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Judge Rules That Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Revisions Are Unconstitutional

Reported by Reuters

“A Florida state court judge ruled on Monday that recent changes to the state’s “stand your ground” law are unconstitutional, finding that legislators overstepped when making it easier for defendants to argue self-defense to obtain immunity for violent acts.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch said courts, not lawmakers, should set the process by which defendants can claim they were protecting themselves with an act of violence, according to the ruling posted online by the Miami Herald.

The revision shifted the burden of proof during pretrial hearings to prosecutors, rather than defendants, to show whether force was used lawfully. Supporters saw the changes backed by the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, as bolstering civilians’ rights to protect themselves.

Monday’s ruling in Miami circuit court is not binding on other state trial courts, the Miami Herald reported.

Advocates predicted the ruling would be reversed on appeal.

“It is the role of the legislature to write the laws that govern how Floridians may exercise their statutory and constitutional rights,” Richard Corcoran, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement. “The Florida House will continue to stand with ordinary citizens who exercise their right to self-defense.”

Florida’s “stand your ground” law, passed in 2005, received wide scrutiny and inspired similar laws in other states. It removed the legal responsibility to retreat from a dangerous situation and allowed the use of deadly force when a person felt greatly threatened.

This spring’s changes were adopted over outcry that gun owners could be emboldened to shoot first.

Critics cited the 2012 death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in the Orlando area, which spurred national protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. The neighborhood watchman who killed him, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of murder after the law was included in jury instructions. ”

There were debates on whether George Zimmerman claimed stand your ground during his trial.  As Reuters correctly reports, Judge Nelson included stand your ground jury instructions in those given to the jury to decide Zimmerman’s fate.

 

 

Department of Justice Investigative Findings Of The Chicago Police Department

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Photo credit (Jose Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The United States Department of Justice completed a probe of the Chicago Police.  Its investigation was conducted over a period of 13 months. They found that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) used biased techniques to investigate officers and a consistent unwillingness to probe or dispute officers’ statements.

The Chicago police force is one of the nation’s largest, with 12,000 officers.

The DOJ also found that the police received insufficient training in de-escalation techniques and poor training on all levels.

The investigation also found Constitutional violations, and violations of federal law by officers in the use of force, racial disparities and other systemic problems.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports;

“The Justice Department and City Hall have hammered out a pact, called a “statement of agreement,” which will detail remedies the city has already or will be taking to address problems that have ruptured relations between police and the people they serve, particularly minority communities.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be out of office on January 20, 2017, and wanted to complete DOJ investigations in Baltimore and Chicago before the new administration takes over.  Read the rest of this entry

Can You Take A Selfie In A Polling Place?

New Hampshire’s State Motto is “Live Free or Die.”  New Hampshire’s citizens demonstrated their progressive stance in a case regarding taking selfie’s in polling places.   New Hampshire passed a law banning it, and the citizens took the case to federal court.  Attorney David Allen explains the case.

 

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