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State task force addresses self-defense

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Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 1:45 am

A state task force will make recommendations this week for a controversial self-defense law, which became the center of a national firestorm after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The panel may call for a change in Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which gives people the right to use deadly force in self-defense if they are attacked in a public place or their homes.

The group, created by Gov. Rick Scott and headed by Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, met Tuesday in Pensacola to hear statements from the public and review a nearly finalized list of suggestions for the state.

Some, including the UF Levin College of Law’s Criminal Justice Center, feel the task force has been too hasty with its decisions.

“The Criminal Justice Center wanted the task force to study the data longer,” said Michelle Jacobs, a UF law professor. “They wanted them to do a more in-depth study so we could really understand what the numbers are saying.”

Jacobs said some of the data the panel reviewed isn’t a clear representation of what is happening across the state. For example, she said, different words are used by different police departments to convey the same meaning.

For the past several months, the task force has heard from experts in investigations, prosecution, legal defense, neighborhood watch, private security, data analysis and civil rights. The group has also heard public comments.

Though a finalized list of recommendations will be released later this week, Jacobs said she doubts the task force will advise the state to make any serious changes to the Stand Your Ground law.

“I would be shocked if something dramatic came out of it,” Jacobs said. “But you never know. This has been a surprising year.”

Contact Shelby Webb at swebb@alligator.org.

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