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Black lawmakers say Scott response too late, want 'Stand Your Ground' amended

Gov. Rick Scott said he isn’t convinced the “Stand Your Ground” law is unfair, but it warrants attention in light of the Trayvon Martin case. But black lawmakers say they will present legislation next session to repeal the self-defense law.

"It is important that we change the 'Stand Your Ground' law," Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said. "This is ridiculous. 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. A young life was snuffed out."

Scott directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer “appropriate resources” in the case of the teenager slain as he walked back from a convenience store on Feb. 26. The neighborhood watch volunteer who killed the 17-year-old, George Zimmerman, said he fired in self defense.

The shooting has brought national attention to Florida and the 2005 law known as “Stand Your Ground,” which has increased the number of justifiable homicides.

The governor said he asked the FDLE to assist in the investigation because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“Anytime there’s a situation where citizens are concerned that the right process in happening, I think that we can be helpful,” he said Tuesday morning.

Scott says the Martin case impacted him much like other tragedies he's been exposed to during his tenure as governor.

“Your heart goes out to a family that loses a young man like that,” Scott said. “You want to do everything you can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

But Joyner said the governor’s response is too little, too late.

“Gov. Rick Scott should have taken the lead on this matter and ordered an investigation when this horrific act was initially reported,” she said. “It appears that only after the Department of Justice announced its investigation did the governor come forth and ask the FDLE to conduct an investigation.”

The news that the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice would intervene in the case came simultaneously with Scott’s announcement Monday night. Black legislators said they will continue to call for more action.

The caucus chairwoman, Rep. Mia Jones, spoke to the governor and the Department of Justice last week urging them to investigate, Joyner said. Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, as well as Joyner will file legislation next year to amend the "Stand Your Ground" law, she said.

Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, said he wants to spend his final months in office compiling data about the law and the Sanford Police Department, which has faced allegations of discrimination resulting of the Martin case.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.