Fla. State Sen. Chris Smith Concludes Independent 'Kill At Will'/'Stand Your Ground' Task Force

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Fla. State Sen. Chris Smith wasn't happy with Governor Rick Scott's task force to review the state's 'Kill At Will'/'Stand Your Ground' law, which received national attention in the wake of the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. So he created his own task force.

Scott's official state version of the task force was filled with legislators who voted in favor of the law in the first place and failed to include people affected by the law or who might seriously question it. Smith saw through the governor's ruse and created his own task force, which released a report on the law that is sharply critical of the law. Smith's task force was much broader than the governor's, including law enforcement, state prosecutors, public and private defense attorneys, and other legal experts

In the years since passage of the drastic revisions to Chapter 776 of the Florida Statute regarding the use of force in self-defense, Floridians have grappled with the tragic consequences of a arguably, ambiguous law which has shown demonstrable confusion within and among police departments, prosecuting offices and the courts. While commonly referred to as the ―Stand Your Ground‖ law, the statutes have not simply helped law abiding citizens protect themselves from attack, but instead, have often been used as cover for the perpetrators of crimes. Each day that goes by without legislative action places innocent lives at stake. While the focus on public safety and the previously well-established principles of self defense are paramount to the Task Force‘s review, the evaluation is also concerned with preventing operation of a system tantamount to lawlessness, where any person can, within a matter of seconds, render himself investigator, judge, jury and executioner, all in one. In a civilized society, governing institutions must provide all Floridians with grounds for confidence in the justice system.

The task force unanimously approved the following recommendations:

  • Cases should be presented to a Grand Jury to allow for a cross section of Society to determine what a reasonable person would do in that case
  • Educate the public and law enforcement
  • Create a system to track self-defense claims in Florida
  • Amend the imminent requirement—the law is inconsistent in making it clear that the shooter must "reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent [imminent] death or great bodily harm"

    A majority of the task force also recommended:

  • Remove the presumptions—making it possible to dispute the application of the law
  • Make presumption rebuttable—which would prevent the law from being used on suspects who were unarmed or fleeing from the scene
  • Eliminate the presumption of reasonable fear -- leaving it up to the jury, not law enforcement, to determine what 'reasonable' means
  • Define unlawful activity in section 776.013—the section makes it very vague in determining when the law applies
  • Clarify the role of provocation in application of the law

    Some on the task force also favored full repeal of the law.

    The full report can be found on FloridaStandYourGround.org.

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