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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Smith seeks to close 'last-man standing escape hatch' in SYG law

26

August

For the second year in a row, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith will try to amend Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Smith's proposal, SB 122, would prevent individuals from initiating or "unreasonably escalating" a deadly conflict -- and then claiming immunity from prosecution under the self-defense law. Immunity would also be denied to individuals who left a place of safety or chased someone down.

"The ‘Last Man Standing’ escape hatch would finally close with the passage of this legislation,” Smith wrote in a press release.

Additionally, Smith's proposal has language requiring sheriffs and municipal police departments to craft guidelines on neighborhood watch programs.

From the bill text: "The guidelines must include, but not be limited to, prohibiting a neighborhood crime watch patrol participant who is on patrol from confronting or attempting to apprehend a person suspected of improper or unlawful activity except in those circumstances in which a reasonable person would be permitted, authorized, or expected to assist another person."

That language, of course, is a reference to Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who fatally shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder earlier this year.

Smith said the Stand Your Ground law had a "troubled track record in Florida" long before the shooting in Sanford.

"This law is neither working as intended nor protecting those it was intended to protect," Smith said. "Unless the critics are comfortable with continuing to give deadly aggressors a free pass from prosecution, these long overdue and reasonable changes need to be made.”

[Last modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 5:47pm]

    

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