Panelists debate 'stand your ground' law at town hall forum

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law was the focus of a town hall forum Thursday night in Jacksonville.

With a ruling pending on whether Marissa Alexander will get a second "Stand Your Ground" hearing in her retrial and Florida's so-called "warning shot bill" awaiting action from Gov. Rick Scott, the issue most Floridians first heard about during the George Zimmerman trial remains an ongoing debate.

People from various sides of that debate offered their opinions about the law in the forum, which was broadcast simultaneously on Channel 4 and our news partner WJCT.

Florida Coastal School of Law professor Rod Sullivan was among the panelist of experts who discussed the law with hosts Kent Justice and Melissa Ross.
Some said they feel Florida lawmakers got "Stand Your Ground" right when they made the law, and it shouldn't change, but others maintain the law has done more harm then good.

From Marissa Alexander to George Zimmerman to the shooting death of Jordan Davis, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law has been at the center of some high-profile cases lately.

Jordan's father, Ron Davis, was also on Thursday night's panel and feels the law needs to change. Other critics want the law thrown out altogether.

"Because it wants the jury and judge to look at mind of shooter and you can't look at somebody's heart and mind," Davis said. "You have to look at facts and what witnesses are testifying to. You can't go into someone's mind and make a life or death decision based on that."

But Cord Byrd, a local gun rights attorney, points out that two controversial cases – those of Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, who shot Jordan Davis — did not rely on "Stand Your Ground" as a defense. They used typical self-defense laws, and the public needs to remember that, Byrd said.

"Neither of those cases had anything to do with 'Stand Your Ground,' so if we're gonna' have debate over law then we need to have the debate over how the law's applied to real self-defense cases and not two instances cited by opponents," Byrd said.

Ron Davis said he and a lot of other supporters are going to officially ask Florida's Legislature to re-write the "Stand Your Ground" law. And he thinks there will be enough political pressure to make it happen.

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