Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law remains under public assault
By Derek Joy
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida State Legislature appeared to have tired of the assault by the Dream Defenders.
Their adamant stand against any changes to Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law has softened. While there was no Special Legislative Session, proposed changes to the law will be heard in both Houses during the next session.
State Senator Chris Smith (Dem., Fort Lauderdale), introduced SB 136 during the last Legislative Session without any success. He plans to introduce the bill again.
“They didn’t even hear it,” said Smith, an attorney by profession. “They said they like the law as it was. They didn’t think any changes were needed. What the Speaker (House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Central Fla. Republican) said “Make sure you hear this bill”,”
Weatherford so instructed Rep. Mack Gaetz, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee and son of Sen. President Don Gaetz. That mandate came after the Dream Defenders protested in Tallahassee for two weeks.
“The SYG Law should be changed. It’s a terrible law. It doesn’t allow the police to arrest, detain or investigate the charges,” said Smith.
“If you start a fight you are the aggressor. You shouldn’t have the ability to kill someone. You should have a duty to safely retreat. That‘s what the law was before SYG.”
Therein lies a point of contention with the SYG Law. It is what was summarily ignored in the George Zimmerman second degree murder trial for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Feb. 26, 2012.
Martin was visiting his father, Tracy Martin, and was returning home from a neighborhood convenience store when Zimmerman pursued him against the instructions of a Sanford Police Department dispatcher.
The fact that Zimmerman pursued martin, got out of his vehicle and confronted Martin, made him the aggressor, with a duty to safely retreat.
Zimmerman could have done that since Martin did not have a weapon. Nor had Martin committed any crime.
“I am for changing or dismissing the law,” said Mary Sims McCall, a Miami native and current resident of Seminole County, less than five miles from the location where martin was killed.
“There is so much injustice that has occurred involving this so called law. Gov. Scott is not cooperating, not helping at all with his move. I hope they continue to press him.”
Ted Pinckney, another Miami native who lives in Pinellas County, offered this perspective.
“In all honesty, the law itself is not the problem. It’s the interpretation. A person has the right to defend himself. The people who crafted the law had no idea of all the loopholes. For that rea-son, the law has to be re-written,” Pinckney said.
No strong argument was made by the prosecutor that Zimmerman was the aggressor with the duty to safely retreat from the confrontation he initiated with Martin. None of that would’ve happened had Zimmerman not pursued martin and got out of his vehicle.
“Yes, I think the law should be changed,” said Charles, Wiseman, 18, a June graduate of Norland High School, who just completed his term on the Miami Gardens Junior Council and is entering his freshman year at Florida International University.
“They didn’t point out at Zimmerman’s trial that Trayvon Martin was properly using the Stand Your Ground Law. That’s what makes it a bad law. It should be changed.”
Janet Saunders, a Miami resident and the mother of two adult sons, agrees with the need for a change in the law.
“There has always been a need for a change in the law. I never agreed with it. People use it to their advantage. It’s like cowboys and Indians. People are crazy. It makes people feel like judge, jury and executioner,” Saunders said.
“They feel like there’s no need for the police. Just kill people and get a-way with it. The law takes the police out of the equation. There are too many people who have mental problems with guns. The law is giving people too much ground. Give then an inch and they take a mile.”
Said Smith: “There’s a 75-percent chance that a Senate will make a change in the law. In the House, I doubt it because they are a little more radical, more entrenched in smaller districts than in the Senate.”