Florida sheriff wants to amend ‘Stand Your Ground’

Don’t know how I got on this sheriff’s mailing list, but I thought some of y’all would be interested in his perspective:

Sheriff Scott Israel is the most outspoken sheriff in Florida when it comes to changing the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Click to view a recent article about his stance in Huffington Post  

Now that Tallahassee legislatures are considering amendments to “Stand Your Ground,” Sheriff Israel is making sure his voice and his view is heard.

Below is an op-ed available for publication that clearly states the necessity for change in this law.

Contact me for interview opportunities or additional information.


Jen Hobbs

Where I Stand On Stand Your Ground
Sheriff Scott Israel

I stand with the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in their fight to amend Stand Your Ground – to grieving mothers who lost their children to senseless gun violence.  Last Monday, these two brave mothers-turned-activists led a peaceful march with hundreds of protesters on the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee.  The women were joined by families of other victims of this law.

A bipartisan proposal by Florida State Senators David Simmons (R) and Chris Smith (D) passed the State Senate Judiciary Committee on October 15 by a 7-2 vote, and now heads to other committees for consideration before coming to the Senate floor for a full vote.  The original 2005 law was written by none other than Sen. Simmons.

I applaud Sen. Simmons for recognizing that the law is not perfect, and for reaching above partisan politics on this tremendously important public safety issue.  The proposed Simmons-Smith amendment makes clear that the statute should prohibit people from later claiming self-defense if they started or unnecessarily escalated a conflict when safe withdrawal outside the home was an option.

Many people have made the case that the George Zimmerman trial, which spurred the interest in revising Stand Your Ground, had nothing to do with the self-defense law.

This opinion is misguided.

In February 2012, when Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, the police who were called to the scene, unable to refute Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.  By law, they were unable to file charges and follow through with normal procedures, thus compromising the investigation from the start.  Sanford city officials stated: “By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.”

The Stand Your Ground law effectively tied the hands of law enforcement in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, and will continue to do so until this law is fixed.  In the case of Mr. Zimmerman, the threat was not immediate.  He should have been obligated to get in his vehicle, leave the area, and avoid that confrontation.  If the law had read differently, maybe he would have.

When Michael Dunn fired nine bullets into a Dodge Durango at four seemingly unarmed teenagers, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, his actions were facilitated by this broken law.  Deadly force should never be a first choice; it should be a choice used only after all other reasonable options have been exhausted.

The law is not stagnant.  It is open to change, particularly when the change leads to less violent incidents and more accountability.

As one of only a small handful of sheriffs in Florida to support a change in the Stand Your Ground law, I feel the need to be active and vocal in this all-important discussion. Florida was the first of at least 22 other states that have enacted similar Stand Your Ground statutes, so it is also right that we lead in the effort to fix it.  More than 26 young people in Florida have already lost their lives in Stand Your Ground cases.  This law, here and elsewhere, must be fixed before more needlessly die.

For these reasons, I support these important first steps in amending this valuable law.

17 thoughts on “Florida sheriff wants to amend ‘Stand Your Ground’

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “He should have been obligated to get in his vehicle, leave the area, and avoid that confrontation. If the law had read differently, maybe he would have.”

    Is he talking about the guy who was on his back, with someone on top of him beating his head against the ground?

    1. Juan Caruso

      Yours is an excellent question, B.C.

      And, if that answer were ‘yes’, how dedicated must the guy on his back have been to assuring his violent assailant did not grab his gun and pose and even greater threat?

  2. Karen Pearson

    Perhaps ‘stay in his car’ would be more appropriate. My concern is that the person who stood his ground need only claim that he thought he saw a gun (or the person made some kind of threatening move). I there needs to be some kind of verification of danger in situations of this nature. The claim of “I thought I saw a gun” or “I thought he was throwing something (more dangerous than popcorn) at me” allows one to kill another with impunity.

    1. Juan Caruso

      Well, Brad, your blog raises an interesting issue of political relevance to our State House.

      Rep. Harold Mitchell (D -Spartanburg) chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, introduced a bill that 16 other caucus members have signed on to since last week. Mitchell proposed deleting from SC’s Protection of Persons and Property law (20060 residents’ right to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker wherever they are, as long as they have a right to be there. http://goo.gl/pDMHHf

      More to the point, however, is whether or not Sen. Vincent Sheheen supports Mitchell’s outrageous bill. I suspect not.

        1. Juan Caruso

          To my point, Vincent Sheheen will not take an official side on the bill because it will cost votes either way. unofficially, he may continue to tell both sides what they wish to hear. As slick as that may be politically, it becomes transparently deceitful.

          To your point, please define “kids” (by age) and reference your statistic.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            A boy of 18 was shot in Columbia when the father of a high school girl ran out of his house and shot at some girls who were harassing his daughter, missed and killed the boy.

            For one story….

          2. Juan Caruso

            please define “kids” (by age) – JC

            A boy of 18 -KF

            Last time we looked, 18 was the age of majority, and it would be insulting to refer to an 18-year-old as a “boy”, especially one who was “black”.

          3. Mark Stewart

            I long since tired of responding to you; calling an 18 year old a man as you do here with the racial distortion that you show simply validates that perspective.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          Blacks make up 16.6% of Florida’s population but account for 31% percent of the defendants invoking the SYG defense. Black defendants who invoke SYG are actually acquitted 8 percentage points more frequently than whites who use this same defense.

          Mainly it’s because when a black person is the victim, the perpetrator is overwhelmingly likely to be another black person.

          But hey, saying that a statute is the problem is far easier than addressing why people are shooting each other.

          1. Mark Stewart

            The statue is a problem; and this is independent of why people shoot other people.

            Debate is the process of hashing out rational and informative conceptual frameworks. What is relevant here is the distinction between Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground – and the impacts that this distortion of the ethical framework has had on our society. Factual evidence is more often than not stilted; particularly as the “facts” become narrowly specific. I don’t need facts to understand that Stand Your Ground is destructive to our social fabric; logic informs that viewpoint.

          2. Doug Ross

            “I don’t need facts to understand that Stand Your Ground is destructive to our social fabric; ”

            There’s an example of the visceral, emotional response… DESTRUCTIVE TO OUR SOCIAL FABRIC? Really? How many cases are we talking about?

  3. Ralph Hightower

    The State published that the gang thug who paralyzed Martha Childress in Five Points is going to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense. Todd Rutherford is probably his defense attorney.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I believe you are correct.
      It would be malpractice not to assert this defense, so don’t blame the attorney.

      Now, the legislator….


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