|Taskforce to review "Stand Your Ground"|
|Friday, 27 April 2012 10:20|
Responding to much public outcry following the shooting death of North Miami teenager Trayvon Martin, Florida Governor Rick Scott has selected a taskforce on public safety to review the state's controversial "Stand your Ground" law.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Martin on February 26 at a Sanford residential complex, had defended his actions, claiming he shot Martin in self defense.
This claim of self defense was believed by some in the legal community to follow the state's 2005 Stand Your Ground law, which gives residents the right to defend themselves if they have reason to believe their life is threatened by another, inside or outside their home.
Although Scott has fulfilled his promise to select a taskforce to review the law, there is concern that the taskforce, due to convene on May 1, is unbalanced by the selection of too many individuals who supported the bill that was passed and signed into law.
The designated chairperson of the 17 member task force is Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, who co-sponsored and voted for the Stand Your Ground bill in 2005. Other members of the task force include Florida Representative Dennis Baxley from Ocala, who sponsored the bill in 2005, Florida Senator David Simmons, another co-sponsor of the bill and Senator Gary Siplin, who voted for the bill. The taskforce also includes state Representative Jason Brodeur from Sanford who voted to pass a bill in the Florida Legislature in 2010 to ban doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.
The taskforce also includes state prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle of Miami-Dade, public defenders, private attorneys, neighborhood watch volunteers from across the state and a church representative – Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee and vice-chairperson of the taskforce.
Governor Scott defended his selection, arguing that he had chosen a diverse and qualified group "to carefully review our laws and our policies."
Two South Florida attorneys, remaining anonymous, expressed disappointment however with the taskforce's composition. One said the group "lacks objectivity," comprised of people who were strong supporters of the law. She feels the taskforce should consist of people willing to objectively analyze the law and its implications.
One attorney also said that while the law has its merits in protecting Florida residents from violence, there are two factors which need special attention; the need for a stronger interpretation of self defense, and a discussion on amending the law to protecting oneself only with homes or businesses.
One critic of the taskforce is Democratic Senator Chris Smith from Fort Lauderdale, a staunch opponent of the law. Reports had indicated that Smith was interested in being a member of the governor's taskforce, but was not selected because he did not apply.
According to Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, taskforce members were elected based on an application process. Smith however said he was not aware of an application process, and neither did other Democratic legislators who were also interested in serving on the taskforce.