Bill to fix ‘Stand Your Ground’ law sails through House, heads back to Senate

Lee’s note: This good news just in from Sunshine State News:

Amended Stand Your Ground Bill Shoots Through Florida House

April 5, 2017 – 7:30pm

A slightly altered proposal to shift the burden of proof in Florida’s Stand Your Ground cases fired through the Florida House of Representatives Wednesday evening.

House members approved the measure by a vote of 74-39, sending the bill back to the Senate for approval.

The measure, SB 128, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would shift the burden of proof in Florida’s Stand Your Ground cases, which have grown controversial in recent years.

The legislation aims to give defendants more protection from prosecution in “Stand Your Ground” cases by requiring prosecutors to put forth “clear and convincing” evidence whether a defendant is entitled to immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity.

Initially, the Senate bill said prosecutors would have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant was entitled to immunity.

The legislation would flip the responsibility onto the prosecutor to prove why a defendant shouldn’t be allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense in court.

Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, sponsored the House companion bill.

Some of the biggest names in Stand Your Ground cases have appeared at hearings to support the bill, including Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman who faced 60 years in prison after firing a warning shot to her abusive husband in 2010. Alexander used the Stand Your Ground defense in her case, but was given a mandatory 20 year prison sentence. She was released in 2015 after striking a plea deal.

Representatives debated for over 90 minutes over the bill, which has gathered passionate responses on both sides. The bill has received strong support from conservatives and with pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association which says the bill protects the Second Amendment rights for gun owners.

Opponents, however, say the bill will cause more problems for Floridians, and Democrats have been especially vocal about shutting down the legislation.

“Flipping the burden of proof will do nothing more than increase the carnage that has been inflicted on our communities,” said Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Lucy McBath, whose son, Jordan Davis, was killed by a man who claimed Stand Your Ground defense, said she feared the repercussions of Wednesday’s vote.

“Expanding the already deadly Stand Your Ground law in Florida will lead to even more families having their loved ones killed by gun violence, particularly families of color,” McBath said. “Our lawmakers should focus on legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, not on measures that place targets on our children’s backs.”

Bradley filed identical legislation during last year’s legislative session and initially, the bill’s future seemed promising. The measure had a relatively easy time making its way through the Senate, but it did not fare as well in the House, where it stalled out in the House Justice Committee, flopping due to a 6-6 vote.

The measure comes on the heels of a Florida Supreme Court ruling last summer which said defendants would be responsible for the burden of proof showing they shouldn’t be prosecuted in “Stand Your Ground” cases.

“[The court] legislated from the bench,” said Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart.

The legislation had, at the time, gathered significant support from pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association, which said the bill was vital for gun owners who may use their weapons to protect themselves in potentially harmful situations.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been on the books since 2005, but it garnered national attention in 2014 during the Trayvon Martin case, where defendant George Zimmerman claimed he was using self-defense when he shot the black teenager to death in Florida. Zimmerman was later acquitted for the crime.

The bill now heads to the Senate for approval.

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.
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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

1 Comment

  1. Bill Fernandez, Sr. on

    Stand your Ground was not invoked in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case! Hope this now sales thru the Senate & goes to Governor Scott.

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