Florida lawmakers are poised to make significant revisions to the current Stand Your Ground bill this week, The New York Times reports. Under the proposed rule, it may allow more defendants to claim self-defense without having to provide evidence to support the claim. Instead, the burden would transfer to the prosecutors, who would have to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the rule does not apply.
The Senate passed the revised Stand Your Ground bill Wednesday (Mar. 15) by a winning vote of 23 to 15, ultimately clearing the path for the House of Representatives to pick up the law in the forthcoming weeks, the Times confirms. If the bill were officially passed, the defendant could simply proclaim self-defense, and the prosecution would be forced to prove with various evidence and witnesses, that the violent act was not justified. Republican Senator Rob Bradley suggests the new bill will put the burden where it belongs and uphold the American standard that you are innocent until proven guilty. “If a prosecutor doesn’t have the evidence to prevail at this immunity hearing … the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to win at trial,” Bradley said. “Innocent people will not go free as a result of this bill; this bill isn’t about creating loopholes”
While State Senator Dennis Baxley insists the bill will save a number of people, it does not seem to act on behalf of the other side. The provision reportedly allows people to use deadly force, without the responsibility of removing themselves from the situation before it turns violent, according to the Miami Herald. For example, if the law were passed prior to the high-profile case regarding retired Tampa policeman Curtis Reeves, who cried “Stand Your Ground” after shooting and killing Chad Oulson at a movie theater because he was texting, Reeves wouldn’t have been responsible for proving or explaining his use of deadly force. The prosecution would have had to prove, without a reasonable doubt, why Oulson essentially didn’t deserve to be shot.
Democratic Senator Gary Farmer, expressed some concern for the bill during a courthouse debate, saying that it puts prosecutors in a difficult position “of having to prove a negative.” “That’s a very difficult proposition regardless of the issue. When you add to that, in order to prove that negative, a prosecutor needs witnesses,” he continued. “This bill has unintended consequences of incentivizing shoot-to-kill. Dead men tell no tales.”
Following the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, Florida — aka the “Gunshine State” — has been thrust at the head of the discussion on self-defense laws in recent years. It is now reportedly up to the House to finish the job in one final hearing, the Herald reports. If the house gives the green light, the state would become the first state to enforce tougher standards or expectations of the prosecutors.