A Florida man who shot and wounded two people as they tried to rob an Internet café is unlikely to face criminal charges because his actions appear to fall within the bounds of the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
The law, which was passed in 2005, says people are justified in using deadly force to defend themselves if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. A citizen has no duty to retreat and, if it is determined that their use of force was justified, they are immune from criminal prosecution and civil action. The Stand Your Ground law does not apply if the victim initially provokes the use of force of if they are involved in a felony crime.
Prosecutors said they had reviewed surveillance video from the Café in Ocala, Florida and believe that 71-year-old Samuel Williams was acting lawfully when he shot two men during the attempted robbery. Williams had a concealed weapons permit and thus was allowed to possess the weapon at the time of the shooting.
Despite the controversy surrounding the law given the attention it has received due to the Trayvon Martin shooting, most Floridians say they think the law should not be changed. According to one statewide poll, 64% of registered voters said they support the law and even among those that oppose it, nearly 50% want the law modified, not abolished. Only 18% of registered voters say they want to see the law repealed. The poll also showed a divide along racial lines with 38% of black voters saying they want the law repealed with and only 27% supporting it as it is written.
Regarding Trayvon Martin, the poll found that statewide 44% of voters said they side with Zimmerman. Another 40% say his actions could not be defended under the law and 16% are unsure. Here again, race plays a big role as about half of white and Hispanics say he was justified. Among black voters, 82% said Zimmerman’s actions do not fall under the law.
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