I’m not a lawyer. I’ve never pretended to be one, either.
I want to put that out there right off the bat because I’m about to take serious issue with something a supposedly actual attorney said and I think it’s important to understand that I’m not pretending to be an expert.
Of course, this prosecutor from Miami, who has a law degree, doesn’t sound like much of an expert either.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle wants the Florida Supreme Court to know that she believes the latest version of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law is just flat out unconstitutional.
According to the Miami Herald, Fernandez Rundle is a member of The League of Prosecutors, a South Florida organization that recently requested that the law be struck down because it unlawfully compels state attorneys to try cases involving self-defense claims before a judge, instead of a jury.
“There is nothing specialized or unique about this defense that the common juror cannot understand,” said the brief filed Friday.
Fernandez Rundle also filed a brief joining in the effort, making her the first state attorney to break from Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office is defending the updated “Stand Your Ground” law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2017.
Oh, boy, where do we start.
First, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires all legal matters to be tried before a jury. It guarantees the right to a jury trial, but that doesn’t mean every single matter in a trial must go before a jury. Especially if the defendant is fine with that. Remember, the jury is there to preserve the rights of the defendant, not to make the prosecutor’s life easier.
Second, a lot of things are dealt with before a judge without the presence of a jury. Hearings are a routine part of the process, and this is no different.
Further, I’d argue that the common juror may well not be able to understand the nature of the defense. After all, despite the law being available for politicians to read, they still mischaracterize Stand Your Ground laws as somehow legalizing the murder of minorities. It’s nothing of the type, and the law applies to people of all ethnicities equally and offers no protection for those who panic due to racial prejudices.
If people who are supposed to know better–people who are often lawyers, I might add–can continue to mischaracterize the law, what hope does anyone have that the common juror will understand it just fine?
What Fernandez Rundle fails to note in her brief, based on my understanding of it, is why Florida law is written the way it is.
She fails to mention that the law was changed to its current form due to the malicious and politically-motivated prosecution of George Zimmerman for the self-defense shooting of Trayvon Martin that pushed lawmakers to make changes. While Zimmerman was acquited, he was also on the hook for massive legal fees because of a prosecution that never should have happened.
My guess is that Fernandez Rundle wants to dismantle the Stand Your Ground defense so she can prosecute anyone who acts in self-defense but happens to be of the wrong ethnicity in her mind. Especially if they Stand Their Ground against a minority. After all, how many times have we seen people labeled as racist because they defended themselves against an attacker of the wrong ethnicity?
The truth is, the law is there to protect everyone equally from malicious prosecution after they defend themselves. If progressive prosecutors weren’t so hellbent on trying to punish people who use a firearm in self-defense, the law wouldn’t have been needed in the first place.
All Fernandez Rundle is trying to do is return us to those bad old days, and she isn’t making much sense in her efforts to do so.