Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Divided House approves 'stand your ground' shift

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 8:00 AM

A bill that would shift a key burden of proof in "stand your ground" cases was approved Tuesday by a divided House, with Republicans saying it would restore the intent of the controversial self-defense law and Democrats arguing it would increase gun violence.

The House voted 74-39 for the measure (SB 128), which is supported by Second Amendment groups and now will go back to the Senate. The bill would shift a burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors in pre-trial hearings and would reverse a 2015 interpretation of the "stand your ground" law by the Florida Supreme Court.

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, said the proposal would restore the original intent of the 2005 law, as the court's interpretation "got it wrong."

"It is not the court's role to impose their wisdom on us," Gonzalez said. "It is our job, through this collective body of incredibly diverse individuals, it is our job to argue, to discuss, to bend a few arms, to come to a conclusion. … The court's job is to interpret what our wisdom gives to them as their directive."

In its 2015 ruling, the Supreme Court majority opinion —- written by Justice Barbara Pariente —- said immunity in the "stand your ground" law "is not a blanket immunity, but rather, requires the establishment that the use of force was legally justified."

But a dissenting opinion, written by Justice Charles Canady and joined by Justice Ricky Polston, countered that the majority ruling "substantially curtails the benefit of the immunity from trial conferred by the Legislature under the Stand Your Ground law."

The Senate last month voted 23-15 to approve the bill, but the House made changes that will require the Senate to consider it again.

The House wants to require prosecutors in "stand your ground" cases to overcome the asserted immunity through "clear and convincing evidence." The Senate version set the standard as being "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, said the House standard is easier for the state to prove.

"If the government cannot beat the lesser, easier burden in an immunity trial, then they darned sure can't meet beyond and to the exclusion of each and every reasonable doubt when they ask for a conviction," Grant said.

However, Democrats contended the House proposal would make it even harder for the state to prosecute people using the "stand your ground" defense, with Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Orlando, saying the bill would incentivize people to leave victims dead.

"This bill gives abusers the leeway to shoot first and ask questions later," Brown said. "What stops an abuser from claiming 'stand your ground' as an intimidation tactic?"

In "stand your ground" cases, pre-trial evidentiary hearings are held to determine whether defendants should be immune from prosecution. The bill would shift the burden from defendants to prosecutors in the pre-trial hearings.

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.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation