Florida lawmakers are expected to pass a new bill this week that will make it easier for defendants to argue the Stand Your Ground rule, The New York Times reports. Under the new law, defendants would no longer have to produce evidence to support the Stand Your Ground defense and prosecutors would instead have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the rule does not apply.
The expansion of Stand Your Ground is another marker in Florida's long-held position at the forefront of self-defense law. The state's far-reaching self-defense protections came into the national spotlight in the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin. Though George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Martin in 2012, did not use the Stand Your Ground defense, the case and subsequent acquittal drew attention to the state's extensive self-defense laws.
“It’s right and just to have the government’s feet held to the fire throughout a criminal prosecution from arrest to trial,” said Rob Bradley, the Republican Senator who penned the bill, during a recent floor debate. “I consider this to be a conservative bill that is grounded in the constitution.”
The bill would allow for any defendant involved in a violent crime to ask for an immunity trial on the grounds of self-defense without presenting evidence for their defense. If immunity is not granted, however, the case would move to trial. Florida prosecutors say the new bill effectively will force witnesses and victims to testify twice and push an unsustainable amount of cases to trial.