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self defense

House sends back Senate’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ bill

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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