Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith Files 'Stand Your Ground' Proposal

By: Michael Peltier News Service of Florida | Posted: December 20, 2012 3:55 AM
George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman in the courtroom.

Armed citizens would not be able to automatically cite "stand your ground" protections if they provoke or pursue their assailants following confrontations, under a measure filed Wednesday by the Senate Democratic leader.

Chris Smith

Sen. Chris Smith

Responding to the death earlier this year of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, introduced a bill (SB 136) that would also allow law enforcement officers to arrest suspects who invoke the state's controversial stand-your-ground law under questionable circumstances.

“These common-sense changes are not about taking away gun rights from Floridians,” Smith said in a statement. "It's about stemming the culture of violence in our society by putting responsibility for the consequences back into the hands of gun users, and anyone who deploys deadly force under stand-your-ground.”

Existing law prohibits authorities from arresting stand-your-ground defendants unless there is probable cause to believe their actions were unlawful. The law is also unclear, Smith says, on whether someone can invoke the stand-your-ground law when they pursue their assailant.

Smith's bill, which is likely to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature, would require the state to set up a database to investigate the use of stand-your-ground defenses, which have come under increased scrutiny following Martin's death.

Neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman faces a second-degree murder charge despite his contention that he feared for his own safety. Zimmerman shot Martin during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford.

The death ignited a national firestorm of debate over issues of race, guns and self-defense.

Smith formed his own task force after Martin's death. The panel is separate from another set up by Gov. Rick Scott to investigate possible changes in the stand-your-ground law, which allows people to use deadly force if they feel they are facing death or great bodily harm.

The law is an extension of the so-called "castle doctrine," which allows residents to use deadly force to defend themselves in their homes or vehicles.

The Governor's Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection released a draft report in November following multiple hearings around the state that included testimony from 140 citizens and thousands of emails and other correspondence. The final report has yet to be released.

The draft report listed a handful of recommendations that included better education efforts to inform members of the public of their rights, training for law enforcement on the parameters of the law and possible tweaking of language to determine the definition of "unlawful activity."

The draft did not include any significant changes to existing law, but instead went out of its way to endorse the stand-your-ground statute.

The task force's first core recommendation was this:

"The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state," the draft report stated. "To that end, all persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner."

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

12:56PM DEC 20TH 2012
Ah, yes, "proportionate force" . . . . if that were true, I guess it would mean that Zimmerman might have been within his rights to (at most) have bloodied Trayvon's head and nose (assuming it wasn't gun recoil to the face that bloodied Zimmerman) . . . . . I've never heard or seen of any evidence proving actual deadly force was being used by Trayvon . . . . .
B Rodregas
2:59PM DEC 20TH 2012
I guess you haven't been paying to close of attention then.... no one seems to be questioning wether or not TM was using deadly force, the Martin camp is just trying to say he was justified in doing so....

The case is definatly getting a little clearer these days, and the more that comes out, the more it looks like GZ will not likely even see trial...

I know that I myself once found myself behind a vehicle where the driver appeared to be VERY intoxicated... I FOLLOWED the vehicle, recorded their license plate an information, and reported them to Police... did I have PROOF that they were doing anything illegal? No!, did I break any laws for FOLLOWING them until they stopped and notifying the Police that there was a possible drunk driver putting innocent peoples lives at risk... No!, did me following that vehicle give the driver of that vehicle justifaction to run up on me and try to beat my head off the pavement.... HELL NO!.... now if they had noticed me and done so do you think I should not be able to defend myself?

How is this any different???

Before you answer, remeber that the FBI's investigation founnd that race was NOT a motivating factor... while Crump's well paid PR campaign to hide the facts of the case and instead point at Zimmerman as a racist psycho that hunted Martin down and killed him in cold blood, when NO ONE has found ANY evidence that supports it....

Also... remember this... head injuries can easily be equated to Deadly Force... it only takes one good wack in the head under the right conditions to cause a fatal brain injury...

Now if Martin cracked Zimmerman and knocked him to the ground, then ran off instead of climbing on top of Zimmerman to administer some street justice, and Zimmerman had shot him while he was walking away... sure, string him up... but from the evidence, that does not appear to be the case, and wether or not you agree with what GZ did, it would appear everything he did was well within his rights, and if he had not done so this would have been a 6th page story about the body of a Hispanic-American found beaten to death on the sidwalk in his own community...
6:19PM DEC 22ND 2012
Didn't read the article very well, did you.

IF "proportionate force" is necessary as stated by the task force in Stand-Your-Ground (and last time I looked Zimmerman wanted such a determination), it is Zimmerman's burden of proof to demonstrate that similar force was being used against him . . . . want to take bets on that one . . . . thought not . . .

Pathetic . . . .
B Rodregas
9:23AM DEC 24TH 2012
Don't quite follow you Frank.... can't tell if you are agreeing or disagreeing.... but either way, Deadly Force appears to have been met with Deadly force here, and I have not seen any evidence that refutes that...

If you don't feel like having a 6" plus young man on top of you bashing the back of your head against the sidewalk is a big deal, I encourage you to try it and see how you feel about it then...

I remeber a couple of years back about a fight between a young black sailor (US Navy) and another young man outside a bar in Halifax, NS, Canada. Nothing more than a few shoves back and forth... the two ended up falling to the ground and the young sailor hit his head on the sidewalk. This was one blow, from a seemingly minor fall... but it resulted in the young man being killed.

If getting the back of your head wacked in a minor scuffle can result in a brain injury serious enough that you cannot make it a couple of blocks to the hospital without dying, and that's with Police on hand to immediatly take control of the situation and dispatch an ambulance, how could MULTIPLE wacks to the back of your head in similar fashion, with no one to stop the attack not also be considered a life threatening situation? Especially to the person who is enduring the beating?

The law says he is innocent if he reasonably believed his life was in danger, or he was in fear of serious injury... don't know about you, but gun or not, if someone starts bashing the back of my skull against a blunt object like a sidewalk, I will also be in fear for my life and/or well being, and I too would fight back with any and all means at my disposal to stop the assault for continuing.

From the evidence I've seen, I would be more than willing to take bets that the courts will find that Martin's actions could easliy be considered Deadly Force, and Zimmerman, after being unable to stop the attack, and having no one respond to his crys for help, was left with only two options, use his gun, or potentially die in the street in his own neighborhood...

You are right about "Pathetic" as well, this whole thing is pathetic... and what is more Pathetic is the blind eye that has been turned to things like the New Black Panther Party's bounty on Zimmerman's head, the actions of B Crump, the actions of the moron how came up with the Martin Hoodie practice targets, the actions of Spike Lee, and the actions of the Prosecutor, who have botched this case from day one. Their probable cause simply doesn't pass the stink test... and they can thank the FBI and FDLE for assisting Zimmerman in proving this...

Hell, even in the initial bond hearing the prosecutions own witnesses claimed that there was no evidence that points to anything other than self defence....
12:01PM DEC 26TH 2012
Yes, perhaps I'll dumb it down a little for you, since it appears to be your only time commenting on this website (once again I get the first-timers, almost like someone's stalking and using aliases) . . .

Just wait until your teen age daughters get blown away by someone believing his 10-year old son was being threatened by your daughters and he only killed them to prevent the forcible felony he believed was happening . . . . . (all covered by Stand-Your-Ground nonsense) . . . .

How about running after a thief for blocks and then stabbing the thief to death multiple times because he took one swing at you (although three months after being let off on Stand Your Ground, Greyston Garcia's fate was that he was killed driving back from a gas station by an errant bullet from a nearby firefight) . . . . that's not my America . . . . but apparently it goes for justice in your Florida today . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
11:42AM DEC 29TH 2012
that's silly, you do either one of those things, your going to prison regardless of what you claim. SYG does protect the stupid, or overly aggressive from anything, and in the end it's still up to the state atty and a jury to decide. i remind you juries are not perfect and justice depends at time on how much you can pay a lawyer, but the system usually works as it is.

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