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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla Dem chair Rod Smith co-sponsored 'stand your ground'



Plenty of Florida Democrats are saying, "We told you so" and calling for repeal of the "stand your ground" law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford,but not Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith. Smith, a former prosecutor, actually co-sponsored the bill as a state Senator in 2005. He can't see how it could used to in defense of the Sanford shooter, volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

"I've tried and defended stand your ground cases, and I've prosecuted murder cases," Smith said. "This individual (Zimmerman), as I understand the facts, moved the ground toward the confrontation. That's not a stand your ground defense. Unless there are facts that I'm not aware of, I think you'll see an arrest made...It's hard to believe that someone was not arrested that night."

Stand your ground passed the Florida senate unanimously in 2005, though Democrats in the Florida House warned that it could lead to severe unintended consequences.

Smith said he still supports the law: "I did not believe then, and I still have a real concern why we should put a duty to retreat on a victim. If you were genuinely defending yourself, why did you have to retreat when you were not the perpetrator?"
One-on-one shooting cases without witnesses can always pose challenges for prosecutors, Smith said, but the objective evidence appears compelling in this case: "We're talking about a young man shot point blank at close range after you've been told not to pursue him - and no evidence that this young man was doing anything inappropriate...Is it reasonable to believe the smaller person attacked the larger? The younger versus the older? The unarmed versus the armed?"

Smith said he'd be the first to support revamping the law if it turns out to be helping people get away with crimes, but that state leaders should hold off on reviewing it until the Zimmerman case is is concluded and the facts are out.

[Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 12:26pm]


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