Stand Your Ground Task Force: Law Should Stand But Needs Clearer Wording

Sep 12, 2012

After February’s fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, the state task force assembled to study the controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law are continuing to gather public input.

The task force is considering what changes to recommend to the legislature after holding a workshop in West Palm Beach on Wednesday.  

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott’s Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection, made up of lawmakers, law enforcement officers, lawyers and others, is touring the state to listen for public input on the Stand Your Ground law and to decide what changes, if any, it will recommend at the end of the year.

The law, passed in 2005, said people no longer had a duty to retreat when they were being violently attacked. That means people can kill someone if they fear for their own life. But some say the law is so vaguely written that it might stop murderers from being prosecuted. David Boden says his 22-year-old son, Jason, was unarmed when he was shot and killed three years ago by a man who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

“So many questions," he said. "And because of this stupid law, the state attorney says it cannot win Jason’s case.”

But Ocala Rep. Dennis Baxley, who was the law’s main sponsor, says it makes Florida a safer place.

“I don’t want anyone to feel that they have to take a beating, that they have to be raped or that they have to murdered and they cannot be confident that if they stand against that act of violence that we won’t stand with them," he said.

An academic report presented to the task force on Wednesday shows that since the law was enacted, there was a drop in violent crime in the state and a rise in the rate of tourism. But the report’s author, University of Florida criminal law professor Monique Worrell, cautioned against drawing any conclusions about whether Stand Your Ground might have contributed to the changes in any way.  

“Without further research, without interview data and polls of population data, we cannot provide any causation or even correlation as to the impact that Stand Your Ground has had on the state of Florida," she said.

The task force unanimously agreeed that the main part of the Stand Your Ground law, which says there is no duty to retreat when faced with an attack, should be upheld. But, it’s discussing how to clarify the law’s wording to make it more uniformly enforced across the state.

The group meets again on Thursday in Cutler Bay and in Jacksonville on Oct. 16.