Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Reform the Stand Your Ground Law

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Reform the Stand Your Ground Law

Article excerpt

Anyone who thinks Florida's Stand Your Ground Law is just fine hasn't been paying attention.

The law creates incentives for Wild West justice under the pretense of self-defense.

Unintended consequences of the law include a spike in justifiable homicides, inconsistent interpretation of the law and a legal presumption that self-defense is justified even under absurd conditions.

For instance, the number of justifiable homicides by civilians increased by 200 percent in the first five years of the law, reported PolitiFact.

In Miami-Dade, a judge ruled that a man who chased down a burglar and stabbed him to death was standing his ground, The Miami Herald reported.

The final report from a state task force doesn't help matters much. Despite a series of hearings and a cast of VIPs, the report is superficial.

It concurs with the basic principle of the law that a person has a chance to defend himself against attack. But in too many cases that is not how the law is being interpreted.

In fact, it's so flawed that the task force suggests that the law be amended so that the definition of "unlawful activity" is added. The fact that the definition is even needed indicates a major problem.

The task force also suggested a clear definition of Neighborhood Watch Groups so that they are not used to confront or pursue potential suspects. But it doesn't go any further than that weak comment.

For real meat, you must go to the appendix of the report to find suggested amendments by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Her comments make clear the major flaws in the law.

Rundle would add the phrase "imminent peril of death" to clarify the Stand Your Ground defense.

It clearly has been used to justify any fear of attack no matter how absurd. Currently, the person fearing attack is presumed to be right without any evidence to the contrary.

As she wrote, "The law has removed all requirements of reasonableness on the part of the person who uses deadly force ... Thus, a person who without permission enters another's yard to ask directions or sell something and forcefully opens a porch door can be killed without questions being asked first.

"That person, who can be a child, may be conclusively presumed to have been there to do violence, and no evidence presented to the contrary can legally make a difference."

In addition, the Stand Your Ground Law needs to be clarified that it should not apply to someone who is the initial aggressor.

In short, the task force report should be considered a first step in a more detailed effort to repair a law that is severely flawed.

Following Rundle's recommendations would be a fine start.

LAND OF OPPORTUNITY

America traditionally does not guarantee equal results, but our nation does guarantee opportunity. …

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