Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that lawmakers overstepped their authority in modifying the law this year to force prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s self-defense claim that a pre-trial hearing. According to the Judge, under Florida’s constitution, the change should have been made by the Florida Supreme Court, and not the Legislature.
“As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote in a 14-page order.
Hirsch’s ruling is a victory for prosecutors who have firmly opposed a law they believe makes it easier for defendants to get away with murder and other violent crimes. However, Hirsch’s ruling is not binding. In Florida, other trial courts can follow the law if they so choose. But it does start the process of appeals, and possibly getting the law reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.
According to the Miami Herald, Senator Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he believes the Legislature acted lawfully. “I would be surprised if this decision were upheld at the appellate level,” said Bradley, a former prosecutor who championed the modification of the already controversial “Stand Your Ground” statute passed over a decade ago. The change was pushed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association. Gov. Rick Scott signed the new law into effect in last month.
First passed in 2005, Florida’s controversial self-defense law has been criticized for fostering a shoot-first mentality – and giving killers a pass at justice. The law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter an apparent threat.
Source: Miami Herald