Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Florida task force reviewing 'Stand Your Ground'

Nearly seven months after the death of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Task Force, the panel appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to examine the controversial self defense law, is in the midst of a series of public meetings, reported the Miami Herald.

Florida’s 2005 law removed the duty to retreat if a person fears great bodily harm or death from an attacker. It stipulates that a person who kills someone in such a circumstance is immune from arrest and offers a person who is criminally charged a chance to get a hearing before a judge. That judge can offer immunity, which applies in civil court as well.

With four meetings held and three more to go, cracks in the controversial statute have begun to emerge, which followers of the task force’s work say are likely to result in recommendations to clarify a law critics say is so ambiguous that some people literally have gotten away with murder.

The 17-member task force has traveled the state since June gathering testimony from experts and the public.

Civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League and the League of United Latin American Citizens argue that studies indicate that laws like Stand Your Ground have a disproportionately negative effect on people of color, according to the Herald.

The law exploded in the national press because the Sanford Police cited it as the reason neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was not initially arrested after he shot Trayvon in a scuffle. Zimmerman said it was self defense, and because there was no immediate evidence to disprove that, he went home.

A national uproar led to a special prosecutor, criminal charges — and the task force to examine the law, reported the Herald.

“These laws distort the criminal justice system, allow aggressors to pick a fight and, if it doesn’t go their way, resort to deadly force,” said Allie Braswell, head of the Central Florida Urban League, who spoke on behalf of the Second Chance on Shoot First, a group that works to repeal such laws. “This law has so much ambiguity, it makes it hard for law enforcement to do its job.”

To read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/13/3001376/local-activists-and-families-urge.html#storylink=cpy

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