The controversial "stand your ground" provision makes it easier to
use lethal force in self-defense by removing the duty of a shooter
to retreat and avoid a confrontation.
Attorney Mark O'Mara said he will send to the Florida Bar this week
a proposal to let judges decide when juries should be instructed to
consider stand your ground.
"Only include it in those cases where the 'stand your ground, no
duty to retreat' issue is relevant," O'Mara told Reuters on
O'Mara argued self defense on behalf of his client Zimmerman in the
Florida shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in
2011. Unarmed Florida teen Jordan Davis was killed in 2012 and his
killer, Michael Dunn, also claimed self defense.
Jurors in both trials told reporters the instruction on stand your
ground affected their work, leading to Zimmerman's 2013 acquittal in
Martin's murder and a hung jury on February 15 in Dunn's case.
O'Mara said his proposal was "a nice polishing of the jury
instructions that will address people's concerns that juries are
getting confused about stand your ground when it's not appropriate."
The stand your ground provision allows people who "reasonably"
believe they are in imminent danger of serious bodily injury to use
deadly force to defend themselves even if, despite their belief, no
real threat exists.
The law can be applied pre-trial to seek immunity from prosecution
or during trial when it must be taken into consideration by juries.
Prior to the change in 2005 a person had a duty to retreat unless
they were in their home.
NOT EASY TO IMPLEMENT
But O'Mara's proposal may not be so easy to implement, other legal
"In order to change the jury instruction, the Florida Supreme Court
or the legislature has to approve the change," said David Weinstein,
a former state prosecutor now in private practice in Miami. "It's
hard to see that happening in the current political climate," he
[to top of second column]
Civil rights groups and a handful of state legislators are urging a
legal review of Florida's self-defense statute, saying it has
created a license to kill for gun owners who hate or fear young
black men. But gun rights activists, backed by a
Republican-controlled legislature, have resisted all efforts to undo
Davis' parents said the law is too subjective and allows gun owners
to shoot on the slightest fear, even if only imaginary.
O'Mara said neither Zimmerman nor Dunn needed the help of the stand
your ground statute to defend their shootings. O'Mara contends
neither man in the final moments before the killings had an ability
to retreat - Zimmerman because he was pinned down by Martin during a
fight, and Dunn because he erroneously thought he saw Davis holding
Prosecutors and the victims' families, however, accused the killers
of unnecessarily instigating the fights that led to the teens'
O'Mara said his proposal would dispel confusion for jurors in
certain self defense cases but acknowledged it would not change
juries' responsibility to determine what is a reasonable fear in the
mind of a shooter.
Nor would it stop what many people believe as the emboldening of
people to act aggressively. O'Mara said some people now believe the
use of deadly force is more justified than it is.
(Editing by David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.