evenly. Others are concerned that the laws foster a vigilante, even trigger-happy mentality that might cause too many unnecessary deaths.
An Associated Press review of federal homicide data doesn't seem to bear that out. Nationwide, the total number of justified homicides by citizens rose from 176 in 2000 to 325 in 2010. Totals for all homicides also rose slightly over the same period, but when adjusted for population growth, the rates actually dipped.
At least two-dozen states since 2005 have adopted laws similar to Florida's, which broadly eliminated a person's duty to retreat under threat of death or serious injury, as long as the person isn't committing a crime and is in a place where he or she has a right to be. Other states have had similar statutes on the books for decades, and still others grant citizens equivalent protections through established court rulings.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never weighed in on the constitutionality of such laws, and none has been struck down by a lower court. Defendants have sought dismissal of charges based on "stand your ground" claims in all kinds of cases, and defense lawyers say its use is growing.
The 15 members of the task force are:
The 15 members of the task force are:
•Sheriff Larry Ashley, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office
•State Rep. Dennis Baxley, of Ocala
•Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell, of Pensacola, shareholder with Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond and Stackhouse
•State Rep. Jason Brodeur, of Sanford
•Derek E. Bruce, of Orlando, attorney with Edge Public Affairs
•Joseph A. Caimano Jr., of Tampa, criminal defense attorney with Caimano Law Group
•Edna Canino, of Miami, president of the Florida Embassy of League of United Latin American Citizens
•Gretchen Lorenzo, of Fort Myers, neighborhood watch coordinator for the Fort Myers Police Department
•Judge Krista Marx, of West Palm Beach, 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida
•Maria Newman, of Melbourne, neighborhood watch volunteer with the City of Melbourne
•Katherine Fernandez Rundle, of Miami, state attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit
•Stacy A. Scott, of Gainesville, assistant public defender with the Eighth Judicial Circuit
•Mark Seiden, of Miami, self-employed attorney
•State Sen. David Simmons, of Altamonte Springs
•State Senator Gary Siplin, of Orlando
Carroll said her goal for a recommendation from the task force is prior to the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, which is when any proposed change to Florida law would be considered.
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