PRLog (Press Release) – Feb. 21, 2014 –WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for shooting an unarmed black teen, and the refusal of another jury to convict Michael Dunn of murder or even manslaughter in the shooting of a second apparently unarmed black youth, Florida’s legislature is about to expand its very controversial “Stand Your Ground” law to provide even more protection for those who use lethal force and then claim self defense, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
The new law, arguably “Stand Your Ground on Steroids,” apparently would extend protection even to those who fire warning shots, perhaps including the very recent case in which Dunn was convicted of firing into a car of fleeing youths, says Banzhaf, who provided legal analysis to justify the self defense shootings of New York’s “subway shooter” Bernhard Goetz, DC’s “jacuzzi shooter” Carl Rowan, and others.
Although an attorney for the family of the teen killed by Zimmerman has called Stand Your Ground “legalized murder,” the bill would expand its protections to provide criminal and civil immunity in cases involving the threatened use of force when such force cannot be shown not to be justified by self defense.
Another legislator explained that it’s unclear whether the bill would allow defendants to shoot into a home or moving car when they feel threatened. Just days ago, Dunn was convicted of attempted murder for firing shots into a moving car, claiming that he still felt threatened.
The bill has already sailed through its final committee stop with broad bipartisan support, including 41 cosponsors, with only two members opposed. It is reportedly supported by public defenders, state attorneys, sheriffs and the NRA.
If the current bill had been enacted before the Davis killing, Dunn might not have been convicted of any crime in his first trial, says Banzhaf. If the bill does pass and its effect becomes common knowledge, it might make it even less likely that Dunn would be convicted of any crime in his second trial, especially since 25% of the jurors in his first trial believed that he acted in self defense, says Banzhaf.
Banzhaf has also pointed out that, regardless of this new bill, Dunn may well be saved from any prison time by an appellate court because of a serious apparent error in the jury charge.
The charge, said law professor Banzhaf, appears to be directly contradicted by the clear words of the applicable Florida statute, two authoritative interpretations of Florida’s self defense law, and hundreds of years of common law judicial interpretation of the justification of self defense in civil law situations.
Banzhaf, who teaches the law of self defense, also notes that there is a lot of confusion – by jurors, pundits, and others – about the stand-your-ground principle, which may not have even been applicable in either the Zimmerman or Dunn situations.