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Home / Government and politics / Florida Senate Votes To Strengthen Stand Your Ground Law

Florida Senate Votes To Strengthen Stand Your Ground Law

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The Florida Senate has passed a new bill that amends Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

Senate Bill 128, which was passed 23 to 15 Wednesday, seeks to shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecutor. As it currently stands, the Stand Your Ground law requires defendants to prove during the pretrial that they are immune from criminal prosecution under the self-defense law.

“What this bill does, senators, is put the burden of proof where I would, respectively, suggest it should rightfully be,” said Republican Sen. Rob Bradley to fellow senators during Wednesday’s Senate session. He’s also the author of the bill. “From the beginning of a criminal case to the end, [it] is with the state, and that the standard of proof be beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Bradley could not be reached for further comments.

Florida was the first state in the country to enact the self-defense law back in 2005. Now, 24 states across the country have some type of Stand Your Ground law in place.

Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who authored the original 2005 law, spoke on the Senate floor and said if the state believes someone committed a crime, it should always be the state’s responsibility to prove a crime was committed.

“I’m sorry if that burden seems too heavy, but that’s what we do in America,” Baxley said. “You’re innocent until proven guilty.”

However, not all Republican senators were in favor of the bill.

Sen. Anitere Flores, the second highest ranking Senate Republican, voted against it, despite previously voting in favor of it in a subcommittee in February. After state attorneys from her home district of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties expressed their concerns of the possible financial burden, Flores changed her mind.

“The state would be proving the case twice,” Flores said. “There’s a strong concern that many more defendants will invoke the Stand Your Ground defense because they know it will shift more work onto the state attorneys on the front end.”

Democratic senators also voiced their concerns with the bill, calling it a “shoot-to-kill” and a “how-to-get-away-with-murder” bill shortly before the Senate passed the bill.

Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson said that since the bill went into effect in 2005, evidence suggests it has made crime worse.

“The data shows us–and I believe in data–that many more people are dying as a result of this Stand Your Ground bill,” Gibson said.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was associated with a 24.4 percent increase in homicide and a 31.6 percent increase in firearm-related homicide from 2005 to 2014.

Florida has seen its fair share of high profile Stand Your Ground cases, including the 2012 killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida. The unarmed teen was shot and killed by 47-year-old Michael Dunn after he confronted Davis over loud rap music Davis was playing in his car.

Although Dunn did not use the Stand Your Ground law in court, he always claimed he acted in self-defense.

Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, who’s now a national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, provided the following statement to WUFT News in response to the senate’s vote:

The Florida Senate has chosen to ignore senseless killings like that of my dear son, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin to vote in favor of expanding the state’s already deadly Stand Your Ground law. Make no mistake, this expansion will create a nearly insurmountable backlog of cases for prosecutors, and will make it easier for gun criminals to escape justice. This legislation will be especially traumatic for gun violence survivors and their loved ones. Our lawmakers should remember that the dangerous proposal they’ve supported today can and will have irreversible consequences for many Floridians tomorrow and for years to come.” 

The bill will need to be taken up and passed in the Florida House, which is also a Republican-majority chamber, before it could be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

About Ramsey Touchberry

Ramsey is a reporter for WUFT who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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  • robert g

    Good. The burden of proof should always be on the government. Stand your ground is a great law. Only criminals don’t like it.

  • Dan Moody

    As robert g wrote;innocent until proved guilty is the correct standard. The article is misleading. Nothing unusual for news reporters. Trayvon Martin was killed in lawful self defense having nothing to do with “Stand your ground.” Dunn was covicted of numerous felonies and the “Stand your Ground” defense was not accepted. This law is needed, unfortunately, because thugs are released without severe consequences for their actions. They, literally, “Get away with murder! Stand Your Ground works! Leave it alone.

  • Noni77

    FLORIDA STAND YOUR GROUND HYPOCRISY

    (Tallahassee, FL) In the summer of 2017, the Florida legislature in Tallahassee passed a strengthening of its famous “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, specifically to thwart “over-zealous district attorneys from prosecuting people who were attacked on their own property and forced to defend themselves”. And Florida Governor Scott signed this strengthened version into law soon thereafter. Yet, how is it that the apparently extremely ambitious Assistant District Attorney, Lorena Vollrath-Bueno not only totally ignored the right of Florida citizens to defend themselves from attackers trespassing on their own property with obvious ill intent, but she has even taken this to an outrageous extreme.
    Vollrath-Bueno actually chose to bring charges against a woman in her 60’s, who was attacked by a man half her age and twice her size, who not only was intentionally trespassing, but had gone to the trouble of hiding his car down the victim’s driveway, ringing the doorbell, then retreating to hide until the intended victim came out into the driveway from the side door. At that point, Christopher Hines Dean, ambushed Karen Melton Stewart, cursing and swinging at her, as corroborated by a witness at the door, Patricia Melton, Stewart’s mother. Blows were exchanged after Dean through the first punch, then Dean left and both called Leon County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD) to report the incident and injuries. Dean, in his 30’s, has no known occupation, and a history of substance abuse and battery. Stewart is a retired National Security Analyst who held a Top Secret clearance for almost 30 years and received awards for her series of six month Top Secret intelligence reports supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was estimated by her own managers as having saved over 2,000 lives. And Stewart had been reporting Dean for months as trespassing to harass her and her elderly parents, with whom she stayed part-time to help them out after she had retired and was waiting for her husband in Maryland to do so also. Stewart even reported having seen him run from their dogs and jump the fence late one night, which resulted in Dean being treated for a fractured leg. She had even written a letter to his widowed mother asking her to get control over her son before she would be forced to defend herself against him, after Stewart’s brothers’ attempts to reason with the widowed mother resulted in bizarrely inappropriate flirtation from her.
    In regard to Stewart and her family’s efforts to get legal protection from months of harassment by Dean and others affiliated with him, the LCSD was largely unresponsive, though one lackadaisical attempt at help was further thwarted by detective Paul Salvo’s refusal to put up cameras facing the correct direction to catch Dean or any other intruders. Then they were taken down in short time when they of course showed nothing by design. And one wonders if Dean was not given a friendly warning, considering the LCSD’s demonstrable unabashed bias. Just two weeks before the attack, Dean’s sister, an employee of the LCSD, had visited Stewart unannounced to taunt her that they were a Sheriff’s Department family (their mother had worked there 24 years) and that as family, the LCSD would never lift a finger against her brother so he or anyone in their family could do as they pleased to Stewart and her family. The two exchanged words and the sister left.
    On the day of the attack, October 18, 2016, two deputies were dispatched to get the stories of both parties, a male deputy to 2036 Wildridge Dr. to get Dean’s story, which varied wildly from Stewart’s and the witness’ story, and a female deputy to speak to Stewart and the witness. Until a supervisor arrived, the female deputy confirmed that they were sent out to arrest Dean of course as the pre-meditated aggressor. When an older supervisor appeared, he dismissed Stewart’s story and the witness’ account and told the female deputy, “We are not going to arrest (Mother’s name)’s son. We are going to say that Dean just came over for a nice, friendly visit and Stewart just attacked him for nothing.” “We are going to say Stewart has mental issues (with no proof and indeed abundant proof to the contrary).” “ We are going to charge Stewart with assault with a deadly weapon (flashlight) and arrest her.” At that point the female deputy seemed to become quite embarrassed, looked at Stewart who while a few feet away, had heard the supervisor’s ad hoc fabrication of the lie and the false premise upon which to arrest her, the real the victim. The female deputy then just looked hang-dog at her feet, as if unable to fathom the turn of events.
    Stewart was arrested, taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital to get a completely split lip sewed up, then she was transported to the Tallahassee jail, stayed overnight where the jail made sure to wash her bloodied shirt to mitigate evidence of the horrific injury given her by Dean, then was bonded out and returned for 24 hours to her parent’s home. Before she could even secure a lawyer, detective Salvo appeared and demanded to arrest her for yet another unknown (nonexistent) crime. In jail she was told that detective Salvo had (fooled) a judge into thinking that a “trail camera” put up on her parents’ property in a tree to catch the prowler (Dean) coming over the Melton’s chain link fence and damaging it nightly to trespass and harass, was actually Stewart “cyberstalking” Dean and/or his mother, [redacted], with whom the jobless Dean lived, or more accurately said, lived off of. Of course, Salvo had to know that a trail camera generally, and this model specifically, could not possibly be used to cyberstalk since it had no ability to connect to a computer or the internet, it merely took 1-3 photos of motion events near it that were stored on a memory chip inside it. The camera chip was removed and examined and the photos showed the Melton’s damaged fence and nothing more, likely triggered by branches swaying in the wind or a bird flying by, though several yards away the fence was being newly damaged out of camera view. Salvo knowingly perjured himself. Yet, the charges still stand against Stewart. Deputies were asked to take finger prints on the fence by a Melton family member, which they purposely botched by taking them in the wrong location as pointed out to them, but ignored.
    Stewart spent a week in jail while her husband in Maryland retained Anabelle Dias, a five star rated criminal attorney in Tallahassee, who obtained her release. The LCSD insisted that the 60 year old Stewart was so very dangerous that she had to wear an ankle bracelet while awaiting a trial likely months away and could not return to her parents’ home that sits on one acre that bordered the home which also sits on one acre or more, of [mother’s name redacted] and her unemployed, substance-abuser son, Christopher Dean, leaving Stewart’s parents who are in their late 80’s, vulnerable. Dias appealed to the court to allow Stewart to leave Florida on a pretrial release and it was granted. Dean of course was free to roam about doing as he pleased, such as habitually buying a substance out of the backdoor of the Pizza and Sub shop on North Monroe Street right after buying dinner at the What-a-burger next door and taking it home and smoking it in his car after midnight?
    In discussions with Stewart’s attorney, Dias, Assistant District Attorney Lorena Vollrath-Bueno bragged that she could “put Stewart away for 15 years” by portraying her as “crazy”(despite no evidence at all of such). Dias asked what sense that would make to put a 60 year old for defending herself against a violent loser in prison for essentially the rest of her life, in light of Stewart’s history of perfectly normal, routine psychological evaluations done in the course of her distinguished career serving her country with the National Security Agency. In addition, a jailhouse psychological evaluation demanded by the State confirmed Stewart’s psychological health, and two letters by independent psychologists, one known to Vollrath-Bueno personally, also confirmed the real victim’s psychological fitness. But Vollrath-Bueno did not want to hear it, and in fact actually refused to consult with the psychologist whom she knew personally, even after the psychologist specifically asked to speak with her about the matter. The truth was not of interest to her.
    Not only did Vollrath-Bueno spit in the face of the Stand Your Ground law but she also showed a depraved disregard for crime victims in Florida, as well as spitting in the face of women’s rights, a woman’s right to defend herself against a male attacker, and elder rights, by insisting that a 60 year old woman, at the whim of authorities, contrary to Florida law, cannot defend herself against a much younger attacker on her own property, even one who had a recent and clear history of harassing her and a criminal record indicating she was not his only victim by far.
    Unreasonably aggressive assistant district attorneys are usually politically motivated to use a body count to attain a lucrative judgeship, lucrative not only in higher salary, but lucrative in the ability to take out loans and magically have them marked repaid after a decision was rendered that pleased the real loan source (1). If ADA Vollrath-Bueno can “do favors” for a less than honest Sheriff’s Department doling out outrageous and obvious perversions of justice at whim, then what kind of judge would Vollrath-Bueno make? Perhaps one like Angela Dempsey (2), also assigned the Stewart case, who has been sanctioned by the Florida Supreme court for blatantly false ads in her previous run for that office?

    1 Scandal on the Bench, Judges Taking Bribes to Fix Cases
    http://corruptwash.com/2017/08/11/scandal-on-the-bench-judges-taking-bribes-to-fix-cases/

    2 Florida Supreme Court Sanctions Judge Angela Dempsey
    http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3244:judge-angela-dempsey-of-tallahassee-liar-&catid=73:florida-judicial-misfits&Itemid=82

    In a December 2017 update, Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, is being sued by a lawyer in North Florida, for accepting known perjurious testimony from a dishonest Florida Law Enforcement member in order to bring false charges against him, for obvious unethical purposes.

    https://indymedia.org/media/2008/10/914623.doc

    Perhaps this unexpected scrutiny is why, Vollrath-Bueno turned the Florida v. Stewart case over to Assistant District Attorney Brittany Fox, who, rather than actually investigating the feeble case based entirely on premeditated perjury by the LCSD, and cut out all facts provided by Stewart and the witness, made a lazy, face-saving but still outrageously unjust offer for the State of Florida to Stewart’s attorneys, Annabelle Dias and Alex Morris, for a “deferment” of charges, offering to drop the outrageous “assault with a deadly weapon (flashlight)” that perverted self defense into a felony contrary to not only the supposed enlightened perspective of the Stand Your Ground law, but the recently strengthened Florida Stand Your Ground law, and demanded that Stewart be on a type of probation for daring to defend herself, for two years during which, she was a) not allowed back to Leon County Florida to visit her elderly parents (who are presently 87 and 89) unless the Florida judge “allows” it, essentially guaranteeing she will never see her parents alive again, b) could not carry a weapon (do they mean a flashlight or an actual, real “weapon” since the Florida court system and law enforcement cannot tell the difference?),
    c) cannot leave the new state in which she resides without “permission”, d) cannot mention [mother’s name redacted] in “Social Media” because Stewart’s attempts to get her to control her son had resulted in Stockton having to ask her doctor to “increase her meds”; e) cannot contact any Florida State, Leon County, or Tallahassee City official unless they contact her first… a blatantly unconstitutional abridgment of her First Amendment Right to free speech, because none, wanted to hear what was going on in their scofflaw, compromised state. (This includes Bill Montford, the legislative representative from her district who should care about the Stand Your Ground law purposeful misapplication, but apparently does not; the Leon County Counsel members; Florida Governor Scott; Attorney General Pam Bondi, to whom she wrote five times in the time period between early 2015 and late 2016, trying in vane to explain and show evidence and expert testimony of the fact that NSA/DHS/FBI/Fusion Center/Infragard and opportunistic thugs like Dean, were engaged in an unconstitutional, ID Theft and life insurance murder-for-profit scam utilizing a fraudulent Terrorist Watch List against the American people to enrich themselves, to include many more victims than herself, within the State of Florida and in fact, nationwide, but who, meaning Bondi, could only muster the response “I am not law enforcement” to Stewart’s warnings and seasoned analysis and assessments of what she was experiencing; the thoroughly compromised good old boys’ club, the LCSD; the lethargic Tallahassee Police Department, one detective from which told her he did not believe anyone from Tallahassee would be smart enough to ever have worked for the NSA ; the Tallahassee City “Ethics Officer” who told her she knew all about her (from the Fusion Center, i.e. slander known to be utilized nationwide to justify mercenary and lucrative harassment campaigns); and the Tallahassee/Leon County Fire Department, none of whom cared about criminal abuses by NSA/DHS/FBI/Fusion Center/Infragard personnel; nor cared that multiple people had already reported harassment by Tallahassee area Infragard or related mercenary stalkers and harassers. Others reporting vicious, contractual, paid, organized harassment such as Dean allegedly participated in, in and around Tallahassee, to amazingly unresponsive Florida officials habitually unable to connect the dots, were John Mallory, ex-Naval intelligence, Mark Albright, an army veteran, and Myron May, a lawyer attempting to wrest a friend’s child away from a Tallahassee pedophile ring operating through Florida State Child Protective Services, which many believe got him targeted through the FBI Fusion Center/Infragard harassment protocol secretly put in place shortly after 9/11. After two years of pleading for help with 24/7 stalking and electronic harassment, Myron lashed out in February 2014 and was enthusiastically shot (24 times) by the same Florida police who had utterly refused him equal protection under the law. As for Mallory and Albright, the last time Stewart spoke to either man, was in 2016, they both expressed serious fear for their lives from the stalker network, and though she had been in constant touch, each man vanished within a similar time period and she concludes they met the same fate intended for her, death at the hands of essentially, a secret death cult run by the Deep State and its State, County, and local sycophant networks of mercenary profiteers who while they were publicly professing ignorance and incredulity at the notion of mercenary stalking networks in Florida.
    However, Florida is a State that long ago gained notoriety to those in-the-know, as an out-of-control playground for fascistic stalkers, as portrayed in depth in David Lawson’s “Cause Stalking” study, published many years ago, in which he made clear that these mercenary networks were an long established industry in Florida. It is just possible that those officials feigning disbelief anew with each victim, might just have been more concerned with protecting Florida’s tourist industry and retirement haven reputation… where older women apparently had better not even think of defending themselves against violent, unemployable drug addicts, at least not those with nepotism a factor within local law enforcement entities. And officials and gang stalkers alike showed no respect whatsoever that Stewart had not only served her country long and well, as had her father, who had had a long career in the Air Force and was a wounded Vietnam War veteran before retiring to Tallahassee and working for the State of Florida government another couple decades, and who had been on the very first Florida State University football team, and her mother, a 1950’s Ohio transplant, had actually won a contest to name the FSU band – the Marching Chiefs, so both were rather iconic in Tallahassee history. But, none of that made a difference in a town fueled by utter depravity with an exceedingly thin veneer of “Southern charm”… [banjos playing in the background.]