Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida Should Repeal Its Dangerous Self-Defense Law

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida Should Repeal Its Dangerous Self-Defense Law

Article excerpt

For the benefit of you who may be getting bored by nearly two months of stories about the Trayvon Martin shooting and might decide to skip this column, let me give you right here the message I would like to leave with you. It is this: The Florida Legislature should repeal its self-defense law, included in Florida Statutes Chapter 776.

You have, I am sure, had ample opportunity to read details of the shooting and all that followed, but please allow me to refresh your memory:

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 in Sanford, just outside of Orlando, George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood-watch coordinator, who was carrying a pistol, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old who was unarmed. Police arrived quickly, held Zimmerman for a couple of hours and released him. He pleaded self-defense.

About two weeks passed. No charges had been filed against Zimmerman. Unrest and demonstrations mounted in Sanford. Newspapers and television nationwide picked up the story. Before too long, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the case as special prosecutor.

Corey soon filed second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman. Zimmerman will stand trial unless he can persuade a judge to dismiss the charge, which is not impossible under Florida's self -defense law.

Here are the pertinent provisions of that law:

"A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

... "A person who uses force ... is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force. ... As used in this subsection, the term 'criminal prosecution' includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant. …

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