The statute became controversial after it was used as a defense in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed last year. The task force said the law was “good” and should not be overturned.
Stacy Scott, a public defender for the Eighth Judicial Circuit and task force member said the task force worked hard to make a decision. The task force agreed that Florida residents have the right to feel safe and secure and can use force to defend themselves.
It took several hearings and a few months for the task force to make a decision. The report recommended the legislature clarify the term “unlawful activity” as it appears in the law. Scott said it was necessary in order to ensure a uniform application of the law across the state.
“It will be clearer to law enforcement and to prosecutors and to judges across the state,” Scott said.
Scott said fears that upholding the law would lead to police inability or failure to arrest suspects in cases where the “stand your ground” law is called as a defense were unfounded.
“The state attorney’s office in any given judicial circuit has the absolute authority to decide whether to prosecute a case or not,” Scott said.
Scott said the law shouldn’t be seen as a burden to law enforcement because it’s a part of their job.
“I believe that law enforcement should be conducting an investigation initially at looking at the suspect’s claims of self-defense,” Scott said. “People should not be arrested in a knee-jerk fashion just because there was some act of self-defense that resulted in harm to another person.”
After Martin’s death, groups of people traveled to Sanford to protest shooter George Zimmerman’s use of the “stand your ground” law. Across the nation, other groups gathered to protest, including a group led by civil rights activist Rev. Milford Griner in Gainesville.
“My concern is that there will be times when the law will be misused by someone who is not really threatened and will use it as an excuse to inflict violence on someone else,” Griner said.
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, who wrote the law, said the Travyon Martin case helped the public become aware of it. “If anything good could come out of that tragic circumstance was a clearer understanding of what our self-defense law is and what it is not,” he said.