Pending Florida SYG Cases

Since the George Zimmerman case, Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law has grabbed worldwide attention.  Florida requires that those applying for conceal carry licenses attend classes.  However, as we learned from the jurors in Zimmerman’s case, there are Florida citizens who have concealed carry licenses who do not understand SYG law.  This brings forth more interest as we watch Florida courts decide SYG or self-defense cases.

Woodward

William T. Woodward

On September 3, 2012, William T. Woodward of Titusville, FL, walked out of his home, went to his neighbor’s property and opened fire on Bruce Blake, 44, Gary Lee Hembree, 39, and Roger Picior, 44.  Hembree and Picior were killed.  Blake was shot 11 times and was placed in a medically induced coma.  He survived.

Woodward is charged with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, and one count of attempted first-degree murder.  He is being held in Brevard County jail.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Woodward’s attorneys have filed a motion demanding that a jury determine whether the murder charges should be dismissed under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.  That is out of the ordinary, as Florida statute provides that pre-trial immunity hearings be decided by a judge.

Melbourne, Florida attorney Kepler Funk said it was “valid” that Woodward would want an independent jury to make this decision rather than a judge, but felt it is unlikely the court would convene one for this pretrial hearing.  “It’s novel for sure, and I’m all for thinking outside the box, so I commend him for that,” he said. “I don’t know the court’s going to grant the motion though.”

Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes explained that a Stand Your Ground case is to be determined based on the facts and circumstances of the case – there isn’t a concrete legal definition. “As with many things in not only the law, but life in general, you’ve got to have a certain amount of flexibility,” he said, later adding: “There’s a certain amount of ability to take the facts, whatever they may be and apply it to that law. Sometimes it fits perfectly; sometimes it doesn’t fit at all.”

Blake, the sole survivor of Woodward’s shooting rampage, has been unable to work during the year of his recovery, and was recently evicted from his residence.  Blake is married and has 2 daughters.  The Blake Family fund is set up at TD Bank to receive donations.

 OTHER FLORIDA SYG PENDING CASES

Anita Smithey

Anita Smithey

On October 3, 2012, the Honorable Judge Kenneth Lester denied Anita Smithey immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground.  Smithey has been charged with killing her husband, and obstruction of justice.  Smithey admitted to stabbing herself in effort to solidify her claim of self-defense. Discovery continues in that case.

Dooley

Trevor Dooley

Trevor Dooley’s manslaughter conviction is pending appeal.  More on the Dooley case can be read here and here.

John Orr

John Orr

John Orr, charged with 2nd degree murder, was denied immunity.  His trial is scheduled to begin September 30, 2013.  More on the John Orr case can be read here.

Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn is charged with one count of 1st degree murder, and two counts of attempted 1st degree murder.  Although claiming stand your ground, Dunn has not yet petitioned the court for a pre-trial immunity hearing.  His trial is scheduled to begin sometime in January 2014 or early February 2014.

Posted on 09/05/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Yes, the state requires you to attend a safety class. BUT…it is a safety class for the operation of a firearm not a briefing class on State gun laws. There is no requirement for an instructor to teach the laws. What does happen is when you get your license, you also get several pamphlets that cover a few gun laws. One of those is the SYG law, another covers the joint carry agreement with other states. The big question would be how many bother o read and educate themselves on those laws.

    I always found the Orr case interesting because this case came up a few months before Zimmerman. Orr claimed he was attacked from behind, had his head slammed several times on the concrete and was being smothered…….sound familiar? Forensic evidence proved he had the victim in a headlock while he repeatedly stabbed him and that he was not on his back as he claimed.

    Dooley’s is interesting and could favor him or condemn him. It all hinges on whether he showed the gun first. If he flashed the gun as a warning, then Dooley was at fault and it could be perceived that the victim defended himself when “threatened” by the gun. This is something some of us TM supporters have also wondered.

    The other cases I’m not familiar with and have to research them some more. But I am a NRA certified Instructor for Pistol, shotgun, and rifles; these requirements give me the authority to teach the safety portion. At no time has it been a requirement to teach the laws.

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    • @towerflower. Thank you for an excellent, informed, comment. On our blog roll here is http://thehinkymeter.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/why-george-zimmermans-syg-defense-wont-stand/. That person gives a breakdown of do’s and do not’s for SYG. After reading your comment and re-visiting the referenced blog, that person might actually reside in a state other than Florida. So, Florida doesn’t actually require classes to understand self-defense laws? It’s independent learning from pamphlets? That STINKS.

      In the Orr case, debris findings were very instrumental, causing me to wonder why the State did not enter debris findings in GZ’s case of HIS clothes. The stains on Trayvon’s pants only demonstrate that he was on his knees. They do not indicate that GZ was on his back, neither that he was on his back long enough to support his story.

      I agree with you about the Dooley case. It was my first impression that the jury found according to the law. When the Zimmerman jury did not give consideration to Trayvon for feeling threatened — well — that speaks volumes.

      But I suppose that overall, the real matter centers around how ill-informed juries are about self-defense that is extended beyond the Castle Doctrine.

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      • There is so much more the prosecution could have done in the Zimmerman case. I still believe he’ll get what’s coming to him, through the Judicial System even…

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        • @mindyme62. Right, there was more, but the prosecution was ambushed so many times by the defense misrepresenting evidence and cheating. For instance, they allowed Donnelley to sit in court for two days hearing testimony, then decided they wanted him as a witness. They presented him as an expert voice analyst and had not informed prosecutors that he would testify on that subject.

          IMHO, Mantei’s arguments against the defense’s motions to dismiss were the best, and that should have been presented during the State’s closing argument in the same manner.

          “There are two parties to this case. One of them is a liar and the other is dead.”

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    • roderick2012

      towerflower: Dooley’s is interesting and could favor him or condemn him. It all hinges on whether he showed the gun first. If he flashed the gun as a warning, then Dooley was at fault and it could be perceived that the victim defended himself when “threatened” by the gun. This is something some of us TM supporters have also wondered.

      I understand the law against brandishing a gun but if I had been James my first reaction would have been to tell Dooley to calm down. Then I would have grabbed my daughter and headed to the house and dialed 911.

      I still don’t understand how the jury came to the conclusion that James was acting in self-defense when it was Dooley who had turned his back. But supposedly James was scared that Dooley would use the gun against him, his daughter or the skateboarder.

      But it was James’ cockiness because he was bigger, younger and stronger than Dooley which got him killed.

      He never should have argued with Dooley. Just let the old man rant and have his bad hair day.

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  2. oh
    my
    god

    So Mr. Woodward left his safe place to confront someone who wasn’t threatening him and murdered 2 people. I can’t even imagine the nightmare the survivor lives with every day of his life after what he’s been through

    Thank You Xena!

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    • They have no assets, no children. It should be non-contested — quick and clean — hopefully.

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      • towerflower

        She asked for half of the assets, take have of the debts and she wants the two dogs. Bet it won’t be so clean……they, through O’Mara have been crying no money for so long it will be interesting to see if there are any assets $$ wise.

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        • @towerflower. You’re right. I spoke before reading the petition. Looks like they are in more than $100k in debt.

          When I heard their jailhouse phone calls, I thought then that Shellie has no money of her own, and no control over whatever GZ does provide. Then, I saw the bank statements where after he left the Osterman’s, Shellie spent money on restaurants, beauty supply, and even ITunes. The statements did not provide any demonstration of such freedom while they were together.

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  3. towerflower

    Xena, here are the requirements for the safety course:

    Acceptable Training Documentation

    Florida law requires you to submit proof of competency with a firearm in order to qualify for a concealed weapon license. A copy of a CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION or similar document from any of the following courses or classes is acceptable:
    •any hunter education or hunter safety course approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or a similar agency in another state;
    •any National Rifle Association firearms safety or training course;
    •any firearm safety or training course or class available to the general public offered by a law enforcement agency, junior college, college, or private or public institution or organization or firearms training school, utilizing instructors certified by the National Rifle Association, the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;
    •any law enforcement firearms safety or training course or class offered for security guards, investigators, special deputies, or any division or subdivision of law enforcement or security enforcement;
    •any firearms training or safety course or class conducted by a state-certified instructor or by an instructor certified by the National Rifle Association.

    The copy of the training certificate/document must be clear and legible. The certificate/document must include your name, your instructor’s name, your instructor’s qualifications/credentials (National Rifle Association instructor, law enforcement firearms instructor, Class “K” Firearm Instructor licensed by the State of Florida, etc.), and your instructor’s license/certification number.

    Other acceptable forms of training documentation include the following:
    •documentary evidence of experience with a firearm obtained through participation in organized shooting competition;
    •active-duty military personnel may submit copies of any of the following documents that confirm your experience with a firearm gained during your service: military orders including call to active-duty letter; a statement of military service signed by, or at the direction of, the adjutant, personnel officer, or commander of your unit or higher headquarters which identifies you and provides your date of entry on your current active-duty period;
    •former military personnel can submit a DD Form 214 reflecting honorable discharge from military service.

    If you notice the theme of the training is safety. With the NRA Instructor training (say for pistol) you would have the 3 main types of pistols present…..automatic, single and double action, and go into the same operation of the firearms. Loading, unloading, checking it, ammo type, etc. You also can give them a NRA test but the test is really for the instructor. If all your students miss the same question it is a guide to the instructor that they need to do better in teaching that part. An Instructor should also take the students to a range to make sure that they can safely operate a firearm. I don’t know how often this is followed since it isn’t a requirement until you reach the security guard stage; but a good instructor would make sure that their student can fire a gun safely.

    The blog you listed has a good handle on the SYG law and the situations. I don’t seeing Woodward getting it. He left the safety of his home to sneek up on them and opened fire. He is also using the Bush Doctrine as a defense—early strike against another country when a threat is immenient. From what I read, where the law gets wishywashy is the term immenient. Does it mean right now or in the future and how far in the future. Woodward and some neighbors say the victims had threatened Woodward and his family—threatening sodomy on Woodward’s 12 yr old daughter. The neighbors had been to court before over threats and the judge didn’t do anything to stop it. The cops said they had over 60 calls from the parties. But I don’t see him winning on SYG or the Bush doctrine.

    Smithey’s problem was her changing stories and stabbing herself to make herself look more of a victim. In the end she appeared not to be in fear of her life as much as she was pissed that her ex wouldn’t leave.

    Dunn won’t win for so many reasons. He claimed he was threatened with a shotgun and no gun was found. He left the scene and the county and only came forward when he was told that a warrant was out for his arrest. I bet if his license plate wasn’t written down by a witness he never would have come forward.

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    • @towerflower. Thanks for that run-down. Valuable info there.

      What concerns me about the Dunn case is that GZ’s supporters are already trying to paint the kids in the SUV as “thugs” to justify Dunn killing Jordan Davis.

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  4. I just found out about this case. http:/thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/06/04/2095821/citing-stand-your-ground-jury-acquits/man-who-killed-wifes-lover/.

    Remember this when you say it was correct to convict trevor Dooley of all charges in 100 min.

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    • @m1. Thanks for the link. I’ll read it.

      Remember this when you say it was correct to convict trevor Dooley of all charges in 100 min.

      I used the Dooley case as a comparison for how the Zimmerman jury should decide. The Dooley jury started at the beginning to determine the initial aggressor, and also decided that David James felt threatened and had the right to defend himself when he attacked Dooley.

      GZ’s case had the same issues. Thanks to Juror B37, we know that she did not believe that Trayvon had any rights.

      Since the Zimmerman verdict, I accepted that I had not considered the racial aspect head-on. That was the reason for the follow-up article that is linked in the article above.

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    • @M1. Ralph Ward — a 70 yr old man with erectile dysfunction married to a 41 yr old woman who gets three sheets to the wind. Makes me wonder about Florida juries. Had the wife’s former boyfriend respected Ward’s house and taken the woman elsewhere, he might still be alive today. Such a senseless killing.

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      • Now . As far as im concerned, if Zimmerman and Ward can be cleared, Dooley deserves to have his conviction overturned.

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        • @M1. When I watched the Dooley trial, and David James’ daughter testified that Dooley was walking towards his home when her dad rushed behind him, tackling Dooley to the ground, my first thought is that Dooley acted according to the law. Dooley withdrew.

          The jury’s decision that Dooley was the initial aggressor by leaving his garage with a loaded gun to approach James, is the exact action that Zimmerman did; i.e., he left his vehicle with a loaded gun to follow Trayvon. Even if we rely solely on Zimmerman’s story that he was heading back to his vehicle when approached by Trayvon, it’s a parallel to the Dooley case. And, we have something more, which is a threatening action by Zimmerman when he reached in his pockets purportedly, searching for his cell phone.

          With the Zimmerman verdict, I agree that the Dooley verdict should be overturned. Either the law does not provide for acquittal based on the initial aggressor finding, or it does.

          We can’t have the initial aggressor convict a defendant, and have it ignored in another case to acquit.

          Neither can we have a deliberate action of attacking the guy with the gun construed as the correct response for feeling threatened in one case, but not give the same consideration to the victim in another case where the man was purportedly searching for a cell phone on the same side of his body where he carried his gun.

          The double-standard applied to the law is because the juries thought for victims, rather than taking solely the facts and applying them to the law, IMHO.

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