Florida’s League of Prosecutors (“the lifeline of the judicial community”), an organization that claims to closely monitor issues that affect legal professionals and the judiciary in South Florida and across the country has filed a lawsuit to declare the state’s stand your ground law unconstitutional.
In court documents released to the Miami Herald . . .
[The League] asked justices to strike down the law because it unlawfully forces state attorneys to try cases involving self-defense claims before a judge, not a jury. “There is nothing specialized or unique about this defense that the common juror cannot understand,” according to the brief filed late Friday.
Additionally, Miami-Dade County’s State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (D) also filed a brief joining in the effort and is the first publicly elected state attorney (but not the last) to openly go against Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi (R).
Rundle has been in office since 1993 and was hand-picked by Janet Reno as her replacement when Reno became US Attorney General. Rundle has ruled Miami-Dade as her own personal fiefdom and is so disliked there that even her own has asked her to step down from office.
Of course, Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and the late Janet Reno’s pals at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence also are weighing in on this. In an amicus brief they both claim that the law “makes it harder to prosecute those who perpetrate gun violence, and ultimately encourages the unlawful and reckless use of firearms.”
Rundle’s neighbors to the north are also looking to jump into the ring. Broward County’s State Attorney Michael Satz said he is “reviewing the matter” and a spokesman for Palm Beach County’s State Attorney Dave Aronberg said he “agrees with State Attorney Rundle and LOP on the recent changes to the Stand Your Ground law,” suggesting he may join in.
But Hillsborough County’s State Attorney Andrew Warren told the Miami Herald that . . .
I opposed changing Stand Your Ground because it would significantly disrupt the operation of our criminal justice system and undermine public safety, while doing nothing to protect law-abiding gun owners. Last year’s amendment was an ill-conceived solution in search of a problem that predictably created confusion and gridlock in our courts, which is now wasting taxpayer resources and delaying justice for victims.
It should be surprising that we have public officials openly wanting to have a law declared unconstitutional because it makes their job harder. But it’s not. In my experience both as a member of the law enforcement community and as a private citizen who has fought for better civil rights in my state’s capitol, I’ve seen how prosecutors act.
For years, the burden of proof has rested on the defendant to prove to a judge that he/she acted in self defense because the Florida State Supreme Court ruled as such. This was changed, however, back in 2017 when lawmakers corrected the law back to its original meaning, forcing prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s claim of self defense. Prosecutors must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that someone was not acting in self defense.
Prosecutors don’t like the law because it makes them work cases they might not win. Prosecutors only like cases they can’t lose, so they can point to their conviction record and claim a long tally of judicial victories when it comes time to reelection and promotion.
Additionally, they don’t like the idea of actually having to prove beyond reasonable doubt that people they try were actually in fear for their lives and defended themselves justly. They’d rather have it the other way around, where the defendant must prove that they are innocent.
I can tell you this; if the Democrats win the gubernatorial and attorney general’s races here, Florida’s self defense laws will be sent to the shredder. If Andrew Gillum wins, his first act as governor will be appointing three supreme court justices and Sean Shaw will not, of course, defend the law in the courts as the attorney general.