“Stand Your Ground” Law Complicates Florida Murder Cases


A gang of young Tallahassee street thugs drove into a rival gang’s turf, guns at the ready, looking for a fight. Thirty shots were fired that day in 2008, says Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm. A 15-year-old kid was killed. Two of the invading gang members faced homicide charges. The case fell apart this spring. The actions of two gun-wielding gangbangers, a judge ruled, were protected from prosecution by the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law that expanded the definition of justifiable self-defense into something vague and plainly dangerous.

Someone claiming to feel “threatened” no longer has an obligation to retreat, call police or avoid the use of deadly force. “What this means, as illustrated by this case, is that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in the middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self-defense,” wrote Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. “It is very much like the Wild West,” said the judge. Willie Meggs, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association back in 2005, had warned that Stand Your Ground legislation would spawn unintended consequences. He called it the “shoot your Avon lady” law.’ The law has complicated once-routine homicide prosecutions. “We have been forced to spend significant time and resources litigating defense motions which, in essence, seek court-ordered immunity for defendants charged with violent crimes,” said Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe. For more on “Stand Your Ground” in The Crime Report: http://thecrimereport.org/2010/07/19/killing-in-self-defense-2

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