March 27, 2012 3:58 pm ET - by Chris Brown
Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law has become the subject of increasing scrutiny after the Sanford police cited the statute in their explanation of why they did not arrest George Zimmerman following his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's lawyer has also indicated that "Stand Your Ground" would likely be part of his defense against potential charges.
State legislators that backed the bill and a major gun lobby ally have begun claiming that Zimmerman's actions aren't covered by "Stand Your Ground." A central part of that claim is that "Stand Your Ground" doesn't cover Zimmerman because he pursued Martin. Writing at Foxnews.com, state Rep. Dennis Baxley, the author of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" legislation, argued:
There is nothing in the castle doctrine as found in Florida statutes that authenticates or provides for the opportunity to pursue and confront individuals, it simply protects those who would be potential victims by allowing for force to be used in self-defense.
Former Florida Sen. Durell Peaden echoed the sentiment saying, "There's nothing in the Florida law that allows him to follow someone with a d*** gun." On Hardball With Chris Matthews, the Second Amendment Foundation's Alan Gottlieb suggested "Stand Your Ground" didn't apply, saying Zimmerman "was the pursuer" and that "when you're pursuing you're not standing your ground."
Despite their protestations, a recent Florida case shows that Zimmerman's self-defense claim isn't the first time someone has pursued a person they later killed and then cited "Stand Your Ground" to avoid prosecution.
According to a report in the Miami Herald, Greyston Garcia pursued a car burglar attempting to steal his car's radio more than a block before stabbing him to death, an event captured by a video recording. Last Wednesday the judge threw out murder charges against Garcia citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Garcia "no longer needed to use deadly force to protect his home or unoccupied vehicle. "
An investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that justifiable homicides went up significantly after Florida passed "Stand Your Ground." The paper found that the law "has also been used to excuse violence in deadly neighbor arguments, bar brawls, road rage --even a gang shoot-out -- that just as easily might have ended with someone walking away."
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