The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Aug. 28 in a dispute about whether a Broward County sheriff’s deputy could use the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law after being charged with manslaughter in an on-duty shooting.
Justices agreed in February to take up an appeal by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office and issued an order Friday scheduling the August oral arguments. Bondi’s office contends that Deputy Peter Peraza was not legally entitled to claim immunity under the “stand your ground” law in the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean. Instead, Bondi’s office contends, officers can seek a more-limited type of immunity under another part of state law.
The 4th District Court of Appeal, however, upheld a circuit judge’s decision that Peraza was entitled to immunity from prosecution under “stand your ground” and that his use of force was justifiable. The case stems from an incident in which Peraza received a report of a man walking down a street openly carrying a gun. Peraza and another officer pursued the man and ordered him to stop and drop the weapon, the appeals-court ruling said. The man did not drop the weapon, leading Peraza to fatally shoot him. The weapon turned out to be an air rifle.
Peraza was indicted on a charge of manslaughter with a firearm but successfully used a “stand your ground” defense. Under the law, a circuit judge held a pre-trial evidentiary hearing before siding with the deputy’s arguments.
The controversial “stand your ground” law says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. When the defense is successfully raised in pre-trial hearings, defendants are granted immunity from prosecution. Bondi’s office has argued that police incidents are subject to another part of state law that can provide what is known as “qualified” immunity.