Columns

Gutsy Reminder From Democrat Rod Smith: 'Stand Your Ground' Was Bipartisan

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 26, 2012 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ
Rod Smith's attempt to keep politics out of the Trayvon Martin tragedy is honest and courageous and entirely the right thing to do.

While liberals and other Democrats in Florida and across the nation lashed out at the 2005 Republican-led Florida Legislature for pushing through the "Stand Your Ground" law, the state Democratic chairman last week bravely clung to his own ground.

Smith's credentials on the law are rock-solid. This Democrat, this former prosecutor, co-sponsored "Stand Your Ground" while he served in the state Senate. When he says the 7-year-old law doesn't apply in the Trayvon Martin case, you are fairly compelled to listen.

Rod Smith

Rod Smith

And he still supports the veracity of the law.

"I did not believe then, and I still have a real concern why we should put a duty to retreat on a victim," Smith told The Tampa Times late last week. "If you were genuinely defending yourself, why did you have to retreat when you were not the perpetrator? ...

"We're talking about a young man (Martin) shot point blank at close range after you've been told not to pursue him, and no evidence that this young man was doing anything inappropriate. ... Is it reasonable to believe the smaller person attacked the larger? The younger versus the older? The unarmed versus the armed?"

Smith explained to the Times, "I've tried and defended 'Stand Your Ground' cases, and I've prosecuted murder cases. This individual (crime-watcher and shooter George Zimmerman), as I understand the facts, moved the ground toward the confrontation. That's not a 'Stand Your Ground' defense. Unless there are facts that I'm not aware of, I think you'll see an arrest made ... It's hard to believe that someone was not arrested that night."

You have to admire Smith for his remarks. They went a long way toward quelling the blame game among Florida Democrats, many of whom now claim they warned the Republican Legislature in 2005 that "Stand Your Ground" would only legalize homicide.

They can claim what they want. The truth is, that Democratic warning -- if there truly was one -- was mighty muffled.

The Senate vote on the law was 39 yeas, 0 nays, with Fort Lauderdale Democrat Mandy Dawson absent. The House vote came in a little livelier, 92-20.

Now when asked, the reason Democrats give for passing the bill like sheep through a stock gate is as former Sen. Steve Geller, a Broward County Democrat, told Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo: The National Rifle Association lobbied hard for "Stand Your Ground," it was going to pass anyway, and many Democrats facing re-election -- himself included -- didn't want to upset the police who had goodies just for them tacked onto the bill.

Next time you hear a Democrat legislator whining to a Republican about "Stand Your Ground," ask where his/her moral outrage and political courage were hiding when the vote was taken.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law was the first of its kind in the nation. Since 2005, 23 states have adopted a similar version -- "Stand Your Ground" or "Shoot First" or "Make My Day" -- laws asserting "expansive rights to self-defense."

Rod Smith, meanwhile, told the Times he wants to let the judicial process work. He said, yes, he believes the law is sound. But he will be the first to support restructuring it, should it be found literally to be letting people get away with murder.

I don't know a Republican or a Democrat in Florida who isn't completely and eagerly on board with that plan.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.




Comments (6)

Lillian Lima
9:07AM MAR 31ST 2012
I concur with Mr. Smith. If and when the " Stand Your Ground" law is applied correctly, it is a very sound law. If Zimmerman chose to pursue Martin (after being told not to, while also carrying a gun), then Zimmerman was the aggressor and Martin had the right to stand his ground. Therefore, it appears that the police department applied the law to the wrong person.
alachuagreen
4:45PM MAR 26TH 2012
This is a bad law, and the Trayvon Martin murder points up its fatal flaw. Rod Smith says the Stand Your Ground law doesn't apply to this case, but if that's true why wasn't Zimmerman arrested?

Of course, Rod Smith's "Stand Your Ground" law doesn't apply to citizens like Kofi Adu-Brempong, a Black UF grad student who was shot in the face with an assault rifle in his own apartment by a university police officer. Kofi had committed the "crime" of raising his voice during an emotional episode in which he had harmed nobody and posed a threat to nobody except himself. He was "standing his ground" in his own apartment, "armed" only with a walking cane, when he was shot. Of course Adu-Brempong was the only person charged by police and State Attorney Bill Cervone.

The sad irony in the Trayvon Martin case is that under the Stand Your Ground law, Trayvon would have been totally justified in shooting Zimmerman under the circumstances.
Frank
10:53AM MAR 26TH 2012
Oh yes - Stand Your Ground has no bearing on this case. Explain that to the police who have declined to arrest because of that law. Explain that to Zimmerman's attorney who is going to now claim exactly that defense. I can see where this is going. There's a third part of the law that's not really been discussed by the media - a defense based on preventing a forcible felony. That defense could potentially include an attempted justification that Zimmerman was pursuing to prevent a burglary to someone's house (check out the law, it appears to cover this specifically). If that complies with the law, then Zimmerman's pursuit and shooting appears to have immunity from prosecution. Arguably, I could use the defense against a 12 year-old bullying and stealing my kid's bike from my 10 year-old. As I've said before, this is a STUPID law; it is a BAD law.

If Zimmerman doesn't finger the kid as up to no good, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't follow after the kid, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't ignore the police's advice, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman stayed in his car, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't confront the kid, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman wasn't carrying a gun, Trayvon's alive.
If Zimmerman doesn't pull the gun's trigger, Trayvon's alive.
Only because Zimmerman did all these things is Trayvon dead.
wawoo
8:27AM MAR 26TH 2012
Yes, all the Senate Dems that voted in 2005 were indentured servants to the NRA and its taskmaster Marion, I really do have no conscience, Hammer.
Legal Gun Owner
5:16PM MAR 28TH 2012
I love how everyone blames the law when a tragedy like this happens. The Stand Your Ground Law does not say, or even imply that you should follow a suspicious looking person to see if he is going to commit a crime. It does not say that you should disobey direct instructions from the police when you are asked not to follow .......
It states that you have the right to defend yourself or others if you have a reasonable fear of your life (or theirs) during the commision of a crime.

If things happened as the media has reported, which should be investigated by the police, not the media, than it wasn't a self-defense situation covered by the Stand Your Ground Law. It was aa act of cowradness and murder by a person who did not obey the law a.k.a. a criminal.

You can all blame the law if you want to; but this act doesn't make the law bad, just the person who broke it.
Frank
10:34AM APR 2ND 2012
And what about when Zimmerman says he was pursuing Trayvon to prevent a forcible felony (e.g. further house robberies)? That IS covered by Stand Your Ground. And there is recent relevant case law on this point, concerning the justifiable running down of a fleeing car stereo thief and stabbing him to death with a knife. Is that what we want to come to in this state? If so, lock up your 12 year-old daughter, because if I were to see her out on the street trying to take my 10-old son's bike from him, I might be justified to take whatever (up to lethal) action "I" felt necessary to prevent that forcible felony under Stand Your Ground. I ask again, is that what we want to come to in this state? This is a BAD law; this is a STUPID law.

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