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Trayvon Martin cases puts focus on 2005 'stand your ground' law

The death of an unarmed 17-year-old and a police department's reluctance to charge or arrest the neighborhood watch captain who shot him has stoked a national debate about a 2005 Florida law at the center of the case.

The "stand your ground" law — approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush — allows people to use deadly force in cases of self-defense when they believe their life is at risk.

George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, has told police he acted in self-defense when he shot Trayvon Martin Feb. 26.

In Tallahassee on Tuesday, several Democrats called for the 2005 law to be reviewed, amended or repealed, while leading Republicans, including the sponsors of the original legislation, said "stand your ground" might not — or should not — apply in this case.

"When we passed the law, we said it portends horrific events when people's lives were put into these situations, and my worst fears came to fruition," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, who was in the House in 2005 and voted against the bill. "A young life was snuffed out."

The law passed in 2005 with broad bipartisan support, including a unanimous vote in the Senate. Original Senate sponsor Durell Peaden said Tuesday it was crafted after an old man from Pensacola shot an intruder who tried to loot his hurricane-ravaged home. The old man, whose name Peaden could no longer remember, had to hire a lawyer and fret he'd be charged.

Previously, Floridians outside of their home, workplace or car were required to use every reasonable means available to avoid danger before using deadly force.

Peaden and state Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who sponsored the measure in the House, said the law might not apply to Zimmerman — because he decided to pursue and confront a person like Martin and then use deadly force.

Read more here.