Pursuant to the recently passed self-defense law of "stand your ground", a local circuit court judge heard a motion to dismiss filed by a well-repsected Miami criminal attorney regarding that issue. The defendant is a twenty-three year old man from New York charged with second degree murder accused in the stabbing death of homeless man outside a Miami Beach night club. According to court documents, the defendant came to Miami Beach in 2008 to party. Prior to entering a nightclub, the defendant purchased the ID belonging to the victim for $50.00. When the homeless man realized that a third party had taken his ID and sold it to the defendant, he went to retrieve the ID from the defendant. The victim allegedly threatened the defendant which caused him to flee into an alleyway. In the alley, a scuffle ensued between the parties. During the scuffle, the defendant took out a knife, stabbing the victim three times. At some point during the scuffle, the victim threw a book bag at the defendant.
After taking testimony and hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defense lawyer, the circuit court judge hearing the case denied the motion to dismiss. The judge found that the defendant was protecting the ID and not himself. He found specifically that " a reasonable person under these circumstances would have believed that if he had given the license back, it may have not been necessary to stab the victim." The lawyer representing the defendant intends on appealing the ruling as the law is still emerging and the order signed by the judge has issues to be raised at the appellate court level. Of course, the prosecution agreed with the ruling saying the judge was correct in his evaluation of the testimony and the evidence presented at the hearing.
In 2005, the Florida legislature amended Florida's self-defense laws to include "stand your ground". The law eliminated a citizen's duty to retreat if confronted with deadly force. Murder or other violent charges, such as aggravated assault and aggravated battery, can now be more easily defended with the new law. A defendant is justified in using deadly force if the defendant believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself while resisting another's attempt to commit murder or any other enumerated violent crime against him or her. The defense can be argued in two ways. The first is through a motion to dismiss heard and ruled on by the judge. If the judge denies the motion, the attorney can argue self-defense to the jury who is the tier of fact.
Several cases have been dismissed throughout the state based on the "stand your ground" law. Last year, a Palm Beach judge dismissed a first-degree murder case involving a shooting that occurred as a result of a confrontation on a boat between the victim and the defendant. A Miami-Dade County judge dismissed a murder case that occurred outside and apartment in Hialeah. Later in the year, a Broward County judge dismissed a charges against a man accused of murdering his wife's former boyfriend. Several other cases are set to be heard at the trial level and the appellate level. The area of the law is evolving and with every case that is heard, different theories of self-defense will come to light. However the cases are ruled upon, the "stand your ground" law provides a defense to some defendants charged with violent crimes.
Miami-Dade Judge Shoots Down Self-Defense Claim in the South Beach Murder, Miami Herald.com, September 18, 2012.