Senate votes to clear up ‘mistakes’ in self-defense law for homeowners
Sen. David Simmons

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A bill clarifying that homeowners need not wait to be attacked inside their dwellings before resorting to defensive force passed the Senate Thursday.

CS/CS/SB 1052 would reconcile conflicting statutes involving self-defense, correcting drafting errors muddying the legal situation made in 2014 legislation, bill sponsor David Simmons said.

“Senators, this protects all of us in our own home. It’s rational. It’s reasonable. It brings us back to the way it was prior to the mistakes that were made in 2014, drafting errors,” Simpson said.

The Senate defeated efforts by Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez to clarify that force would have to be used against an aggressor.

He cited the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, in which George Zimmerman shot the teenager after following him through a neighborhood.

“You do have a duty to retreat if you provoke and you do not stand down,” Rodriquez said.

A provision in existing law says one must wait to be attacked before using force. But other provisions hold that the right of self-defense begins when one “reasonably” believes it is necessary, according to a staff analysis of the bill.

“They must actually believe — not only reasonably, but subjectively believe — that their lives are in danger, and they must reasonably act,” Simmons said at one point in the debate. “How much more do you want to impose upon a homeowner?”

Democrat Audrey Gibson said she agreed with the bill in principle but couldn’t vote for it on the floor — even though she had in committee.

“So much negative has gone on in various communities, particularly as it related to people of color,” Gibson said. “And if I stand here today and support what I do believe is right within your bill, there will be newspaper articles in district and across the state that say, ‘Gibson supports stand your ground’ — and that could not be further from the truth.”

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

One comment

  • jack burton

    April 14, 2017 at 8:13 am

    At the time he was shot by George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin was already a suspected serial burglar, stolen gun trafficker, and multiple drug abuser with a self-documented history of committing violence against other people, and enjoying it. It is nothing more or less than a statement of absolute fact to describe Trayvon Martin as matching the dictionary definition of a “thug” well before he ever encountered George Zimmerman.

    George Zimmerman was on his way to the store when he noticed a figure in the rain lurking outside the window of a home in his community which had just recently been burglarized. This is very suspicious activity, and Zimmerman called 911 and followed the suspicious character from a distance while relaying information to the dispatcher.

    When that figure noticed Zimmerman following him in his truck at a distance, he sprinted away between buildings, and quickly disappeared in the dark. Zimmerman left his truck in a vain effort to keep the suspicious person in sight for responding officers, but gave up his attempt when the dispatcher told Zimmerman “we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman then walked to the next cross street to provide the dispatcher the address of the last known location of the suspicious person, hung up his phone, and began walking back to his truck.

    More than four minutes had passed since Trayvon Martin ran away.

    Out of the darkness, Trayvon Martin came up behind George Zimmerman, and said “what you followin’ me fo’?”

    Martin then sucker punched Zimmerman, knocked him to the ground, mounted him like an MMA fighter, and began raining down blows along with smashing his head back into the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman repeatedly cried for help from his neighbors, and while several called 911 at some point in the fight, only one man stepped out briefly to yell at Martin to stop attacking Zimmerman, but he offered no help in stopping the attack. Rachel Jeantel, the girl who was on the phone with Martin, later said in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN that she believed Martin thought Zimmerman might be gay, rendering the attack a gay-bashing.

    After enduring an attack estimated at more than 40 seconds in length Zimmerman drew his pistol and fired one shot in self defense. It was later proven in court that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense. The use-of-force expert who testified during the trial said that he was surprised that Zimmerman waited as long as he did to draw his gun and fire upon Martin, and that he would have been justified in doing so much earlier.

    George Zimmerman was reacting to suspicious behavior, and did not know or care about the race of the person he was following. He did not initiate contact, and did not fire until well after he was attacked and well after he was legally justified in using his gun in self-defense. He did nothing criminally wrong the night he was forced to shoot Trayvon Martin, and only made the tactical mistake of leaving his vehicle and exposing himself to attack from a violent young predator.

    The facts are in. The jury decided correctly. It is up to each individual whether to accept the clear facts, or stand on illogical emotion. Standing on emotion means helping perpetuate the race problem. Yes, it is sad that Martin was killed in this incident, but the facts show that he wantonly attacked Zimmerman, and Zimmerman had every right to defend himself against this unlawful, felonious, and deadly aggression.

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