Vice: self defense = murder . . . It’s easier than ever to get away with murder in Florida
“I was in fear for my life.”
That’s essentially all 22-year-old Reginald Bowman needed to say in court this week to justify shooting and killing 18-year-old Lyfe Coleman in Tampa in 2015. As long as prosecutors can’t prove he wasn’t afraid, he’ll go free.
Bowman is trying to use a new version of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which gives people immunity from prosecution for murder and other violent charges if they acted in self-defense. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature revamped the law and made it easier than ever for someone to claim they simply “stood their ground” if they killed or seriously injured another person. Now, courts are seeing more people claim immunity under the law.
According to Vice, it’s too easy to claim fear of death or grievous bodily harm in The Gunshine State.
Florida became the first state to pass a Stand Your Ground law in 2005. The old version required the person claiming immunity to prove in a pretrial hearing that they used deadly force because they felt threatened. Under the new version of the law, however, the burden of proof falls on prosecutors to convince a judge that the defendant did not feel threatened to move forward with the case.
At least Taylor Dolven, who wrote the post for Vice, doesn’t repeat the bogus claim that George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin was based on a ‘stand your ground’ defense. Well, not entirely.
The recent changes to the Stand Your Ground law are the latest in a series of additional protections implemented since George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teengare in Miami in 2013. Although Zimmerman did not claim a Stand Your Ground defense, the jury’s instructions included language from the law.
Dolven and Vice would no doubt like to see Florida go back the the bad old days of ‘duty to retreat.’ But thirty-three states have now enacted some kind of stand your ground protection for citizens who face the threat of death or grievous bodily harm and the trend is toward more legal protection for individuals, not less.