Judge in Miami dismisses murder charge in 'stand your ground' pursuit

Published March 29, 2012

MIAMI — A bag of stolen car radios — swung during a confrontation — amounted to a lethal threat to a Little Havana man who chased down a thief and stabbed him to death, a Miami-Dade judge said in her written ruling Tuesday in dismissing the murder charge against the man.

Circuit Judge Beth Bloom issued her written ruling six days after deciding that based on Florida's "stand your ground" law, Greyston Garcia was immune from prosecution in the killing of Pedro Roteta, who swung the 4- to 6-pound bag at Garcia just before the stabbing.

Police painted Garcia as a vigilante who chased Roteta for more than a block before stabbing him during a confrontation Jan. 25.

But Bloom, in her order, said that under the law, Garcia "was well within his rights to pursue the victim and demand the return of his property. … The defendant had no duty to retreat and could lawfully pursue a fleeing felon who has stolen his property." Bloom acknowledged in her order that Garcia did not call police or 911, but went home.

Garcia's defense attorney, assistant public defender Eduardo Pereira, hailed the decision, saying: "Although controversial, the result in this case is due to the hard work of our office, which remains dedicated to protecting the Constitution by defending each client's rights pursuant to the laws that apply to and protects us all."

Florida's controversial 2005 stand your ground law eliminated a citizen's duty to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker. Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hoague, who trains her office's lawyers in self-defense cases, said her office would appeal the decision because "we feel the judge abused her discretion."