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.”