Less than one month after Michael Dunn was convicted of lesser charges in the Jordan Davis murder case, and amid new reports that Marissa Alexander could face a triple sentence during retrial, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee passed CS/HB89, the so-called “warning shot bill.” If signed into law by Governor Rick Scott, this bill would expand the controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws at the center of the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis murder trials. The NRA-backed bill would make it legal to fire warning shots based on a “perceived threat,” thereby turning what is now considered an armed aggravated assault into self-defense.
Alexander’s retrial is expected to begin in July, and last week the Office of State Attorney Angela Corey announced her office would seek to increase Alexander’s sentence from 20 to 60 years. Alexander was unsuccessful in using the “Stand Your Ground” defense in her own case, despite being charged with a lesser crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot at her abusive, estranged husband. The bill, which some say lawmakers drafted in support of Alexander, has been called into question by activist groups such as the Dream Defenders, which challenge any expansion to existing “Stand Your Ground” laws that have had dire consequences particularly for young people of color in that state.