Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith decries Zimmerman verdict, calls for renewed focus on Florida’s self defense laws
By Michelle DeMarco
Press Secretary Florida Senate Democratic Office
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith on Saturday decried the “not guilty” verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, and renewed his call for a critical examination of Florida’s self defense laws.
“I am deeply disappointed in the jury’s inability to hold this man accountable for the shooting death of an unarmed teenager,” said Sen. Smith. “The fact that a child is dead and an armed man can now walk free without so much as a backward glance sends the wrong message to Florida and its citizens.”
Senator Smith added that the verdict underscored the growing need for a critical re-view of Florida’s self defense laws.
“The self defense claims invoked by George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin once again highlighted the glaring shortcomings in our self defense laws,” said Senator Smith. “While “Stand Your Ground” was originally claimed by Zimmerman, his attorneys ultimately opted to defend their client under Florida’s self defense statutes. And those statutes, whether they involve the meaning of certain terms, or the basics of provocation, remain fuzzily defined and broadly drawn, mirroring in many ways the same egregious loopholes found in “Stand Your Ground.” And, as the Zimmerman trial unfortunately under-scored, open to creative interpretation.”
Senator Smith – who last year convened his own task force of attorneys and other experts in the self defense statutes to impartially examine the use and abuse of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law – added that the basic procedures used by someone in a self defense claim needed to be on the table as well.
“The legislature has a duty to stem this culture of violence. If someone makes the claim of self defense and the only other witness to the confrontation is dead, there needs to be a higher standard for proving that the use of deadly force was justified,” said Smith.
The “Stand Your Ground” task force assembled by the Fort Lauderdale Democrat submitted a number of recommendations for revision to Florida’s self defense laws to Governor Rick Scott, the majority of which were promptly rejected. The governor’s own task force – the members of which included authors of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” and other contentious gun laws – recommended no significant changes to the current self defense statutes.