A Florida state circuit judge ruled Monday (July 3) that state lawmakers’ update to so-called "stand your ground" armed self-defense laws—the kind that vigilante George Zimmerman cited to justify killing Trayvon Martin in 2012—violate the state constitution.
Miami-Dade circuit judge Milton Hirsch wrote in his State of Florida v. Liletha Rutherford decision that the state legislature did not have constitutional authority to implement Senate Bill (SB) 128, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month. SB 128 builds on current policies by requiring prosecutors to disprove an offender’s self-defense claims before the case even reaches a jury. Hirsch wrote that only the state supreme court, instead of its legislature, can introduce such changes.
The Miami Herald reported that the ruling does not completely throw out SB 128, but may lead to appeals and a state supreme court ruling. The state first introduced "stand your ground" laws in 2005. Opponents say the laws give judges too much leeway to rule any deadly violence as self-defense, including altercations like the one that led to Martin’s death.
SB 128 and "stand your ground’s" opponents also say that such policies prioritize White people’s Second Amendment rights at Black citizens’ expense. The bill received support from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which The Washington Post notes faces renewed racism allegations over two recent controversies: First the organization failed to respond to the exoneration of Jeronimo Yanez, a former cop who killed legal gun holder Philando Castile in a traffic stop. The NRA then released a video demonizing Black Lives Matter, liberal celebrities and grassroots movements as dishonest and violence-driven.