Reviewing Self-defense cases in Florida after stand your ground law put into effect

Michael Brady didn't think about his rights when he shot and killed a stranger in his front yard. He says he was just scared.

Brady is one of at least 13 people in Central Florida who pulled the trigger this year under a new law that loosens restrictions on the use of deadly force in self-defense.

They killed six men and wounded four more. All but one of the people shot were unarmed. So far, three of the shooters have been charged. Five have been cleared; the other cases are under review.

It is too early to tell whether the law makes Floridians safer or puts them at greater risk. There are no statistics on the number of self-defense claims statewide before or after the law took effect Oct. 1.

But an Orlando Sentinel review of five months of court records in Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties shows widespread differences in the way claims are investigated and prosecuted. . . .

Whether the new law has added too much gray area for investigators is unclear. But there is a wide range in how investigations of self-defense claims have been conducted. Some have involved more than 20 hours of detectives' time, while other cases were never reviewed by detectives.

In one case, for instance, an off-duty Maitland police officer was arrested after shooting and wounding his host and another guest at a Jan. 15 party near Casselberry.

Despite claiming he feared for his life, Daniel Metevier was jailed by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

The charges were dropped two months later, after Metevier, 30, underwent a lengthy tape-recorded interview with prosecutors. . . . .

As Robert points out in the comment section beating me to the punch, none of these cases obviously took place because of the new rules. No comparison is made to previous years. No evidence is provided that any of these individuals even claimed that they behaved differently because of the law. Despite the anti-gun nature of the piece, no cases are actually pointed to saying that the new law has resulted in any different out come, legally or otherwise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interesting thing about this article is that although it is not particularly anti-gun it gets most of the important stuff wrong.

The headline reads "Gun law triggers at least 13 shootings". This is a cute play on words, but nowhere is any evidence provided that the gun law triggered even 1 shooting.

The article notes that "The new law requires claims of self-defense to be investigated but prohibits police from detaining or arresting a suspect without clear evidence of another motive -- such as anger, frustration or malice." What it doesn't point out is that until now, and to a large extent still, shooters were treated as guilty despite any evidence to the contrary in that they were handcuffed and arrested prior to a determination of probable guilt.

The article goes on to quote Sgt Rich Ring of a Homicide Squad "In the old days, we'd say 'Where is the weapon?' Now the person only needs to have a 'reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm' and be able to articulate it," Ring said. "But what's reasonable fear? It's so vague, it's different for every one." What it fails to point out is that it has always been permissible to use deadly force in the presence of a reasonable belief that it was necessary to avoid death or great bodily harm.

Then the article says "Under the old law, Michael Brady would have been obligated to retreat, if possible, before shooting the man who trespassed and threatened to beat him in his Polk County front yard." This leaves out the all important qualification that the duty to retreat applied only if a SAFE retreat was possible.

The fact is that the new law ought not have much of an adverse effect. Who wants to take the chance of not meeting law enforcement's assessment of "reasonable belief". The stakes were and are too high - jail, lawsuits, etc.

Contrary to the headline it is just as believable that every one of the shootings mentioned in the article would have occurred under the old law.

Robert Ferguson, Ph.D.
NRA Certified Instructor

6/11/2006 3:30 PM  

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