Democrats in the Florida legislature who have been demanding a special session to address the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law may have to settle for a committee hearing.
Majority Republicans say Democrats shouldn’t expect any abrupt changes in the statute, which has become associated with the Trayvon Martin case even though defendant George Zimmerman did not invoke the law in his defense.
Since the jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder, critics of the decision have been trying to roll back the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows a potential victim to defend himself, even with deadly force, if he fears for his life.
The alternative, presumably, would be to require potential victims to run away.
Perry Thurson, chief of the Florida House Democrat Caucus, said there is “demonstrable confusion within and among police departments, prosecuting offices and the courts about the application of the law.”
He charged that “Stand Your Ground” is being used “as cover for perpetrators of crimes.”
Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat state senator from Orlando, said, “I think a person should be arrested, then an investigation, a very thorough investigation should be conducted and then they should be released if it’s found that that is warranted.”
However, David Simmons, a state senator from Alamonte Springs, said the law is simply affirmation of the right of an “innocent victim to make the decision in that split second as to whether to try to disarm the assailant.”
CBS 4 in Miami reported state House Speaker Will Weatherford has told Matt Gaetz, chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, to have a hearing on the concerns.
In an opinion piece Friday in The Tampa Tribune, he wrote: “Our evaluation of its effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency. Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”
Comments and discussion will be accepted, but Gaetz suggested that expectations of a sudden change might not be fulfilled.
“I don’t intend to move one … comma on the ‘stand your ground’ law,” Gaetz told the station. “I’m fully supportive of the law as it’s written. I think any aberrational circumstances that have resulted are due to errors at the trial court level.”
Protesters have been staging a sit-in outside the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott for days, demanding a change in the law.
The Naples News reported Weatherford does not support changes but is willing to hear concerns about whether the law needs to be made more clear.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, also has announced a campaign and petition to apply pressure on the governors of the 21 states where there is a form of the “Stand Your Ground” law.
She charged that her son was “stalked, chased down and killed by George Zimmerman, and Zimmerman received no punishment whatsoever.”
She accused, in a fundraising email, the judge in the trial of “instructing” the jury to “think of what Zimmerman did as self-defense.”