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Old May 20, 2010, 05:19 PM   #1
Bartholomew Roberts
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Judge Finds Florida "Stand Your Ground" Law Protects Gangmembers in Shooting

The Tallahassee Democrat is reporting that Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis has determined that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law protected two of the three men charged in the killing of 15yr old Michael Jackson.

Both sets of men were affiliated with gangs. Just a few minutes earlier, Jackson's gang had been the target of a shooting at another location. The men claimed that they were driving along in the early morning hours when Jackson shot at them and they returned over 30 rounds from an AK47, killing Jackson. Jackson was found to have gunshot residue on his hands at the hospital.

Judge Terry Lewis, apparently unable to find any facts or any one of the legal doctrines that would negate a justification of self-defense in this case, wrote in his opinion:

"What this means, as illustrated by this case, is that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in a middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self defense," Lewis wrote. "… it is very much like the Wild West. Maybe that is not what was intended, but that seems to be the effect of the language."

State Attorney Willie Meggs agreed with Lewis and has called on Governor Charlie Crist to call a special session of the legislature to overturn the law.

It strikes me that Judge Lewis's reading of the law is untenable on a number of levels:

For example Sec. 776.013(2)(c) says that Stand Your Ground does not apply if:

"(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or "

Two known gang members with an AK47 driving around the neighborhood of their opposing gang in the early morning hours and there was no evidence that they were engaged in an unlawful activity? Were both men over 18 with no felony record? Could they even legally possess the "AK47"?

The Judge appears to have disregarded the prosecutor's suggestion that the two men were in fact trying to ambush and kill Jackson and other gang members in relation to the earlier shooting. I haven't been able to find a more detailed discussion of the facts than the ones linked above; but it seems Judge Lewis certainly went out of his way to accept some improbable claims from the defendants in this case in order to reach his conclusion that they were protected by the Stand Your Ground law.

Hopefully, the appeal court will get a good look at this. In the meantime, his little stunt is getting heavy press.
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Old May 20, 2010, 05:25 PM   #2
Sefner
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"What this means, as illustrated by this case, is that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in a middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self defense," Lewis wrote. "… it is very much like the Wild West. Maybe that is not what was intended, but that seems to be the effect of the language."
They need to be careful, they spin this hard they are gonna get dizzy and fall. Also, the Wild West was an extremely tame place. The city of Tombstone had, on average, 3 killings per year. Beats the hell out of Detroit. It's not the effect of the language and that is ridiculous. I don't need to cite all of the legitimate shootings in which the shooter was charged with a crime even though Castle Doctrine exists. Plenty of people are sent to jail in SD shootings even though there exists CD. I wonder if The Honorable Judge Lewis is up for reelection soon.
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Old May 20, 2010, 05:42 PM   #3
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"What this means, as illustrated by this case, is that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in a middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self defense," Lewis wrote. "… it is very much like the Wild West. Maybe that is not what was intended, but that seems to be the effect of the language."
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Two known gang members with an AK47 driving around the neighborhood of their opposing gang in the early morning hours and there was no evidence that they were engaged in an unlawful activity? Were both men over 18 with no felony record? Could they even legally possess the "AK47"?
Frankly... I'm okay with the death, absolvement of the shooters, and lack of grounds to press charges for the State. If the guys had no prior record and legally possessed the gun, then good on them for defending themselves.

If gang members WANT to go out and shoot at each other and no one can prove who shot first or who was the aggressor, then there will be a LOT less gang members, really quickly.

That is a Good Thing(TM).

I hope for no change in the law, and no change in judicial interpretation. If they WANT to shoot at each other, then let 'em.
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Old May 20, 2010, 07:06 PM   #4
RETG
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Sefner....I don't need to cite all of the legitimate shootings in which the shooter was charged with a crime even though Castle Doctrine exists. Plenty of people are sent to jail in SD shootings even though there exists CD. I wonder if The Honorable Judge Lewis is up for reelection soon.
Please do cite all of these legitimate shootings
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Old May 20, 2010, 08:54 PM   #5
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Frankly... I'm okay with the death, absolvement of the shooters, and lack of grounds to press charges for the State. If the guys had no prior record and legally possessed the gun, then good on them for defending themselves.
+1

What are they supposed to do, stand there and get shot?
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Old May 20, 2010, 09:54 PM   #6
Sefner
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Originally Posted by RETG
Please do cite all of these legitimate shootings
My point there is that the judge's citing of Castle Doctrine isn't very valid because there are plenty of cases of people being charged (not necessarily convicted, but charged, just like these guys were) for shootings that ended up being in self defense. I'm sure there exists a case in which a legitimate shooting resulted in a conviction. Obviously that is impossible to prove. Anyways, the judge is saying that CD allowed these guys to "square off" in the street. He uses this to say that CD is wrong. I'm using it to say that CD has in some cases given the exact opposite results as what he is giving here. So somewhere the interpretation is incorrect.

CD does not allow for gangs to organize wars in the middle of the street like he is suggesting. Even in states with CD laws there are people who are charged with murder in self defense shootings. That is my point.
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Old May 21, 2010, 08:23 AM   #7
Bartholomew Roberts
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Please do cite all of these legitimate shootings
I bet Norman Boarden is glad for Castle Doctrine, since he relied on it in his self-defense case.

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Frankly... I'm okay with the death, absolvement of the shooters, and lack of grounds to press charges for the State. If the guys had no prior record and legally possessed the gun, then good on them for defending themselves.
If that is the case... after all, who among us hasn't thrown on some gang colors and gone driving through a rival gang's neighborhood in the early morning hours with a loaded AK47 in the front seat? However, right now it looks a lot like Judge Lewis acquitted two murderers just so he could make an unjustified point about Florida's gun laws.
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Old May 21, 2010, 09:56 AM   #8
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Sorry but the party which instigated and escalated the incident is liable. The politicians here (judge and DA) are pushing a cause.

So, one dirtbag threatens a group of dirtbags and shoots at them. The group responds by shooting the lone instigating dirtbag. I may not like the crowd of dirtbags but castle doctrine or not they still were acting in self defense.
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Old May 21, 2010, 10:14 AM   #9
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If that is the case... after all, who among us hasn't thrown on some gang colors and gone driving through a rival gang's neighborhood in the early morning hours with a loaded AK47 in the front seat? However, right now it looks a lot like Judge Lewis acquitted two murderers just so he could make an unjustified point about Florida's gun laws.
It isn't against the law to associate with criminals, as long as you aren't breaking the law by aiding/abedding or otherwise facilitating crime.

I've "associated" with gang members before. Never broke any laws while doing so.

Should I not be allowed to own a gun, or defend myself if shot at?

These guys have no prior record and the findings show they acted in self defense. You may not "like" them. That's fine. I don't "like" Sarah Brady. But she can still defend herself against a home invasion and kill her attacker with a gun, and stand righteous in the eyes of the law. Shouldn't matter if I like her, or if she's one of "those" people that are supposed to be disarmed.

If the judge found Castle Doctrine to apply, then the guy who got shot was in the wrong. Plain and simple.

I'm 100% happy with the outcome of this, and this judge is just going to look like a flaming idiot to the legislature if he pushes this. The law was served.
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Old May 21, 2010, 11:26 AM   #10
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If that is the case... after all, who among us hasn't thrown on some gang colors and gone driving through a rival gang's neighborhood in the early morning hours with a loaded AK47 in the front seat?
When I was younger, I had to drive through a rough neighborhood or two late a night to pick up my wife from her second shift job. Are you saying that because I was prudent enough to lay a gun on the front seat and might, by accident, wear the wrong colors, I should be prosecuted for defending myself?

Or are you denying these guys their presumption of innocence?
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Old May 21, 2010, 11:37 AM   #11
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Judges with agendas....

Even Judges have agendas. I don't know the facts of this case, but I would suspect that the legality of these folks involved owning firearms should be questioned and investigated.
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Old May 21, 2010, 11:45 AM   #12
Bartholomew Roberts
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These guys have no prior record and the findings show they acted in self defense.
Is it the case that these guys have no prior record? Like I said, I can't find a better discussion of the facts of the case then the one I linked to, so I cannot say.

In this case, there was no jury trial and the Judge was the finder of fact. Florida's Stand Your Ground law (not Castle Doctrine) does not allow you the justification of self-defense if you are doing something unlawful.

Conspiring/planning to kill someone is unlawful. Based on the facts we have, we know the following facts:

1. Defendants were members of a criminal gang
2. Driving through the neighborhood of a rival gang in the early morning hours
3. Had a loaded AK47 in the car accessible to driver and passenger
4. The gang on the receiving end of the gunfire had been targeted in another shooting attack just a few minutes earlier in a different location.
5. One of the gang members on the receiving end of the gunfire had fired a gun recently based on gunshot residue.

It seems to me based on those facts, you've got a pretty strong case that the defendants were involved in some type of unlawful activity. Yet Judge Lewis reached an opposite conclusion. I would love to know what facts supported his finding of self-defense; but since nobody at the paper thought to ask, all we have is his dubious and incorrect legal interpretation of Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

Lewis wrote "that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in a middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self defense."

Lewis is asserting that both parties can be absolved from criminal liability if they were reasonably acting in self-defense. Yet the law says;

"(3) 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."

In order for Lewis's backwards legal assertion to be true - both parties must:

1. Not be engaged in unlawful activity
2. Not be the attacker
3. Not commit a forcible felony or use deadly force to attack

Can anyone here suggest a scenario that fits with what we do know about this case where both parties can claim self-defense under this law?

It would be one thing if Lewis said "I believe based on the facts that these guys were just out for an early morning drive with their AK47 when they were unjustly attacked first and defended themselves"; but that isn't what he claimed.

Even worse, rather than ask how he reached such a ridiculous interpretation of the law, the news reported his conclusion unquestioningly and didn't even ask what facts led him to that conclusion.
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Old May 21, 2010, 01:59 PM   #13
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Bart:

Quote:
Can anyone here suggest a scenario that fits with what we do know about this case where both parties can claim self-defense under this law?

It would be one thing if Lewis said "I believe based on the facts that these guys were just out for an early morning drive with their AK47 when they were unjustly attacked first and defended themselves"; but that isn't what he claimed.
http://www.tallahassee.com/article/2...th-of-teenager

Quote:
Taylor, who was driving the truck when Jackson, his passenger, was shot in the face with a bullet from an AK-47, did not pursue the immunity protection. If Lewis grants the motion in Brown and Tyler’s case, Taylor would still face charges in Jackson's death.
Taylor and Jackson were the initial shooters.

Brown and Tyler were the drivers in a separate vehicle with the AK, and were fired upon, then returned fire, striking Jackson in the face.

Taylor will not be using CD as a defense. Taylor will in fact be charged with something along the lines of contributing to the death of Jackson while committing a felony with a firearm (or whatever they call it). Taylor will be held accountable for the death of Jackson... his own gang member.

This is an EXCELLENT message to send to gangs.
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Old May 21, 2010, 02:07 PM   #14
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"Known gang members" is not a legal status, they may or may not be felons. "Known felons" is another matter entirely. I equate "known gang member" to
"person on the no-fly list". Might be a criminal, might not. Big distinction, legally. The Judge made the right call.
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Old May 21, 2010, 02:35 PM   #15
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I cannot think of any scenario where both parties to a confrontation could claim justifiable use of deadly force because of self-defense. It's a logical impossibility. One of the parties must have been the original aggressor who, assuming he didn't retreat and then cease to be the aggressor, could not possibly claim self-defense.

But, a bit off-topic, the provision in Sec. 776.013(2)(c) whereby the presumption of justifiable self-defense does not apply if "(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity" seems to me to have vagueness problems. Does it encompass, for example, an unlawful activity that has no connection whatsoever to the incident in question (e.g., the person was jaywalking at the time he used deadly force)?

In any case, it's clear the judge just doesn't like the statute for whatever reason, and used this case as an opportunity to showboat a little. Judges should be above such things, IMO.

DD
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Old May 21, 2010, 05:01 PM   #16
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I agree with the silliness of "known gang member"

How, when, why and what gang? It don't mean diddle. Sounds good on the TV and in the papers, hopefully it still doesn't hold water in our courts.
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Old May 21, 2010, 05:25 PM   #17
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Kinda reminds me of the "outrage" the media expressed when undercover cops dressed like gang members were able to buy guns at a gun shop near Chicago.

Can you imagine the media outrage at any other business telling them "We don't serve your kind in here!" :barf:
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Old May 22, 2010, 09:15 AM   #18
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Quote:
1. Defendants were members of a criminal gang
2. Driving through the neighborhood of a rival gang in the early morning hours
3. Had a loaded AK47 in the car accessible to driver and passenger
4. The gang on the receiving end of the gunfire had been targeted in another shooting attack just a few minutes earlier in a different location.
5. One of the gang members on the receiving end of the gunfire had fired a gun recently based on gunshot residue.

It seems to me based on those facts, you've got a pretty strong case that the defendants were involved in some type of unlawful activity.
None of this you described, even if true, is unlawful activity.

1. What proof, other than wearing a certain style of clothes, is there of them being in a criminal gang. For that matter, what law makes it unlawful to be a member of a criminal gang? Should be easy to clean up the streets if the police can just designate someone as a gang member and round them up. There is a law against conspiracy and a law against operating as part of a criminal syndicate. However, both require proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a conspiracy to commit unlawful acts and either taking a substantial step in completing the act, or under RICO, actually committing several specific kinds of felonies together with 4 or more others.

2. Really, driving through the street is unlawful?

3. Simply having gun loaded in your car and accessible is unlawful? Maybe in some states but apparently not in Florida. Certainly not in Kentucky.

4. Somebody else got shot somewhere else and how does that make these guys culpable unless you prove the conspiracy -- see above.

5. So, because the other guy had shot a gun sometime, that means my activity becomes unlawful? And when did shooting a gun become illegal? Besides, GSR tests don't prove someone shot a gun. The expert will testify only that the results showed the presence of lead, antimony, and barium and that it is consistent with someone either shooting a gun or being in close proximity to someone shooting a gun. The expert will also testify that people simply engaged in certain occupations also have these elements present.

I think the judge went out of the way to criticize the the law here.
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Old May 22, 2010, 11:46 AM   #19
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Frankly... I'm okay with the death, absolvement of the shooters, and lack of grounds to press charges for the State. If the guys had no prior record and legally possessed the gun, then good on them for defending themselves.
+2

Maybe they can start a new TV reality show "gang banger gun fights"
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Old May 22, 2010, 12:02 PM   #20
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The problem is simply that this judge (any many others that think like him) believe that if in some cases, a law provides some measure of protection for an unsavory character, then the law must somehow be "bad" or "flawed". Just look at the people trying to re-write free speech laws because of those bastards of the Westboro Baptist Church.

But like Larry Flynt said regarding the First Amendment - "If the law protects a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you."
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Old May 22, 2010, 01:46 PM   #21
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The problem is simply that this judge (any many others that think like him) believe that if in some cases, a law provides some measure of protection for an unsavory character, then the law must somehow be "bad" or "flawed".
It's only a problem if the Judge acts on his belief in the ruling. In this case, the Judge disagreed with the law, but followed it anyway. That's what judges are supposed to do.
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Old May 22, 2010, 01:53 PM   #22
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True - the judge acted correctly (although his understanding of the law, specifically that it would protect *both* parties, is flawed.)

It was Judge Lewis' unnecessary hand-wringing and lamenting of the non-existent unintended consequences of the law that have prompted the State's Attorney to petition the Governor to have the law revoked.
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Old May 22, 2010, 05:08 PM   #23
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None of this you described, even if true, is unlawful activity.
They were charged by the prosecution with the deliberate ambush of the people they killed - in relation to an earlier ambush and shooting of the same gang just a few minutes (and blocks) away earlier that night. The facts given in the news story support the prosecutor's version better than they support the judge's version; but I am not going to belabor the the point. While I'm skeptical that these guys are innocent, they could in fact be innocent. All the discussion about "Well maybe they are innocent" or "presumtion of innocence" is background noise that misses the real problem here.

The problem in this case is that the judge has said these two men are not guilty, because he believes under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, both parties to a shooting can claim self-defense. If you read 776.013(3), this is plainly not true. Whichever party is the attacker, cannot claim self-defense.

Instead of doing his job and determining who the attacker was based on the evidence presented, the judge is being intellectually lazy and claiming that both sides can claim self-defense. He has misstated the plain law in Florida - and apparently done it to score points for an agenda. At that point, I would have to wonder how credible his evaluation of the facts are.

Quote:
In this case, the Judge disagreed with the law, but followed it anyway.
Actually, we don't know that he did. If the defendants were actually the attackers (as the prosecutor alleges), then they cannot claim self-defense. Based on the facts in the story, the judge never says he finds their story credible. Instead he says "that two individuals, or even groups, can square off in a middle of a public street, exchange gunfire, and both be absolved from criminal liability" under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.

At best, that is a gross misstatement of the law that looks really bad because it lacks the context of the rest of his 7 page opinion. At worst, he is letting two guys go who deliberately ambushed and killed two other men because he thinks it is more important to promote gun control than justice.

Quote:
Taylor and Jackson were the initial shooters.

Brown and Tyler were the drivers in a separate vehicle with the AK, and were fired upon, then returned fire, striking Jackson in the face.
That is Brown's testimony of what happened. Lucky for Brown that Tyler had an AK47 loaded and ready to instantly return fire with 30 rounds eh? Lucky for Brown and Tyler both that the Judge apparently didn't accept the prosecutions argument and evidence that Brown and Tyler had gone to the Holton Street project to continue an earlier fight (which would negate the claim of self-defense) as well.
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