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Castle Doctrine’

UPDATE: Lawmaker asks Scott to speed up ‘stand your ground’ task force, convene special session

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott said “it makes no sense whatsoever” to convene a special session or expedite the task force until the investigations into Trayvon Martin’s shooting death are concluded.

“The Governor has already convened a task force that will review all the facts of the case and make recommendations to him. It makes no sense whatsoever to call a special session before the FBI, FDLE and special prosecutor have completed their investigations, or before the task force has reviewed the facts, or before recommendations based on those facts have been presented to the governor,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said in an e-mail.

Waiting up to a year to start investigating the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law is too long, state Sen. Chris Smith said today.

Smith, a black lawyer from Fort Lauderdale and the incoming Senate Democratic Leader, is asking Gov. Rick Scott to speed up the task force the governor ordered to look into Florida’s first-in-the-nation “Stand Your Ground law” that allows individuals to use deadly force when they feel threatened.

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who said he shot Trayvon in self-defense, has provoked lawmakers like Smith to demand an investigation into the use of the law.

Scott conceded to demands from black lawyers and civil rights activists’ demands for an outside prosecutor to take over the investigation into the Feb. 26 shooting. And Scott said he wants a special task force to look into the use of the law, passed in 2005.

But Scott’s given State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville, the special prosecutor in the case, up to a year to complete her investigation. And the task force won’t meet until her inquiry officially ends.

That’s too long, Smith said in a statement released Tuesday. Smith wants the task force to start meeting next week and a special legislative session to start a month later.

“The questionable incidents and lives lost under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law did not begin, nor do I expect it to end, with the tragedy in Sanford,” Smith wrote in a letter hand-delivered to Scott’s office today. “While the special prosecutor sets about unraveling the facts in the case, and whether self defense was a legitimate factor, the law remains intact – with all the same components still in place for more killings and additional claims of self defense, warranted or not.”

Smith, then a Florida House member, argued against the “Castle Doctrine” proposal in 2005 before lawmakers passed it and Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law with NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer by his side. He and other critics say the law gives vigilantes and others cover when they incite deadly confrontations. Smith said he intends to file legislation to tweak the law. But supporters say the law does not give permission to anyone to pursue and confront anyone but rather to stand their ground when they are threatened.

It’s highly unlikely the GOP-dominated legislature would revisit the law prior to the November elections, according to observers including Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R- St. Augustine, a former Republican Party of Florida chairman. The NRA pushed the law and is a powerful lobby in a crucial election year.

But Rep. Perry Thurston, a black lawyer from Plantation, said that is all the more reason why the issue needs to be addressed now.

“There can’t be a better time than now for them to take it on,” Thurston, incoming House Democratic Leader, said. “The right thing to do is address it sooner rather than delay it.”

Sen. Siplin calls on Scott to appoint special prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Mike Haridopolos also says “no” to a special committee on the use of the “stand your ground” law.

“The Senate President feels that Governor Scott is currently taking all of the appropriate steps to address the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin. Additionally, the Senate President is confident that the circumstances surrounding this shooting will be closely examined by lawmakers, and if the Senate concludes that laws need to be revised they will be addressed in the future,” Haridopolos’s spokeswoman Lyndsey Cruley said in an e-mail.

State Sen. Gary Siplin and a coalition of other black lawmakers are asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate last month’s shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer near Orlando.

Trayvon Martin was killed last month by George Zimmerman, whom police identified as white but whose family says is Hispanic, in a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26. Zimmerman, who has not been charged with any crime, has said he shot the high school student in self-defense after a confrontation.

The shooting, now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and local authorities, has sparked an international furor with civil rights leaders demanding Zimmerman’s arrest and a probe into selective prosecution of white-on-black crime.

Siplin, an Orlando attorney whose district neighbors Sanford, said the community is plagued by a “plantation” mentality and asked Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to quell racial tension.

“In my community today, they’re very upset. They’re very excited. They’re ready to ignite,” Siplin, a Democrat and a laywer, said at a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

Gov. Scott on shooting death of Trayvon Martin: ‘You want to do everything you can to make sure this doesn’t happen again”

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott spoke with reporters this morning about the shooting death of an unarmed Florida teen by a neighborhood watch volunteer that’s put Florida’s “stand your ground” law in the national spotlight.

Scott said he is not concerned that the law is unfair.

“But any time we see something like that we have to review and make sure we’re not giving people the opportunity to use the law unfairly,” he told reporters before this morning’s Cabinet meeting. “You’re heart goes out to a family like that that loses a young man like that. You want to do everything you can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Scott late last night ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to cooperate in the investigation into Martin’s shooting death that prompted national demands for the arrest of George Zimmerman, who claimed he shot the 17-year-old in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, near Orlando. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the case.

While Scott did not order an inquiry into the shooting, he asked state investigators to cooperate in part to quell the public outcry.

“I think it’s the right thing,” Scott said before Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. “Any time there’s a situation where citizens are concerned that the right process is happening I think it can be helpful.”

Authorities in part blame the shooting on Florida’s first-in-the nation “stand your ground” law allowing individuals to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Zimmerman has said he fired the semiautomatic gun because he fired for his life.

The shooting has created a national furor and sparked accusations of racism because Martin was black and Zimmerman is white (his family says he is Hispanic). Al Sharpton is expected to join community leaders in Sanford to discuss local officials’ handling of the investigation.

Scott likened the tragedy to the death of Robert Champion, a Florida A & M University Marching “100″ band member who died after allegedly being hazed by his peers.

“Nobody wants something to happen to a young man like that. I mean, you look at Robert Champion or any of these…You’re heart goes out to a family like that that loses a young man like that. You want to do everything you can to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Scott said.

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