A newspaper study finds that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is applied unevenly, depending on the race of the victim, and that it has been used to free defendants in some shocking cases.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, nearly 70 percent of those who have claimed a “Stand Your Ground” defense to avoid being prosecuted have been successful, and those defendants are more likely to succeed in claiming the defense if the victim is black. The Times reports that 73 percent of people who killed a black victim were exempted from prosecution after claiming “Stand Your Ground,” versus 59 percent of people who killed someone who was white.
Meanwhile, the use of the defense is increasing in Florida, and in cases that state legislatures, who passed the law unanimously in 2005, likely never anticipated. From the Times:
. It has also been used by a self-described “vampire” in Pinellas County, a Miami man arrested with a single marijuana cigarette, a Fort Myers homeowner who shot a bear and a West Palm Beach jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier.
• People often go free under “stand your ground” in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.
Those freed include drug dealers, but not some people who shot a fleeing burglar. Often, the outcome depends on the composition of the jury, or the disposition of the judge.
The paper examined the law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, in which a white Hispanic man, George Zimmerman, shot Martin, an unarmed black teen, to death in February. He was not arrested for 44 days. After weeks of protests, Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder by a special prosecutor.
He is in jail in Seminole County, Florida awaiting trial, after a judge revoked his bond for misleading the court regarding his finances during his bond hearing.