A Florida task force commissioned by Gov. Rick Scott favors the state’s “stand your ground law,” reporting that the law is fine as is. The self-defense law garnered national criticism last year, particularly in the murder case of Sanford, Fla., resident George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, claiming that the unarmed Martin had engaged him in a physical altercation. P0lice did not arrest Zimmerman, nor drug test him on the night of the shooting, believing him to be acting within the parameters of the “stand your ground “law. Despite evidence that Zimmerman had followed Martin prior to the shooting, it took more than a month for Zimmerman to be charged with Martin’s murder. His trial is set to begin in June.
The 19-member Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection supported the law in a report delivered to the Florida state officials Friday, citing the right of citizens to protect themselves. Several suggestions were made in the report as well, including a recommendation for further study of the noted racial disparities in “stand your ground” cases. Still, the report backed the law based on its intent, allowing state residents to meet danger with deadly force, without retreating.
“The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state,” the report said. “To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be.”
Critics of the task force and its report felt that the conclusion was biased because of the individuals seated on the panel. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll was the head of the group, which was composed of two of the lawmakers who drafted the law, and others who voted in favor of it.
Rather than examining the necessity of the law, the group wanted to analyze whether or not it was functioning properly.
“It’s what I expected,” Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale said, according to the News Service of Florida. “When you put a task force together of people who wrote the bill and full of people who support ‘stand your ground.’ I knew the task force wouldn’t come up with anything earth-shattering in their final report.”