Whether it’s 2012 or 2018, Gov. Rick Scott hews to the same script when it comes to talking to media about Stand Your Ground cases.
The recent killing in Pinellas County of Markeis McGlockton, who was shot by Michael Drejka after a dispute over a parking space at a convenience store got physical, seemingly denoted the paradox at the heart of the Stand Your Ground law.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that Drejka’s response to the altercation conformed with his read of statute: “I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t make the law. I enforce the law. Others can have the debate if it is right or not.”
Absent from that debate, thus far: Gov. Rick Scott, who refrained from offering any opinion in a Lakeland gaggle this week.
“The case that just happened in the St. Pete area, you feel so sorry for the family. You hate anything like that happening. I know that the Sheriff is going to look into that. And ultimately, the State Attorney will make a decision on that,” Scott said, blending the emotional appeal with a disclaiming of responsibility, before lapsing into non-sequitur talking points.
“We’re at a 47 year-low in our crime rate. I think when you know what happens in the state, I think the state is very responsive, as anything happens, I think we have –- I’ll try to do everything I can to be responsive to always try and improve what happens. We are at a 47 year-low in our crime rate. But you hate anything like this happening,” Scott said.
For those who recall the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, many of these phrasings will sound familiar.
“You feel sorry for the Martin family. You can’t imagine losing a 17-year-old son,’ Scott said in 2012 to the Orlando Sentinel.
Scott offered variations on the theme in later media hits, per POLITICO.
“You want to be fair. You’ve got to be fair to that family — you feel sorry for Trayvon Martin’s family. But you’ve also got to be — you’ve got to have true due process for the accused, and this individual still is not even accused.”
[Scott, when asked questions about politically inconvenient murders, tends to revert to the “you just feel sorry for ____” construction, as he also did last month when asked about the killing of transgender women in Jacksonville and Orlando.
“I just feel sorry for people,” Scott told Florida Politics. “You hope that it would never happen.”
Just as he has in the McGlockton killing, Scott also deferred to the state attorney in the Martin murder: “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement state attorney Angela Corey, is going to do a great job knowing what happened and make sure justice prevails. We have to do that.”
That quote, from CNN’s “State of the Union” on Mar. 25, 2012, proved fateful.
Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of second-degree murder charges, and critics from near and far lambasted Corey, with one saying the prosecution efforts were “atrocious.”
Scott did not mention a 47-year low in the crime rate in the Martin killing; however, that was just because the calendar precluded it.
The Governor ruled out SYG changes in 2013, and mentioned the current number then, by way of justifying the policy.
“I don’t support changing Stand Your Ground,” Scott said of the law, per the Miami Herald. “We are in a 42-year-low in our crime rate.”
We reached out to Scott, asking if he supports the SYG law as currently configured and interpreted by the Pinellas Sheriff to mean standing one’s ground to save a parking space. We also asked if there should be a return to the common law presumption of proof in these cases, given that the current law offers discretion to the shooter that apparently even extends to fights in public parking lots.
Spokesman McKinley Lewis responded.
“Of course, the Governor is proud of Florida’s record-breaking low crime rate and his heart always goes out to families who have lost loved ones,” Lewis said.
Regarding SYG, it seems to be a settled issue for Scott, per Lewis: “The Governor expects that every Florida law be enforced and applied fairly by law enforcement and state attorneys, who are elected by Floridians. If the Legislature wants to make any changes to clarify Florida’s laws next legislative session, they can do so.”