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Stand Your Ground fathers: Trayvon Martin's killer should likely be arrested, doesn't deserve immunity



The fathers of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law implicated in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin say the man who shot him to death probably should be arrested and doesn’t deserve a self-defense claim of immunity.

Former state Sen. Durell Peaden and current state Rep. Dennis Baxley say the law they passed in 2005 was designed to protect citizens by giving them the right to “meet force with force.”

Both men say they don’t know all the facts of Trayvon's case. But, they say they believe the law would not allow a person like George Zimmerman to pursue and confront a person like Trayvon and then use deadly force. Zimmerman has not been charged.

“They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid,” said Peaden, a Crestview Republican who sponsored the deadly force law in 2005. “He has no protection under my law.”

The 911 tapes strongly suggest Zimmerman lost his defense under the law, they say, when the Sanford neighborhood crime-watch captain said he was following Trayvon and appeared to ignore a police request to stay away.

“The guy lost his defense right then,” said Peaden. “When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.”

Under the law, a person who claims he was acting in self defense can be immune from arrest. But, like Peaden, Baxley said Zimmerman might have lost that right because he could have “aggravated” the situation and provoked a confrontation.

Said Baxley: “There’s nothing in this statute that authorizes you to pursue and confront people, particularly if law enforcement has told you to stay put. I don’t see why this statute is being challenged in this case. That is to prevent you from being attacked by other people.”

Baxley, R-Ocala, was a little more circumspect than Peaden in calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.

“I don’t want to make that judgment call based on speculation,” Baxley said. I just want to reinforce that there’s nothing in this statute that authorizes people to pursue and confront people.”

Still, there’s a chance Zimmerman could avoid an arrest or a conviction if he were charged because the law gives broad protections to those who claim they had reason to be afraid and to use deadly force.

There’s a chance, for instance, that Zimmerman decided to stop following Trayvon after he was told by a police dispatcher, “Okay, we don't need you to do that.” After that, Trayvon could have changed course and confronted Zimmerman.

It’s unclear. Only Zimmerman appears to know. Still, the 911 tapes suggest Zimmerman may have gotten out of his car just after he admitted he was following Trayvon.

Baxley suggested that doesn’t bode well for Zimmerman’s defense.

“If he provoked it by pursing him, I think he’s on thin ice,” Baxley said.

Both Baxley and Peaden said the law didn’t need to be clarified. Peaden said he sponsored it in 2005 after an old man from Pensacola shot an intruder who tried to loot his hurricane-ravaged home. The old man, whose name Peaden could no longer remember, had to hire a lawyer and fret he’d be charged.

Baxley said the law isn’t the problem. It’s the “application” of the law that’s at issue.

If anything needs to be changed in law, Baxley said, it’s making sure that crime-watch captains aren’t acting like armed vigilantes.

“If you want to pass something, pass something that limits their ability to pursue and confront people,” Baxley said.

“It’s about crime watch. What are the limitations of crime watch? Are you allowed to jump out and follow people and confront them? What do you think is going to happen? That’s where it starts.

“I don’t think it’s about that statute. I think it’s about the crime-watch role and limiting people’s role in feeling like they have the authority to pursue and confront people. That is aggravating an incident right there.”

-- Written by Marc A. Caputo, Miami Herald

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 11:28am]


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