June 5, 2012 -
A Tampa Bay Times study of Florida's "stand your ground" law, seven years after its passage, reveals complex and often unintended consequences. By identifying nearly 200 cases in which the law was invoked – via media coverage, court records and interviews with prosecutors and public defenders – the Times found that nearly 70 percent of those who invoked the law went free. Some experts said the law is working well. But the report also found that parallel cases often had vastly different outcomes, usually depending on where they occurred. Some defendants who went free had initiated the confrontation and pursued their victims or shot them in the back. Others were in the midst of conducting a drug deal. As to the question of racial application of the law, which has figured so prominently in the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford on Feb. 26, the findings were inconclusive. The study found that 73 percent of defendants who killed a black person went free, whereas 59 percent of defendants who killed a white person went free. But it also found that whites and blacks who invoked the law were both charged and convicted at the same rate. Former state Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview and his chamber's sponsor of "stand your ground" in 2005, told the Times that the law was never intended to protect those who put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation before committing a violent act.