Interviewer: Okay, we’re going to bring in our legal analyst Kendall Coffey, a former federal prosecutor… Kendall, this op-ed for example in the New York Times, it says in part, the headline was “Second Thoughts on Neighborhood Watches” and it was about Sanford and the shooting and it says, “Florida’s Laissez-Faire gun culture is epitomized by the state’s Stand Your Ground law. It, unlike traditional doctrine requiring a citizen to retreat from danger, gives a legally armed person dangerous leeway.” We know this hearing is about the discussion today, but do you believe that the Stand Your Ground law gives that dangerous leeway that we’ve discussed so often since the Trayvon Martin shooting?
Kendall Coffey: Absolutely it does, that is why the state prosecutors association has opposed Stand Your Ground laws which all too many cases become a license to kill, an invitation to stand and shoot. Now, at least there is a hearing today. Do we expect any possibility that the House is going to recommend appealing the law? No. But there can be changes made. And saying, not changing one darn comma, is a slogan. It isn’t a response to a serious problem, and experience has told us that this law has gone far beyond what it was originally intended in 2005.
Interviewer: And Kendall, I can’t stress enough, you are a former federal prosecutor. What do you believe you see as flaws in this law that others, particularly those with the power to do something here with legislation, are not seeing?
Kendall Coffey: Well first of all, let’s use some examples of what has happened with the law. People who have been shot in the back have been pronounced, nevertheless, Stand Your Ground cases. Drug dealers in a fatal shootout, they’ve been able to invoke Stand Your Ground. What this law needs to get back to is self defense where it is reasonably necessary and where someone has the burden of avoiding killing someone if they possibly can. The other thing that I hope happens is that there is a bill in the state senate which is a little bit of a compromise and maybe there’s hope for a compromise. It says, in effect, that if you’re the one who precipitated, who created the confrontation that turned out to be fatal (sounds a little bit like George Zimmerman who went hunting for Trayvon Martin we believe) that you can’t claim Stand Your Ground. Even though that’s a compromise, it would be a big step forward.