Florida Court Dismisses Stabbing Case Under The “Stand Your Ground” Law

Last night I was on Countdown discussing Florida’s “stand your ground law” and the recent shooting case of the Trayvon Martin case. We discussed yesterday’s ruling in the the case of Greyston Garcia and the dangerous ambiguity created by these laws. The second-degree murder charges against Garcia were thrown out by a Florida judge under the Stand Your Ground law despite the fact that he did not just stand his ground, but ran after a man who tried to steal his car radio and proceeded to stab the unarmed man to death.

As discussed previously, I have been a long critic of these laws and the earlier Castle Doctrine or “Make My Day” laws. These laws address a problem that does not exist. There are ample protections under the common law for individuals to use the privilege of self-defense, including reasonable mistaken self-defense. As I noted last night, I find it a bit maddening to hear Florida legislators now claim to have never anticipated abuses under these laws. Critics like myself have been vocal about the potential for abuse under these laws for years. Legislators have ignored those warnings because of the popularity of these laws.

The problem with both “Make My Day laws” (applying to the home) and “Stand Your Ground laws” (applying in “other places”) is that they facilitate or enable those who are inclined to use lethal force. The Horn case out of Texas is such an example where, as with Zimmerman, Joe Horn ignored instructions not to confront the suspects. Even cases that bordering on executions have been found protected under such laws.

In the latest case, Garcia, 25, saw Pedro Roteta, 26, trying to steal the radio from his truck outside Garcia’s Miami apartment. He grabbed a large knife and chased the unarmed Roteta down the street and proceeded to stab him to death. This week, the state judge threw out the charges under the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Legislators are now feigning complete shock at the potential for abuse under these laws after refusing to consider the warnings of critics in passing these laws. It is important to keep in mind however that it is not simply the “Stand Your Ground” law. That law is the latest variation of laws that began with the “Castle Doctrine” or “Make My Day” laws and then mutated into the “Make My Day Better” laws and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Each has a catchy title and popular theme — supporting people who fight off felons. Their titles capture the impulse buy nature of these laws where legislators vote without concern for the implications of injecting ambiguous standards into cases involving the use of lethal force. Consider the language of the Florida law:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

The law reads like a stump speech where soundbites become elements of a criminal defense. Judges as in the Garcia case are left applying a standard of “meet[ing] force with force” and “stand[ing] his or her ground.” The result is soundbite justice — lacking depth or substance.


Source: NPR

66 thoughts on “Florida Court Dismisses Stabbing Case Under The “Stand Your Ground” Law

  1. Mespo,

    Maybe the want to rename the state after some game show….. Like the price is right…. Truth or Consequence is already taken…..

  2. The Horn case in Texas hardly rises to the same kind of thing as FL has in its laws. Horn was fully justified in using deadly force, unless one thinks that no force at all should be used against felons who are in the process of committing a crime. I fully support what Horn did since it was the crooks who decided that the loot was more precious than their own lives. THEY made that decision, not Horn. If they had dropped the loot, he could not shoot under Texas law. Horn would have been charged with murder if they had simply run away and he still shot them. From reading the FL law, it appears that it is the judge who decided that the law should be applied in this way. I did not see any reason even under FL law that the guy had a right to kill the crook since he had no property in hand and was simply fleeing.

    The only similarity to the Horn case is that the 911 dispatcher advised the actors to not get involved, which is NOT a valid police order. They are NOT required under laws that I know of to follow those orders. Such an order is required for legal liability reasons and sometimes officer safety. The only problem I have with Texas law is that it allows deadly force to be used if the neighborhood kids TP somebodys house at night. THAT needs to be changed..

  3. If the perp still had the radio then the judge is correct to throw out the charges. If he damaged the car in stealing the radio then same thing. In the Zmmerman vigilante case, if Zimmerman was snooping around dead guy the other day then Zimmerman needs to face charges.

  4. Erb – so why have courts and judges – just require everyone to be armed. Judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. I’m sure there could be not unintended consequences.

    I’m also reminded of the “no real Scotsman” argument the NRA makes in cases like this:
    “All Scotsman love haggis”
    “I’m a Scotsman and I hate Haggis”
    “Well then you’re not a REAL Scotsman”

    No Real gun owner would abuse the law

  5. Not so very long ago the important books and films that demonstrated what America was about had titles like On the Waterfront, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird. Literature and movies showed the importance Americans placed on standing up for what’s right, what’s honorable and standing with one another. Since the 1980’s the single most prolific genre of American films has been the Action movie. The action (read that as violence) kept pace with new technologies by also dominating video games and some areas of music. The newest incarnation of police dramas on TV is part of the same trend. Instead of the film Wall Street being a cautionary tale, it was apparently viewed by some as a “How To…” manual.

    I believe we are seeing the end result of three decades of the unlenting promotion of greed and the philosophy of ME. It was kicked into gear with demonizing our government as being “the other” as if our government wasn’t US, but something outside of or contrary or opposed to the philosophy of ME. Remember “It’s your money”? At the heart of that phrase is the purveying of greed and distrust. Distrust of government leads to distrust of other and ultimately all institutions and eventually to a deepening distrust and suspicion of each other. Terrorists, criminals, gangs, welfare recipients, immigrants each had their day in the sun as being designated the enemy and the target of scorn. With encouragement from the NRA, these feelings of paranoia and suspicion of government and people were easily manipulated into problems that could only be resolved by action heroes with lots of weapons.

    And what do all the GOP candidates offer to help America? More of the philosophy of ME.

  6. The prosecutor can appeal such a dismissal in most instances like this. An appellate court should put the cuffs on such wild interpretations.

  7. Gun Boom Continues Despite Florida Shooting
    Firearm stocks surge despite anti-gun protests, calls for stricter gun laws following controversial Florida killing

    Despite calls for stricter guns laws in response to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, firearm stocks are soaring as gun companies struggle to keep up with high demand.

    Shares of Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR) were up as high as 14 percent Thursday afternoon after CEO Michael Fifer announced the company was temporarily suspending its acceptance of new orders in an effort to meet a dramatic surge in demand for its products.

    “Despite the company’s continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders,” Fifer said in the statement late Wednesday.

    Ruger received more than a million order requests in the first quarter of 2012.

    http://freebeacon.com/gun-boom-continues-despite-florida-shooting/

  8. No names mentioned, but some say a car radio is worth a life.

    Sounds like medieval England. Then it was a loaf of bread,,but it was the law who took the life.
    That law was changed, so how do we change this mindset where we all are cop, prosecutor, judge, and executioner? In max 5 minutes time.

    We aren’t at Dodge City yet, but when all are armed………!

  9. We aren’t at Dodge City yet, but when all are armed

    Does no good unless you got lead.

    ATK Secures .40 Caliber Ammunition Contract with Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS, ICE)
    –ATK Wins Five-Year, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Contract for .40 Caliber Ammunition from DHS, ICE –Additional .40 Caliber Ammunition Contract with 450 Million Round Potential Demonstrates ATK’s Leadership in Ammunition Manufacturing

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/atk-secures-40-caliber-ammunition-contract-with-department-of-homeland-security-us-immigration-and-customs-enforcement-dhs-ice-2012-03-12?reflink=MW_news_stmp

  10. So – in Florida & Texas, damage to an automobile (as an example)..
    – carries the death penalty if a vigilante feels like killing the perp
    – carries probation or short prison term if the perp is arrested and tried in court.

    Why not just make the death penalty mandatory for theft, assault, etc?

    Or how about something a bit more lenient?
    Like cutting off the hands of thieves, like they do in parts of the Mid East?

    See this is why there should never be Sharia law in the good old USA. Sharia law is far too lenient.

  11. Sorry to burst your bubble but that is not the law in Texas at all. From your comments it appears that you would disarm the cops too since they might shoot a felon whose crime does not carry the death penalty. You would also object to having armed guards around the perimeter of a prison, since escape does NOT carry the death penalty too. Then we can move on to the idea of getting rid of armoured cars and armed guards for transporting valueables since stealing such things does not carry the death penalty. So absent anything other than murder, there is no reason for guns in law enforcement or self defense. Of course, we will not know if it is murder until the deed is done, so self defense becomes problematic after one is dead.

  12. “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

    I guess I’m really dense. How is someone running away, with or without booty, a threat of death or great bodily harm? How is stealing a car radio a forcible felony? How is chasing someone down the street “standing his or her ground”? How is using a gun or a knife on someone who is unarmed “meeting force with force”?

    Sorry, have to vomit.

  13. @ Arthur Randolph Erb

    The objection is to J Random Civilian having a free pass to kill someone who is not an immediate threat to their life or physical safety.

    Zimmerman appears to be a fantasist with a vigilante streak. It’s bad enough that gun laws allow morons like that to own, let alone carry, firearms. Giving them the benefit of the doubt when their crazed world view leads them to kill someone is absolute madness.

    Responses should be proportionate.

  14. Disgusting result in Florida. This stand your ground law is simply an excuse to kill at will.
    rcampbell,
    Let me echo what others have stated. Great post!

  15. rcampbell,

    Well said … as usual … and further proof that we are not completely lost, for in the climate that rcampbel describes there are still millions of us who recognize the error of our ways and accept the responsibility of working for change.

    JT did some of that work on Countdown last night. Thank you.

  16. Arthur Randolph Erb

    Your attempt at reductio ad absurdum fails.

    “From your comments it appears that you would disarm the cops too since they might shoot a felon whose crime does not carry the death penalty. You would also object to having armed guards around the perimeter of a prison, since escape does NOT carry the death penalty too. Then we can move on to the idea of getting rid of armoured cars and armed guards for transporting valueables since stealing such things does not carry the death penalty. So absent anything other than murder, there is no reason for guns in law enforcement or self defense.”

    Cops presumably aren’t carrying guns to murder shoplifters, even for felony shoplifting. Hopefully, they’re carrying guns to protect themselves and other citizens from physical harm.

    Prison guards are armed to protect themselves, and to protect the public from the escape of convicted felons. Convicted felons.

    An armored car guard would face harsh scrutiny for killing an unarmed person who grabbed a bag of money and ran. The guns are for defense of the guards. Those who rob armored cars are usually heavily armed.

    All of these examples involve professionals, who presumably have been trained in the justifiable use of deadly force. Of course there are abuses.

    The Florida law can be interpreted to allow untrained civilians to remedy a perceived offense by killing an unarmed offender.

    No connection, whatsoever, to your examples.

  17. bettykath, I am as dense as you I suppose. Anyone explain how your eyes seeing someone fleeing can possibly be a mortal danger to your life?

    “The only problem I have with Texas law is that it allows deadly force to be used if the neighborhood kids TP somebodys house at night. THAT needs to be changed.” A.R.E.

    The law will only be changed when some young, blond cheerleaders are bloody and dying.

  18. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, why don’t we start with one of the basic premises underlying the social compact, that individuals do not retain the right to serve as prosecutors, jurors and executioners in their own case. The Florida law is one giant leap toward restoring us to the state of nature.

  19. Did Trayvon have any less right to stand his ground? Just because he is alive to give his statement shouldn’t be sufficient to get Zimmerman off the hook. Even the police don’t have an absolute right to use deadly force. Leave that to the trained professionals please. Just because you’re licensed to carry doesn’t mean you have sound judgment. Horn shot a man in the back for stealing his neighbor’s t.v. Whose ground? Don’t assume that I would want the same. I don’t. wwJd?

  20. I thought I had heard this line, in maybe a civics class,, In American our law is innocent until proven guilty. Guess I misheard.
    RC. great post I have started saying the repubs are the party of me, the dems the party of we.

  21. “Wielding a gun increases a person’s bias to see guns in the hands of others, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows.”

    exerpt from article:
    “One reason we supposed that wielding a firearm might influence object categorization stems from previous research in this area, which argues that people perceive the spatial properties of their surrounding environment in terms of their ability to perform an intended action,” Brockmole says.

    For example, other research has shown that people with broader shoulders tend to perceive doorways to be narrower, and softball players with higher batting averages perceive the ball to be bigger. The blending of perception and action representations could explain, in part, why people holding a gun would tend to assume others are, too.

    “In addition to the theoretical implications for event perception and object identification, these findings have practical implications for law enforcement and public safety,” Brockmole says.”

    http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/29684-holding-a-gun-makes-you-think-others-are-too-new-research-shows/

  22. If you want to have a reason to kill someone easy to presume they want to kill you so shoot first ask questions later.

  23. John F. Timoney is a former Miami police chief, Philadelphia police commissioner and deputy police commissioner in New York. He is now senior police adviser to the Bahrain Minister of the Interior.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/opinion/floridas-disastrous-self-defense-law.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

    “Trying to control shootings by members of a well-trained and disciplined police department is a daunting enough task. Laws like “stand your ground” give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability. It is a recipe for disaster. “

  24. The Horn Case in Texas IS just like these cases of abuse and misinterpretation of the law. In the Horn case although the victims were stealing, they were fleeing the crime scene. Both were shot in the back and were not coming towards Horn’s home. Horn was in his house and left his house against the direction of the 911 operator and went outside to confront them, using deadly force. Horn’s life was not in danger.

  25. Shouldn’t have stolen the radio.. I’m not going to get broken up about a criminal getting stabbed because he was caught in the act.

  26. PepsiCo Ends Partnership With Right-Wing Front Group ALEC

    By Adam Peck on Apr 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/05/458781/pepsico-ends-partnership-with-right-wing-front-group-alec/

    “PepsiCo, the world’s second largest beverage company, has ended its partnership with ALEC, the controversial right-wing group that lobbies for voter suppression efforts. Pepsi’s move, which actually came in January but was first reported this morning by NPR, may also have had a role in compelling Coca-Cola to drop its support for ALEC.

    Yesterday, progressive advocacy group Color of Change announced a boycott effort targeting several other corporations that are still members of the group, which for years has partnered with elected officials at a state level to draft and pass controversial, far-right legislation. Just a few hours later, Coke announced that they too are severing ties with the ALEC.”

  27. Well I’m cynical enough to believe that the Grayston Garcia case was arranged specifically to help out the prosecutor and police chief in Seminole County who are in trouble over failing to charge George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. They’re providing a case that says to the world: Hey look, we weren’t racist and we weren’t doing this on purpose. If we charge a guy who kills somebody because he thinks he [has to][ought to][is allowed to] and we bring charges anyway, we get our asses kicked by some judge. We can’t do that; it’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. It was extra convenient for them to choose a Hispanic defendant who killed a Hispanic offender so they can say, “hey, the law is the law!”

    I am also cynical enough to believe that a handful of Florida judges and DAs were involved in a “choosing the right case” game to have their “day in the press” supporting WOlfinger and Lee. They coudln’t choose one of those cases where a woman was charged with murdering her physically abusive husband; can’t have a bunch of women starting to “stand their ground” all over Florida. And they couldn’t choose a white man in some kind of altercation with another white man because then nobody would believe it really applied. They came upon just the perfect case. It worked for the prosecutor in the Garcia case (so he gave up one, he will get rewarded down the line and it was not a high profile career-busting case), and he gets to do a favor for another prosecutor, who will do him favors later); it worked for the defense lawyer in the Garcia case (he WON!); and it worked for the survivor of the Garcia stabbing encounter (he goes free and can never be charged for that crime again). Win win win!

    About the struggle in the legislature to defend the SYG law — which was not really applicable in either of these cases — that will be long, drawn-out, expensive, and won by the side that has power.

    Another thing: the charge that the police WERE using on their police reports on 2/26/2012, Florida 782.11, could have applied in Garcia’s case because he might have “accidentally” killed someone in the commission of a felony. But it would be a stretch to say that multiple stab wounds were ALL accidental.

  28. Bob Kauten, thanks. In addition to the points you made, I’d like to point out that if an armed cop, paid by the public funds, had shot Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012, whether he had shot him because he felt endangered, or because he thought Martin was committing a felony, or because he meant to do something else and it all went down wrong, STILL, there would have been a standardized way that the police department, UNDER LAW, had to deal with it.

    1. The cop would immediately have been relieved of his gun and placed on some kind of administrative leave pending full investigation by the Internal Affairs Division.

    2. The cops doing the investigation of the incident would not be those who had been with him that night when he killed someone.

    3. The cop would have had to undergo some kind of evaluation before he was allowed to return to active duty.

    4. The cop’s simple statement, “I did it in self-defense” would not be taken as true, but would, along with all other witness statements, be evaluated.

    In other words, if Zimmerman had been a cop, there would have been much MORE careful police investigation of the affair than there was in this case.

  29. In fact. once Zimmerman and Martin were on the ground struggling, if a cop had arrived on the scene and shot one or both of them himself, there would also have been an inquest.

    AND if a neighbor emerged from one of the houses, armed, and shot one of the combattants, there would have presumably been a full inquest. NOT a little “oh he says it was self defense so let him go now” charade.

    There is possibly (and I do not concede “probably” but NO case has a zero chance of being true) an excuse for what Zimmerman did but there is NO excuse for what the police and prosecutors did.

  30. WOW REALLY READ THE LAW, A PERSON IS ALLOWED TO DEFEND THERE SELFS IF THEIR LIFE OR ANOTHER PERSONS LIFE IS AT STAKE. IF THE OTHER PERSON IS STEALING A CAR STEREO WITH NO WEAPON AND IS NOT ATTACKING YOU. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO KILL THAT PERSON AND THE JUDGE IS WRONG. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN FOUND GUILTY. THEY NEED TO STOP LETING STUPID PEOPLE CARRY GUNS. MAKE EVERYONE THAT OWNS A GUN AND HAS THIER CCW AND EVERYONE THAT IS GOING TO APPLY FOR THEIR CCW MINUS TAKE A MANDATORY CLASS THAT IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND LONGER THEN THE CURRENT REQUIREMENT WITH A GO/NOGO SYSTEM. MAKE A TEST THAT IS CHALLENGING, MAKE THEM QUALIFY WITH THE WEAPON THEY WILL BE CARRING AT A RANGE SO THEY KNOW THE WEAPON AND ITS ABILITIES BEFORE THEY ARE ALLOWED TO CARRY IT ON PUBLIC STREETS, I SUPPORT OUR 2ND ADDENDMENT 100% AND I DO CARRY MYSELF BUT THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE THAT NEED TO UNDERSTAND ALL ASPECTS OF GUN OWNERSHIP, FROM OBTAINING A LIC. TO FIRING IT, AND ALL THE LAWS YOU ARE REQUIRED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU ARE GIVIN A PERMIT TO CARRY A WEAPON. THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW IS A GREAT LAW. BUT IT NEEDS TO BE I GUESS YOU COULD SAY TIGHTENED UP A BIT AND WEAPON SAFETY AND CCW CLASSES NEED TO ME MANDATORY EVERY TIME YOU RE-NEW YOUR PERMIT.

  31. Thank God Garcia was let go. These thugs had robbed his belongings before (as the accomplice told the police) It’s about time we fought back against this lawless crap!

  32. The house next door was being broken into this morning when I got out of bed. I called the cops, but it took so long for them to get there that I finally had to go out and do someting about it. No, I didnt have a gun or a knife, just a bat. The kid ran off as soon as he saw me coming around the corner. Long story short, I have kids, live in S Florida and live in a ” SECURE GATED COMMUNITY” if I had a gun, your damn straight I would have shot him. This isn’t a racist issue, and yes, it was a black male, 16-18. If the black community wants to keep screaming RACIST every time somone gets caught doing something wrong, then just maybe, they should take a long look in the mirror and ask why their kids are causing so much trouble and not doing the right thing. ( Not saying that all the crime is coming from the black community, I know it’s not, That’s just the group screaming the loudest.) It’s not racist to want to get rid of criminals, no matter what race they may be. I’ve been robbed twice in three years and both times it happened to be a black male( What do you think makes people racist now days ) We are not all inbreed gun happy renecks, but I have to admit that as the days go by I ‘m thinking that I need a gun to protect my family from stipidity.

  33. John, Thank G-d you didn’t have a gun, you would have shot someone you allegedly saw breaking in to, not your home, but someone else’s>. Agree with it or not, it is not stand your ground against someone you say you saw breaking into someone else’s home.
    In addition, your post reminds me a lot of the “My best friend is Black (or polish, or jewish, etc)

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