The 19-member task force licensed to study the tenements of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law is sparking as much volatility as the law itself stemming from what some term as its clearly suspect recommendations.

After more than seven months of intense investigation, the Citizen Safety and Protection Force has suggested only minor tweaks be made to the statute which, at its core, allows citizens to expand perceived acts of self-defense to the point of using deadly force against their tormentor and not being legally required to remove themselves from any situation they view as personally threatening.

The panel was empowered last April, less than two-months after self-appointed Sanford community watch captain George Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow and confront unarmed teen Trayvon Martin as he walked back from a nearby convenience store in the direction of his father’s gated community home.

Within minutes of the encounter, Martin, 17, lay dead and the fiery debate over the legitimacy of such self-defense laws Zimmerman now maintains he was within his right in imploring have raged non-stop. Despite ignoring direct orders from police to cease in tailing the youth, Zimmerman remained free of arrest for nearly two months following the shooting. Ultimately, a public groundswell or outrage finally led to his arrest and he is now awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges.

But now, some six-months later, wounds are being reopened anew as word of the task force’s advice to only make relatively inconsequential changes to the law, such as clarifying if shooters claiming self-defense should be granted automatic immunity from arrest or detention while an investigation plays out and if all such suspects should be free of the burden of having to pay for legal representation while still under such scrutiny, have surfaced.

“The task force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner,” draft recommendations further stated.

As lead counsel for the Martin family, famed civil-rights attorney Ben Crump has been sure to peruse and comprehend all the fine print. “Clearly, the law is too vague on its face, because you have every Tom, Dick and Harry who shoots anybody now, for any reason, claiming Stand Your Ground,” he told local media. “In the Trayvon Martin’s case, it’s asinine that you can pursue someone, that you can be the aggressor and then shoot an unarmed kid and claim you were standing your ground. Until we fix this law, there are going to be a lot of asinine claims.”

David LaBahn, a member of the D.C.-based Association of Prosecuting Attorneys was perhaps even more poignant in his assessment. “An individual who chooses to kill another is given greater protection under this law than a law enforcement officer,” he said. “Prosecutors believe people have the right to defend themselves but offering immunity to those who choose to take others’ lives is problematic.”

LeBahn’s words take on added resonance given news of yet another troubling Florida shooting that surfaced late last week. Jordan Russell Davis, 17, was shot to death outside a Jacksonville convenience store at the height of an argument that commenced when his killer complained his music was too loud.

According to witnesses, Davis was hanging out with as many as four of his friends inside a parked SUV when confronted by 45-year-old Michael David Dunn and his girlfriend. After pulling alongside their sports utility vehicle, Dunn demanded that the teens turn down their music. Words were exchanged, before Dunn, an advent gun collector, whipped out a pistol and fired up to eight shots into the back seat, fatally striking the unarmed teen at least twice.

At that point, Dunn’s girlfriend, who had gone inside to buy wine, returned to the vehicle and the two fled the scene. Witnesses jotted down his tag number as he bolted and Dunn was arrested the next day at his Satelite Beach home. He too now maintains he acted “responsibly and in self-defense” in opening fire in broad daylight. Dunn’s version of events are made even more confusing over his assertion he didn’t even realize he had hit anyone, and only realized Davis had not only been shot but was dead the next day when viewing the news.

“It will be very clear that Mr. Dunn acted very responsibly and as any responsible firearms owner would have acted under these circumstance,” his attorney, Robin Lemonidis, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Despite the clearly, shoot-first, trigger-happy culture Stand Your Ground seems to be fostering, the man just selected by the GOP to be its house speaker is on record as saying he fully supports the law and the panel’s actions or lack of them.

“What we won’t do is use that tragedy as an excuse to water down people’s ability to defend themselves in Florida,” Will Weatherford said of the Martin shooting.

“They really spent a lot of time and energy to ultimately say and do nothing,” said former state Sen. And federal prosecutor Dan Gelber.

“The law is currently being used by criminals to create a defense that they are really not entitled to. This was a big wet kiss to criminal defense lawyers.”

 

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