A controversial measure that would shift the burden of proof in “stand your ground” self-defense cases cleared its first stop Tuesday on an expected fast track through the Florida Senate.
The Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 — along party lines — to back the proposal (SB 128) by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. The measure would shift the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors during pre-trial evidentiary hearings in “stand your ground” cases.
The committee also backed an amendment by Bradley that would make the contents of the pre-trial hearings inadmissible at trial if self-defense claims aren’t granted.
Opponents contended at Tuesday’s committee meeting that the “stand your ground” law has disproportionate effects, as it is used more successfully as a defense when white shooters kill African-Americans. But Bradley called the bill “color-blind.”
“What I hope is the outcome of this is something that I hope we all agree on, that people who should not be arrested are not arrested and people who should not go to trial do not go to trial,” Bradley said. “If I believed that an individual who was otherwise guilty would go free, because this bill passed, then I wouldn’t have filed the bill.”
The proposal stems from a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that said defendants have the burden of proof to show they should be shielded from prosecution under the “stand your ground” law. In “stand your ground” cases, pre-trial evidentiary hearings are held to determine whether defendants should be immune from prosecution.
Bradley’s proposal, which has the support of the National Rifle Association and the Florida Public Defender Association, was approved by the Senate in a 24-12 vote last year. The current measure has only one more stop ahead, the Rules Committee, before reaching the Senate floor.
Typically, bills are scheduled for three committee appearance before going on the floor.
The proposal has returned for the 2017 session, which starts March 7, because it failed to get through the House committee process last year. Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, has filed the House version of this year’s bill (HB 245).
The “stand your ground” law has long been controversial. It says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
Critics of Bradley’s bill said it would put an end to cases before all the facts are revealed.
Debra Harrison Rumberger of the League of Women Voters said the “stand your ground” law already gives an advantage to people who use deadly force in cases of a perceived threat and that Florida will become more dangerous in shifting the burden of proof.
Bradley’s bill also comes as the House and Senate consider legislation that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns and carry guns at places such as college campuses.
“Combined with the proposed open-carry and campus-carry bills, the risks of standing your ground will almost certainly increase violence,” Harrison Rumberger said.
Lucia McBath, representing Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said Bradley’s proposed change would add stress for families of people killed.
“Having lived through this grueling experience first-hand, with two trials for my son’s murder, I can attest to the anguish and the pain that this process elicits,” said McBath, whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was killed in a dispute over loud music at a Jacksonville gas station in 2012. “We should not make it harder for family members to achieve the justice that they deserve by making gun crimes harder to prosecute.”
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Welcome to the wild freaking West.
Steve Robinson says
Lunacy. Total lunacy.
It is crazy that Jane is the only one fighting for Flagler Beach. She can’t do it alone. Where were the other council members we elected?
Welcome to Trumplandia!
You are so right, Steve. . . nothing short of lunacy! Unfortunately, it certainly appears this is just the beginning of the outrageous insanity on many, many different fronts!
This is a victory for law-abiding citizens who have the right to protect themselves and their families. Nothing in this bill would, or has any previous law prevented law enforcement from thoroughly investigating the use of deadly force in self defense cases. All this law does is restore the original intent of stand your ground; that is to prevent people who lawfully defended themselves from being unnecessarily arrested and prosecuted while also shielding them from civil lawsuits. It was the Florida Supreme Court that mangled the law and instituted these immunity hearings that placed the burden of proof of immunity upon the person who may have lawfully protected him or herself. Why should a crime victim be presumed guilty until proven innocent, when a murderer is given the exact opposite benefit of the doubt? If you don’t like it here, then you can go back to New Jersey where you can be sued by a burglar who trips over a chair in your living room while robbing your house. THAT, is ridiculous.
Yaaay… I can start an argument with anyone I don’t like, shoot them dead, claim “stand your ground”, and skate free because it’s my word against the dead guy’s. How would a prosecutor ever prove otherwise?
Love Floriduh! Free range murder will soon be the answer to every conflict.
Why is this ” lunacy, crazy, the wild freaking West, outrageous insanity and Free range murder? Other then with the IRS MUST you PROVE your innocents over the Government PROVING your guilt???