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Democratic senator forms 'stand your ground' task force

TALLAHASSEE — State Sen. Chris Smith, frustrated by what he calls "stalling" by Gov. Rick Scott following the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, is launching a task force to review the controversial law at the center of the case.

"Instead of waiting on the governor to act, I've decided to lead in the state of Florida," the Fort Lauderdale Democrat said Tuesday. "I've assembled a task force to look at the controversial 'stand your ground' law."

The governor created a task force to review "stand your ground" two weeks ago but has said the group will not convene until after the investigation into the Martin shooting is completed.

Smith wanted faster action. His South Florida-based task force, made up of legal professionals and law enforcement officers, will hold its first meeting on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Broward County Main Library.

Smith said local judges, attorneys and tourism officials will present to the task force on Thursday, to show how the controversial law — which allows people to use deadly force when they are threatened — has impacted the state.

On the task force are Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, Miami-Dade public defender Carlos Martinez, Broward State Attorney Mike Satz, former Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale police Chief Frank Adderley, criminal defense attorney Alfreda Coward, legal scholar Zachary Weaver and several others. Although most of the task force members are Democrats, Smith said he did not consider politics when putting together the group.

Smith also announced a new website to solicit public comment: FloridaStandYourGround.org.

Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, will present a letter to the task force Thursday, laying out how Florida's tourism industry could be harmed by the negative coverage the state is receiving. "One of the things you hope for in this job is very positive news," she said. "No bad news headlines, no hurricanes. Any one of those can disrupt your business."

Informed of Smith's decision to start a task force, Scott maintained his position that the state should look into the law after the Martin case is settled. "We should always look at things like this, but the first thing you do is you do an investigation," he said. "You make sure justice prevails, and then you step back and say 'Okay, what did we learn from this?' "

Smith, who voted against the 2005 law, disagrees. "It's time to get to work," said Smith, who believes the law can be examined independent of the Martin case. "We have a governor who ran on getting to work, but he wants to wait to work."

Times/Herald reporter Steve Bousquet contributed to this story.

Democratic senator forms 'stand your ground' task force 04/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 7:15pm]
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