Should the Police Be Allowed to Be Judge and Jury? in Florida They Can!!
FLORIDA HAS ALLOWED ITS LOCAL POLICE TO BE JUDGE AND JURY
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? IT IS CALLED THE "STAND YOUR GROUND LAW". I didn't totally understand this until listening to the talking heads on HLN and Views, when one of the them said that under Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law" the local police "ARE NOT ALLOWED" to arrest someone if THEY think the situation warranted the killer to kill the victim because the killer had a right to "stand their ground"!!.
Are Not Allowed to arrest, can you believe that??? I didn't so I had to look up the actual statute and here is what it says:
Florida Statutes CHAPTER 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE
776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013. [Has to do with dwellings]
776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
776.041 Use of force by aggressor. —The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
THE POLICE ARE JUDGE AND JURY
Do those statutes sound like allowing the local police to be judge AND jury? It does to me. Now one might say that the police have the same right to decide who gets arrested and who does not in virtually all aspects of their work as it relates to criminal activity; and that would be true. For example, a robbery occurs and the clues lead the police to consider several "persons of interest". And, based on the evidence they develop, the police may find they have probable cause to arrest somebody, or, maybe they don't. If they do, then it is then the suspect(s) are arrested, based on the particular jurisdiction's procedures, the case is pushed up the chain to see if there is enough evidence to first charge and maybe prosecute the suspect(s). The point is, there are several authorities who have a bite at the apple.
These procedures break down when it come killing somebody; the police have an extra responsibility, an extra burden, to observe because of Florida's "Stand your Ground" law. In case of homicide, they must determine if any claim of "self-defense" is reasonable. If they, the police, not a jury, determine the "Stand your Ground" law applies, then the police are REQUIRED to let the suspect go. if they are being detained, and leave him alone forever after. Because, in the sole determination of the local police, with no further review, the person of interest is completely exonerated; no further legal OR civil action may be brought against the person who caused he death of another.
If the local police do not determine the "Stand your Ground" does not apply and arrest the suspect(s) then they have the option to request a hearing before a judge to press their claim of self-defense. And, if that judge determines the defendant is eligible for protection from Section 776.012 of the Florida statutes, and that Section 776.041, when the one left alive is the aggressor, does not apply then the defendants are protected from ANY further action by the State or relatives of the victim by Section 776.032. That is it, it is over; no trial, only a hearing, and no jury; its done.
Do you find this a reasonable state of affairs? I sure don't. The Florida legislature, I believe, intended to take the judicial system, a body they distrust to do the right thing, and they have done an extremely good job of it. The case that prompted this hub is the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin Murder trial where initially George Zimmerman, and armed man, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed minor (a shade over 17) one rainy night in Sanford, FL. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, saw Martin returning into his small neighborhood after buying Skittles and an iced tea wearing a hoodie. Both had every right to be there, as Martin was visiting his father, who lived there. Zimmerman followed Martin, first in his SUV, then on foot; Zimmerman carried a legal concealed weapon. They had an unobserved confrontation between two sets of townhouses where Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
FLORIDA TRIES GEORGE ZIMMERMAN IN THE 2nd DEGREE MURDER OF TRAYVON MARTIN
George Zimmerman was let go because of Stand your Ground, even though the lead homicide detective recommended a charge of manslaughter. He, however, was overruled by his superiors. This caused such a national commotion that Florida's Governor Scott ordered a special prosecutor to review the facts; the special prosecutor recommended 2nd degree murder; it had an included charge of manslaughter. The defense did not pursue a "Stand your Ground" hearing but went to trial claiming self-defense. They won and Zimmerman was found not guilty a few moments ago (about 10 pm, 7/13/13)
Not that it matters, I think the jury of six women got it wrong and that manslaughter would have been the proper finding, but it wasn't and I respect that decision. I listened to most of the trial and am convinced that the prosecutors lost this case through incompetence with the help of the Sanford, FL police department; I started thinking this about two weeks before the end of the trial. I suspect, since the jurors haven't yet talked about their decision, is they simply didn't believe the prosecution did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that George Zimmerman another alternative available to him other than shoot and kill Treyvon Martin.
For somebody in my position, having heard many things the jury was not allowed to, there was no question that Zimmerman had many other choices, but the jury didn't and they did their duty as they saw it; I am sure it was an extremely difficult job for them. But, it is what it is. One fortunate outcome from this is that Zimmerman is still subject to civil proceedings, a lâ O. J. Simpson; which couldn't be done if Zimmerman had won a "Stand your Ground" hearing. Since this isn't a hub about the killing of Trayvon Martin, I will leave it there.
A LAW TO FAR
I PERSONALLY HAVE NO PROBLEM with stand your ground laws, I became convinced they are necessary after the opposite outcomes got so ridiculous when I was living in California prior to 1987. So many people were getting convicted of using deadly force for protecting themselves, their family, and their property that the standing joke was "if you shoot an intruder into your home at night, and he falls outside your house, drag him back inside before calling 911." There was also a standing joke that "if the burglar isn't dead, shoot him again otherwise you will get your ass sued off and lose."
Now my frequent readers know that I lean a bit to Left of social issues, but not this one. The outcomes I saw in California courts year after year disgusted me, it just wasn't fair, it was flat unjust. Consequently, I think stand your ground laws are absolutely necessary. But Florida's law has gone way too far! They put the decision power in the solely into the hands of the local police and not the justice system; the people have been by-passed with no recourse. That, my friends, is just as ridiculous as I found the situation in California. It is my opinion that the decision on whether the Florida's "Stand your Ground" law should be left to a jury, not the police.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do You Believe a "Stand Your Ground" Law (any kind) is Necessary
Do You Believe the Florida Version of "Stand Your Ground", as stated in its Statutes:
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #1
Do you consider yourself politically
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #2
© 2013 Scott Belford