FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In a case involving Florida's controversial “stand your ground” law, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been asked to reinvestigate the fatal shooting of a drunken, unarmed man who mistakenly pounded on a wrong door in the middle of the night.
A request to appoint a special prosecutor in the case was made by attorney Mark O'Mara, best known as the defense attorney for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted on murder charges in the internationally publicized shooting of Trayvon Martin more than six years ago.
This time around, O'Mara is representing the father of Ryan Modell, who was fatally shot by Steve Taylor in March 2016 at the Fort Myers condominium complex where both lived.
In both the Martin and Modell slayings, prosecutors cited the “stand your ground” law in deciding, at least initially, not to prosecute. The law says people who justifiably believe they face death or great bodily harm can use deadly force without first retreating, but they cannot be the confrontation's instigator.
Family members of Martin, 17, and now Modell, 32, claim the shooters were the instigators and therefore weren't entitled to use the law. Ultimately, O'Mara didn't use the law as a defense in the Zimmerman case, but it was cited by police who waited 44 days to arrest him.
In the Modell case, O'Mara argues that “stand your ground” does not apply. He says Taylor should not have gone outside with his gun and pursued Modell after Modell walked away from his door.
“You are not allowed to put yourself in a position where you have to shoot,” says O'Mara, who wants Taylor charged with second-degree murder. DeSantis' office said the Republican governor is examining the request to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate. A similar plea to Republican former Gov. Rick Scott went nowhere.
Modell's father, Sandy Modell, said he believes now-retired State Attorney Stephen Russell and his chief deputy, Amira Fox, who successfully ran to replace him in 2018, wanted to give the National Rifle Association a “stand your ground” victory and didn't want to risk losing a high-profile case before the election.