Florida's Stand Your Ground is bad law.
"People have had the right to defend themselves from a threat as far back as English common law. The key in Florida and many other states was that they could not use deadly force if it was reasonably possible to retreat.
"That changed in 2005 when Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Florida Statute 776.013. It says a person "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground'' if he or she thinks deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery.
"Now it's lawful to stand there like Matt Dillon at high noon, pull the gun and shoot back,'' said Bob Dekle, a University of Florida law professor and former prosecutor in North Florida.
"Durell Peaden, the former Republican senator from Crestview who sponsored the bill, said the law was never intended for people who put themselves in harm's way before they started firing. But the criminal justice system has been blind to that intent.
"The new law only requires law enforcement and the justice system to ask three questions in self-defense cases: Did the defendant have the right to be there? Was he engaged in a lawful activity? Could he reasonably have been in fear of death or great bodily harm?
"Without convincing evidence to the contrary, "stand your ground'' protection prevails."
If prosecutors press charges, any defendant claiming self-defense is now entitled to a hearing before a judge. At the immunity hearing, a judge must decide based on the "preponderance of the evidence" whether to grant immunity. That's a far lower burden than "beyond a reasonable doubt," the threshold prosecutors must meet at trial.
"It's a very low standard to prove preponderance," said Weaver, the West Palm Beach lawyer. "If 51 percent of the evidence supports your claim, you get off."
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"The limitations imposed on us by the 'stand your ground' laws made it impossible for any prosecutor to pursue murder charges,'' Griffith of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said at the time. "This is certainly a very difficult thing to tell a grieving family member.''
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"I think the (stand your ground) law has an emboldening effect. All of a sudden, you're a tough guy and can be aggressive,'' said George Kirkham, a professor emeritus at Florida State University who has worked as a police officer.
"Criminologists say that when people with guns get the message they have a right to stand and fight, rather than retreat, the threshold for using that gun goes down. All too often, Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for Pinellas-Pasco counties, sees the result.
"I see cases where I'll think, 'This person didn't really need to kill that person but the law, as it is written, justifies their action,' " Bartlett said about incidents that his office decides not to prosecute due to "stand your ground." "It may be legally within the boundaries. But at the end of the day, was it really necessary?"