Sometimes the laws made to “protect us” end up doing more harm than good.
Sanford police let George Zimmerman go home after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin last month, but Central Florida police agencies routinely make arrests for murder in “stand your ground” cases — and then let courts decide if a killing is justified.
Passage of Florida’s landmark self-defense law in October 2005 caused initial confusion, but court records show police and prosecutors now file charges more often than not.
Central Florida’s “stand your ground” claimants already in prison or awaiting trial range from an off-duty security guard to a retired Orlando police officer, bar patrons and a man who chopped off his cousin’s hand with a machete.
So if police make these type of arrests regularly, why the hell isn’t George Zimmerman punk azz walking the streets???
Those and many other cases headed for trial share a common factor: witnesses willing to testify.
In January 2011, 15 to 20 people were nearby when Chad Bekari Smith claimed two men shot at him outside an Orlando gas station. A security guard and father of three, Smith drew his licensed pistol, wounded both men, called 911 on his cellphone and waited for police to arrive, according to his arrest report.
“I was going to lose my life, so I reacted and defended my life,” Smith, then 23, told his lawyer, according to court records.
But police did not believe him. Nor did a jury that convicted Smith last fall of two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His conviction and 20-year prison sentence are under appeal.
Unlike that case, there were no known eyewitnesses when Trayvon died Feb. 26 in a confrontation with Zimmerman inside the gated Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood. The teen was walking back from a 7-Eleven when he was followed by Zimmerman, 28, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who fired a single shot and later told police Trayvon attacked him, records show.
That’s hardest type of case for prosecutors.
When the alleged aggressor is dead and there are no witnesses, “it is harder to disprove or to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the shooter claiming self-defense faced a credible threat, according to Randy Means, chief investigator and spokesman for the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office.
“Since very little case law exists, all we have to go on is our interpretation of the statute. It’s too new for us to use case law effectively,” Means said. “It is frustrating for the charging prosecutors.”
Ultimately, the decision to charge Zimmerman with murder lies in the hands of State Attorney Norm Wolfinger who was one of several prosecutors who lobbied AGAINST “stand your ground” in 2006.
Hopefully his stance on the law will help set the type of precedent needed to put George Zimmerman in jail for a LONG time!