A plan to strengthen Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law during the 2016 legislative session died an early death in the state House on Tuesday, after a subcommittee rejected the legislation on a deadlocked vote.
House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, and Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, joined with the panel’s four Democrats to oppose a bill by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, that would have given defendants who claim self-defense more protection from prosecution.
House Bill 169 would have required prosecutors to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" -- during a procedural hearing before trial -- why a defendant's self-defense claim isn't valid.
In contrast, Florida courts, culminating in a Florida Supreme Court ruling in July, had previously ruled that the defendant had the burden of proving why they shouldn't be prosecuted because they acted in self-defense.
Trujillo, a former assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade County, said he supports the way "Stand Your Ground" operates now, and the burden should remain on the defendant who claims self-defense.
"If you’re alleging something, you have to prove it," Trujillo said.
Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, was absent for the vote, resulting in the 6-6 tie.
The surprise result was preceded by two late-filed amendments from Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, which he said he proposed as "an insurance policy" with the ultimate intent to kill the bill in committee. Both amendments passed by a 6-5 vote; Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, was absent for those, along with Latvala.