Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Juvenile Stand Your Ground case

 An NBCMiami article this morning is following up on an incident revolving around an altercation between two Florida teenagers – boy & girl -- on a school bus last month which led to boy’s being convicted of battery and sentenced as a juvenile after not being allowed to use the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law in defending his actions.

  At the time, July 17th.., the Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald were among those carrying the story, and had reported the incident as starting when T.P. and a girl, identified as A.F., were on the same bus headed home from middle school when a fight broke out. Testimony from the bus driver stated the girl had grabbed the boy's jacket, punched him and pulled him down on a seat before he fought back; the girl testified that the boy's attack on her was unprovoked and that she fought him onto his seat.

  Broward Circuit Judge Elijah Williams would not allow T.P’s use of the  “Stand Your Ground” defense, saying it did not apply because the boy was not protecting his home or vehicle. 4th District Appeals Court Judge Martha Warner not only disagreed, but criticized Williams’ decision, stating that the self-defense law did apply because the boy had the right to be on the school bus… "[T.P.] was not engaged in an unlawful activity, and he had the right to be on the bus going home from school," Warner wrote. "Whether he was faced with 'force' from A.F. and whether he reasonably believed that such force was necessary to prevent harm to himself were factual matters for the trial court to determine." [ 4th. District Ruling ]

  The Sentinel article had stated that “the appeals court overturned the conviction and remanded the case, ordering Williams to consider the boy was within his rights under the ‘Stand Your Ground.’ It didn’t rule on who was telling the truth either, and the boy still faced a count of battery, the Palm Beach assistant public defender whose office handled the appeal said.”

  This morning’s NBCMiami article quotes Broward defense attorney Richard Della Fera as commenting that “with so much controversy over the Florida law and some protesters calling for the law to be repealed, what happened on the school bus and the court's response to it indicates ‘Stand Your Ground’ is pretty much everywhere even when no weapons are involved, and I think it shows us that it does have broad application throughout many, many instances of everyday life… Regardless of the age of the participants, regardless of the environment that the persons are in, if it indeed is a situation where that person has a lawful right to be -- such as a child on a school bus -- that child has the right to defend him or herself.”

  The article concludes by noting “Broward prosecutors said at this point they do not plan on dropping the case, and when it goes back to court, there's no guarantee the student would win using the ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense. The judge would have to take a look at the facts and see if the immunity applies, but the student now gets to put that on the table – which wasn't the case before. That’s something for every parent to think about right before school starts.”

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