Lawmaker Wants "Stand Your Ground" Court Records To Be Kept Secret
For the first time since Miami teen Trayvon Martin's death, legislators are poised to approve a substantial reform to the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. A bill that looks likely to pass the House this week would add warning shots to the protections under the law -- a response to the disproportionate prison sentence a Jacksonville woman faced for trying to scare off her abusive husband.
Many of George Zimmerman's court records would be secret under the new proposal.
If that sounds way too reasonable to be coming out of Tallahassee, don't worry. A Republican rep heartily screwed over the bi-partisan effort yesterday by adding an amendment to prevent the public from getting records from "Stand Your Ground" cases.
Rep. Matt Gaetz -- a Republican from Fort Worth who has been among Stand Your Ground's most vocal supporters -- successfully tacked on the amendment yesterday. It would allow anyone whose charges are dropped thanks to a Stand Your Ground defense to expunge most of the court records related to the case.
"The point is to make sure that someone who appropriately uses the 'stand your ground' defense doesn't have their life ruined by the use of that defense," Gaetz tells the Tampa Bay Times.
As the Tampa Bay Times points out this morning, that rule would have made it impossible for the paper to report its 2012 investigation into hundreds of Stand Your Ground cases -- a project that showed how the law has been used dozens of times in ways lawmakers never intended.
Journalists, activists and attorneys would all be seriously hampered in trying to do meaningful work related to Stand Your Ground if Gaetz's amendment becomes part of the law.
It's a doubly shameful move because the bill, HB 89, has wide support from Republicans and Democrats alike. Many tied the reform to the case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots at her husband, who had an extensive history of abuse.
The House could take up the bill with Gaetz's amendment as soon as today.