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Task Force Backs Stand Your Ground Law

February 21, 2013 - 6:00pm

The states Stand Your Ground law is in need of some minor tweaks, but is otherwise warranted for the publics right to feel safe, according to the task force charged by Gov. Rick Scott to look into the self-defense measure after a Miami teen was killed in Sanford a year ago.

The Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection concurred with the core belief in the 2005 self-defense law Florida State Statute 776 that is better known as Stand Your Ground, while saying the term unlawful activity needs to be better defined, increased training is needed to educate law enforcement on the law, and state legislators should review standards for neighborhood watch groups.

This diverse task force listened to the people of Florida and provided a platform for different viewpoints to be shared on the important issue of citizen safety, Scott stated in a release.

I met with Trayvon Martins parents and our hearts go out to the entire family for their loss, especially as we approach the anniversary of his death. We look forward to reviewing this final report as we approach the beginning of the legislative session.

A number of task force members also gave separate recommendations.

Vice Chair R.B. Holmes Jr. suggested that clarification is needed for the definition of self-defense. Shooting a person in the back, as he is trying to escape, is, by definition, not self-defense, Holmes wrote.

Review the report here.

The law has been highly criticized since it was approved by the Legislature, but the spark for the task force, with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll as its chair, was the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting of Martin, 17, in Sanford.

George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder, was a neighborhood watch volunteer.

The murky case, heightened by inflammatory commentary and some questionable early reporting, remains in pre-trial mode.

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, who put together his own task force on the issues, said he expected there to be few earth-shattering findings.

Anyone who looked at that data realistically would have come out with stronger recommendations, as my task force did, to revisit Stand Your Ground, Smith told the News Service of Florida.

Give people the ability to defend themselves but we need to revisit and not perpetuate this culture of violence that Stand Your Ground is doing."

Smith added that he intends to file amendments to a bill expected from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, on the findings from the Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection.


Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, who has filed a bill, House Bill 123, that redefines the danger a person is confronted with to claim self-defense, expressed disappointment but not shock with the task force findings.

I think the deck was stacked toward this outcome by the Task Force. I think the people of Florida deserved to hear a fair and balanced discussion, but I dont think thats what they got in this case, Stafford stated in a release.

Its been said that law-abiding citizens have a right to carry their guns. Well, law-abiding citizens who dont carry weapons also have a right to walk down the street and sit in their cars and not be assaulted by a person with a gun. I was hoping for a different outcome to todays Task Force report. I just hope this law doesnt cause more deaths.

The task forces recommendations:

1. 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. To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner 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.

2. The task force recommends the Legislature examine the term unlawful activity as used in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, and provide a statutory definition to provide clarity to all persons, regardless of citizenship status, and to law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judiciary.

3. The task force recommends associations, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judiciary increase training and education regarding self-defense laws to ensure uniform and fair application of Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, and other related criminal statutes.

4. The task force recommends the Legislature review applicable standards for recognized neighborhood watch groups, as defined in Section 30.60 and Section 166.0485, Florida Statutes, to define the role of neighborhood watch participants as limited to observing, watching, and reporting potential criminal activity to law enforcement. The participants purpose is not to pursue, confront, or provoke potential suspects.

5. The task force recommends the Legislature examine the definition of criminal prosecution, as defined in Section 776.032(1), Florida Statutes, to remove any ambiguity for law enforcement to fully complete their investigation.

6. The task force has considered the Florida Supreme Courts 2010 decision in Peterson v. State. The task force believes the pre-trial adversarial proceeding set out in that case is proper.

7. The task force recommends the Legislature consider whether the civil immunity provision should extend to innocent third-party victims

8. The task force recommends the Legislature consider funding further study of the correlation and causation to include variables such as race, ethnicity, gender, application and fairness of the law in regard to the expansion of self-defense laws in the state of Florida, including a statistical comparison with other states. The task force recommends any report be issued by 2015 with periodic updates.

9. The task force recommends the Legislature review Floridas 10-20-Life law to eliminate any unintended consequences.

More to come.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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