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No select committee on Florida's Stand Your Ground law

3:33 PM, Aug 9, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A state senator's request to create a select committee on Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law has been rejected by the president of the Florida Senate.

Senate President Don Gaetz tells Sen. Chris Smith there's no need for a select committee because it would only duplicate the work of Gov. Rick Scott's Stand Your Ground task force last year.

Gaetz tells Smith in a letter that he can file a bill on the issue and take it through the normal committee process.

Smith said the law is being abused by some defendants. He points to several examples, including a gunfight between two gangs in Tallahassee that killed a 15-year-old boy. The shooters were able to claim Stand Your Ground.

Drug dealers involved in fatal shootings have also gotten off because of the law.

In another case in Miami, a man on the second floor of a building saw a robber stealing the radio out of his car. So the man chased the robber two blocks, caught him, stabbed him numerous times, and killed him. Smith said the man avoided charges by claiming Stand Your Ground.

The truth is both sides in a gunfight, knife fight, or even a fist fight, can use the law to avoid prosecution. Sometimes the last person standing offers the only version of events.

Sen. Smith argues the law is so broad, it's being used by criminals in ways never intended and even supporters realize it's time to fix a flawed statute.

"Even those that voted for the law, a majority are saying we never intended these scenarios. That's why you must revisit the law and revise it to get rid of some of these scenarios."

So Sen. Smith is filing a bill right now to reform the Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use deadly force in public if they feel a serious threat to their safety.

The legislation did not go anywhere in last spring's legislative session, but Smith hopes the increased focus on the law and rising political pressure will give the measure a better chance next year.

He believes all of the attention on the Stand Your Ground law following the George Zimmerman verdict has actually made Florida more dangerous because people understand they can initiate a confrontation and be protected from prosecution.

"Since the Zimmerman verdict those vigilantes are now realizing, 'Hey, this is something I can do.' Now that it's gotten more publicity, people see that they can go and start confrontations and use this. So I do think it makes things a little more dangerous here in Florida with widespread knowledge of how you can use this law and seek revenge on someone."

Dave Heller

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