The House on Wednesday OK’d the Senate’s fix to the state’s “stand your ground” law to streamline claims of self-defense—with one change.
The House version changes the measure (SB 128) to switch the burden of proof to “clear and convincing evidence,” a lower threshold than the Senate’s “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to overcome self-defense.
Members voted 74-39 for the amended bill, sending it back across the rotunda.
The Republican majority in the Legislature wants to shift the burden to prosecutors, making them disprove a claim of self-defense. A state Supreme Court decision had put the onus on the defendant to show self-defense.
The stand your ground law, enacted in 2005, allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.
Democrats continued to inveigh against the measure, saying it would encourage bad actors to injure, even kill, and then claim self-defense.
“Dead men can’t talk,” said Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami-Dade Democrat. The bad guys will get away with murder under the bill because “there will be no one left to contradict them.”
But Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, said the bill was about “the rule of law”: “The state should have the burden of proof to say you committed a crime. This is simply a correction of a (judicial) misinterpretation of current law.”
Proponents want the burden to be on “the party seeking to overcome the immunity from criminal prosecution,” usually prosecutors, requiring a separate mini-trial, of sorts.
In 2012, Marissa Alexander, then of Jacksonville, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun to scare off her estranged husband.
She tried and failed to claim a “stand your ground” defense, saying she fired a warning shot to protect herself. But her conviction was later tossed out on appeal; she was let go after a negotiated plea agreement in 2014.