As the legislative session neared a close last week, the Florida House and Senate reached a compromise to a bill that substantially changes the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. The new law would shift the burden from from the Defendant to the prosecutor at the pretrial hearing to prove that the case is strong enough to proceed against the Defendant. If Governor Scott signs the bill, the burden will no longer be on the Defendant at the ‘Stand Your Ground Hearing’.
Though both the House and Senate agreed that they wanted to put the burden on the prosecutor for the pretrial hearings, it wasn’t until the last day of session on Friday that both houses came to a compromise on what that burden should be. The Senate was pushing for a beyond a reasonable doubt standard, while the House position to use a clear and convincing standard ultimately won out. The bill will now go to Governor Scott’s desk to sign before it becomes law. It is expected he will sign it, as the bill garnered widespread Republican support in both houses of the legislature.
What does this change mean? The original ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, among other things, created a right of immunity from prosecution for people who use justifiable force to defend themselves. Unfortunately, the legislature did not clearly establish a procedure for determining when immunity was appropriate, that is, how do you know when force is justified so that a person cannot be prosecuted. Over the next 12 years, the courts formulated a procedure whereby a hearing would be held prior to the case going to trial. The courts put the burden on the Defendant to demonstrate that he was immune from prosecution.
The legislature has now essentially said, hey wait: the burden is on the state to prove a case. We didn’t establish immunity to burden the Defendant, or to remove the burden from the State… we created it to protect those who used force to defend themselves. This new law, if it is signed by the Governor, will put the burden on the prosecutors to demonstrate by clear and convincing the likelihood that the defendant was not justified in using force before they can put the defendant to trial (where they will still have the burden beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt).
While there was strong support for the bill, there was opposition from anti-gun activists, as well as from many prosecutors. The opposition from prosecutors may seem surprising from a generally conservative profession, but this bill directly affects them by making it more difficult to prosecute cases where use of force will be raised as a defense. It has been speculated that prosecution costs will rise, but the other effect of the bill may be to discourage prosecutors from proceeding on cases they are less likely to win. The cost may end up being a wash when all the factors come to bear, but only time will tell. In the meantime, this bill will definitely help people who claim justifiable use of force.
Governor Rick Scott has signed into law the bill amending the procedure for Florida’s death penalty. The new law requires a unanimous jury finding for the death penalty, in order for it to pass constitutional muster.
Casey Anthony in Court
Casey Anthony spoke publicly for the first time about her case, in which she was accused and acquitted at trial in the death of her infant daughter, Caylee. The case and trial were media sensation, not just here in Florida, but across the country. She gave a multi-part interview to the AP, which really leaves more questions than it answers. It sounds like she has not maintained a relationship with her parents (her attorney suggested at trial that her father may have been responsible for the death of her child), and she has been living in West Palm Beach, working for the investigator that worked on the case.
This is the second time she’s been in the news lately. Last week, Hon. Belvin Perry, the retired judge who had presided over the case and trial, was in the news prognosticating that she may have tried to give the baby chloroform and accidentally caused her death. He concluded it was accidental, in light of no evidence of abuse of the child. That’s just his best-guessing after the fact though, there are no definitive answers as to the real reason for the tragic death of Caylee Anthony.
Attorney Spencer Cordell
This week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a bipartisan report calling for standards on how cell-phone tower simulators, known as Stingrays, are used by government agencies. We don’t know how extensively they are being used, or even how much data they are able to collect: not just from criminals, but from average citizens whose phones get caught up. We do know there have been abuses in the past.
NBC-2 is doing a story tonight, and I may show up with some comments. The Stingray, and the secrecy around the agencies’ use of the technology is troubling. There are legal means to use technology, the most straightforward is just to get a warrant. We encourage standards and oversight, especially in Florida, which leads the country in Stingray use.
Tune in to NBC-2 tonight at 6 p.m.
The Stolen Gator
A Sarasota resident was surprised when an Alligator wandered into his yard. He didn’t need to be scared, because the gator’s mouth was already taped up. It appears the gator had recently been trapped, but that the gator had then been stolen. I guess the thief ended up with a little more than he bargained for!
FL Supreme Court
When the Florida legislature passed the “Stand Your Ground” law, one of the provisions is for immunity from prosecution from those who used force in self-defense, under the law. The lawmakers failed to explain exactly how this immunity would be exercised. The courts then worked to apply the law, and crafted a system where the accused can file a motion to dismiss based on that promise of immunity, and would have a chance to show the court at hearing they were entitled to immunity.
At issue is that the courts have found the burden is on the accused to prove their entitlement to immunity, instead of the state. The state normally bears the burden of proof, and some proponents of the law do not like that the burden has shifted onto the protected people the law was designed to protect. Unfortunately for them, the Florida Supreme Court upheld that procedure, since there was no specificity in the law. Lawmakers are now looking at the possibility of amending the law to put the burden to demonstrate that individuals are not immune in self-defense cases back on the state.
See Also: Florida Supreme Court Opinion upholding the procedure, Bretherick v. State
and the latest story via NBC-2
Ever see the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day? There’s a scene where Murray’s character, Phil, times the behavior of armored guards to walk up and steal a bag of money when they aren’t looking. Some guy in New York actually pulled that off!
Here’s the scene from Goundhog Day, if you haven’t seen it before. It makes more sense to know that Bill Murray is reliving the same day over and over again, so he knows what’s going to happen…
So, a guy in New York just pulled off that move. He walked up to an unguarded armored truck, snatched a bucket of money, and walked off. The whole thing was caught on camera, and NYPD Crimestoppers are looking for tips if anyone recognized the guy. Here’s the footage of the sneaky thief:
Here’s the amazing thing… this guy didn’t just get a bucket of change. The bucket he swiped was full of gold! The five-gallon pail had 82 pounds of flaked gold, worth $1.6 million dollars. It was so heavy, it took him an hour to walk a few blocks where he got in a van to make his escape. Police pieced all this together by reviewing the surveillance footage in the video, above. They still have not identified him, and are looking for tips.
Screen Capture of the Groundhog-style Thief
I called this a robbery in the title, but it’s really more of a simple grand theft. Robbery typically indicates taking property from a person, but there’s nobody here. It’s like shoplifting, except from an armored car. It’s exactly like the Groundhog Day, theft, so I’m beside myself because it’s one of my favorite movies. But this guy didn’t plan it out… he probably just saw an opportunity, and got really lucky. Winner, winner, chicken dinner and bucket of gold. I think they have an idea who it is, because investigators think the suspect is laying low in Florida. Because of course he is. Just so EPIC.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, New York, Uncategorized
Tagged bill murray, crimestoppers, florida, groundhog day, new york, nypd, phil, robbery, theft