State News
6:45 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Stand Your Ground Critics Differ On What To Do About Law, But Agree It Has To Change

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A House committee has named a date when it’ll discuss a bill that would repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The scheduling was announced the same week as a Tallahassee forum where critics weighed in about the controversial law.

Miami Democratic Senator Dwight Bullard recently refiled a bill aimed at making changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law – a bill he says could have helped if it was passed earlier…

"... I am for [the] bill that repeals the law, not this mamby, pamby stuff that they are talking about in the Senate..."

“…that would have prevented the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman in the killing of Mr. Trayvon Martin, like defining what an overt act is, the person would have to brandish a weapon, be charging toward another person, be physically engaged in acts of violence before one wanted to use deadly force, as well as further definition of aggressor,” said Bullard.

An explicit definition of who qualifies as an aggressor is a sticking point with Bullard, who says that’s a major difference between the bill he sponsored and a similar bipartisan proposal that recently passed its first Senate Committee.

Trayvon Martin’s father Tracey says he believes the proposed changes will help. But, at a recent Florida A&M University forum discussing the law, he pointed to his son’s situation, saying there’s a difference between tweaks and making real change.

“If it’s only two people that are involved in the case and one is dead, so how can you determine who’s the aggressor? So, it has to be more than just tweaking it a little bit. It has to be more,” he said to applause.

2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender Nancy Daniels says while she’s hopeful about the reforms she’s seen so far in the Senate, she says she wouldn’t mind a repeal of the law..

“Just the very language of that made me believe that this was opening the door to kind of a ‘frontier justice mentality’ and sure enough that’s what’s happened and I think it’s harmful. It would not bother me one bit if it is repealed, as long as we do not encroach on the traditional defense of self-defense,” said Daniels.

But, for Daniels’ 2nd Circuit counterpart, State Attorney Willie Meggs, who’s been opposed to the law from the beginning, he says he’d still rather have a full repeal than a fix here and there.

“It fixed a problem we didn’t have. It’s created numerous problems we didn’t need, and it needs to be repealed. And, I’m for Alan Williams bill that repeals the law—not this mamby, pamby stuff that they’re talking about in the Senate that means absolutely nothing to anybody, but it just makes some folks over there feel good about being stupid,” said Meggs.

A hearing is scheduled for Tallahassee Democratic Representative Alan Williams’ repeal bill during the first full week of November, when state lawmakers next come back to Tallahassee. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will meet Thursday, November 7th, starting at 3 p.m. The hearing, chaired by Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz, is slated for five hours.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.