The verdict in the Michael Dunn “loud music” case has sparked a new round of calls to remove Florida’s “stand your ground” law from the books, even though the case had nothing to do with the controversial self-defense measure.
The jury convicted Dunn on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, but it was unable to reach a verdict on the more serious charge of first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville. The state attorney said she plans to re-try Dunn on the murder charge, according to The Florida Times-Union.
Just like in the George Zimmerman case, Dunn claimed self-defense, and the affirmative “stand your ground” defense wasn’t raised. Nonetheless, because the jury was deadlocked on the murder charge, calls to reform — if not totally reject “stand your ground” — were heard throughout the state, especially from the black community.
“It’s a sloppy bill. It needs to be narrowly tailored and judges need more discretion,” U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said Sunday, according to The Times-Union. “When the law started, the intention was very good: If you break into my house, I’m going to deal with you. But when you extend [that premise], … there are problems.”
Palm Beach County Urban League President Patrick Franklin likened the Dunn verdict to the outcome in the Zimmerman case, according to CBS12 News.
Although “stand you ground” wasn’t used in either case, Franklin said the law has to change, insisting it denied justice to Davis and Trayvon Martin and predicting it will put more young black males at risk in the future.
“What do we tell them?” he said. “You can’t walk home by yourself. Now you can’t play loud music in a public area, or you can be shot and killed legally in the state of Florida. It’s absurd.”
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Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the original “stand your ground” bill in 2005, warned against considering any changes to the measure, according to The Times-Union.
“I would be very cautious to do anything with the legislation that would in any way diminish law-abiding citizens’ rights to protect themselves from violent acts,” Baxley said.
The Times-Union reported:
Baxley said the “reasonable man standard” in the law is often left unreported by the media. He said it’s a misconception that someone only has to believe his life is in danger to use Florida’s self-defense laws. He said self-defense can be applied only if a reasonable man would reach the conclusion they were likely to suffer great bodily harm or death.
“There’s nothing in the legislation that gives you the authority to pursue, confront or provoke another person,” he said. “It allows you to meet force with force.”
The time to debate radical changes to any law isn’t when emotions, no matter how well-intended, are at their peak. They should instead be argued dispassionately and with a clear head.
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