Florida governor names "Stand Your Ground" task force

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 19, 2012 4:43 PM
Florida governor names "Stand Your Ground" task force

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A week after murder charges were filed against George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, Florida Governor Rick Scott on Thursday named members to a task force set up to review the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

Led by Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, the 17-member panel will conduct a series of public hearings before recommending changes, if any, to Florida law following the death of Martin, 17, who was shot and killed on February 26 by Zimmerman, a neighbor watch volunteer.

Zimmerman, 28, could face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder charges filed last week by state special prosecutor Angela Corey.

His attorney says the shooting was justified under Florida's 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law that allows people to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger or fear great bodily harm.

"We have tapped a diverse and qualified group to carefully review our laws and policies," Scott told reporters in Tallahassee.

Martin, an unarmed black teen, was returning from a convenience store in a gated residential community in Sanford where he was staying with his father when he was spotted by Zimmerman, a white Hispanic.

Prosecutors allege that Zimmerman profiled Martin, disregarded police instructions, and confronted and then killed Martin with a single gunshot to the chest.

Zimmerman told police that he was acting in self defense. He was not initially charged with a crime.

Martin's death has caused a national uproar and debate over racial profiling, guns and similar laws now in place in more than 20 states.

The governor has called for calm as the case proceeds.

"I am a firm supporter of the Second Amendment and I also want to make sure that we do not rush to judgment about the 'Stand Your Ground' law and any other laws in our state," Scott said. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the people's right to bear arms.

The panel includes a sponsor of the 2005 law, a county sheriff, a circuit judge, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, and representatives from neighborhood watch groups, defense attorneys and state lawmakers.

"Florida is leading the way to shine light on, perhaps, a segment of a law that needs to be reviewed for the betterment of all our citizens," said the task force vice chairman, the Reverend R.B. Holmes, pastor at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

The group will hold an organizational meeting on May 1 in Tallahassee before undertaking public hearings around the state. The group plans to complete its work in time for the 2013 legislative session, which begins in March.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)