In a recent shooting case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with aggravated battery with a firearm after shooting the victim in the back of the leg. The criminal defense lawyer filed a Stand Your Ground motion claiming that the defendant had a right to use deadly force against the victim because the victim was threatening him. Since the victim was unarmed and shot in the back of the leg, this was apparently a difficult argument.
Under the Florida Stand Your Ground law, a person can use deadly force, including firing a gun at another person, if that person reasonably believes it is necessary to respond to an another’s use or threat of deadly force. Whether that claim is valid depends on the circumstances. When the alleged victim also has a gun and is shot facing the defendant, that is likely to be a stronger defense claim than when the alleged victim is unarmed and shot facing away from the defendant.
In this case, the defendant and the victim did not like each other and had several arguments prior to the shooting. Ultimately, the victim came to the defendant’s house to confront him. Each side gave different stories as to what happened, but the evidence was clear that the victim was unarmed and shot in the back of the leg outside of the defendant’s house. That evidence was consistent with the victim’s testimony that he turned to leave once the defendant retrieved his gun. That evidence was not consistent with the defendant’s story that he feared that the victim was going to beat him up when he fired the shot.
With Stand Your Ground immunity motions filed to have the case dismissed, the judge decides the validity of the motion. In this case, the judge did not find that the defendant was reasonably in fear of death or serious bodily injury when he shot the victim. Having lost the motion, the defendant was free to use the same factual arguments at the trial, but he was not entitled to have the case thrown out by the judge pursuant to the Florida Stand Your Ground law.