Florida’s “stand your ground” law has allowed drug dealers to avoid murder charges and gang members to walk free, reports the Tampa Bay Times. It has stymied prosecutors and confused judges. It also has served its intended purpose, exonerating dozens of people who were deemed to be legitimately acting in self-defense. Among them: a woman who was choked and beaten by an irate tenant and a man who was threatened in his driveway by a felon.
On the books for seven years, Florida’s “stand your ground” law is being invoked with unexpected frequency, in ways no one imagined, to free killers and violent attackers whose self-defense claims seem questionable at best. Cases with similar facts show surprising — sometimes shocking — differences in outcomes. If you claim “stand your ground” as the reason you shot someone, what happens to you can depend less on the merits of the case than on who you are, whom you kill, and where your case is decided. The shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain prompted a renewed look at the law. The newspaper identified nearly 200 “stand your ground” cases and their outcomes.