We start with good news for anyone who might commit a murder in Florida: The Legislature is advancing a bill that could help you get away with it!
Now, that might seem like a bad idea to most people. It does to prosecutors and victims’ advocates.
But when prosecutors such as Seminole County State Attorney Phil Archer objected to the NRA-backed proposal to make convictions tougher, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer responded by calling them “anti-gun.”
It was an odd charge to level at Archer – a gun-toting conservative who owns AR-15s, teaches “stand your ground” classes and said he too is an NRA member.
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Archer said he wasn’t anti-gun … just anti-murder. And anti-assault. And anti-bad-guys-getting-away-with-it.
That’s why Archer went to Tallahassee last week to oppose a bill that would essentially grant two chances to escape conviction to anyone who claims self-defense for a killing or assault – be they a gang member, abusive spouse or legitimate claimant.
Under Senate Bill 128, defendants can demand a pre-trial immunity hearing where they don’t have to prove they acted in self-defense. Instead, prosecutors would have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” they did not. The law basically flips the burden of proof, assuming the killing or assault was justified unless the state proves otherwise.
A regular trial would happen after that — but only if a judge didn’t toss the case first.
“No other state in this country” does this, Archer told senators, adding that, if the law passes, they should expect virtually every accused killer, assaulter and batterer in Florida to start claiming self-defense. “Why not?” he asked. They take “no risk” and get two shots to get off.
Archer wasn’t alone in his objections. Other prosecutors objected, along with victims’ advocates — including the mother of a boy killed by a man who claimed self-defense, but was ultimately convicted under the existing standards.
One critic called it a “gang members protection” act.
Hammer argued the bill simply bolsters the concept of innocent-until-proven-guilty.
Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee asked many pointed questions about the bill.
Republican members, however, sat mostly silent. But after Hammer told them to pass the bill — to protect the rights of self-defenders — they did as she instructed, advancing the bill on a 5-4 party-line vote.
Even though he’s term-limited, Gov. Rick Scott is still raking in political donations; more than $600,000 in the last two reporting months alone. Why? Well, he may have his eyes on a seat in the U.S. Senate — where Donald Trump apparently wants him. According to Politico, Trump recently urged Scott to run, saying: “We need you in the Senate. We need business guys like you.”
The Republican Scott would certainly have the money. But he would also face a strong opponent in Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, whose approval ratings have consistently topped Scott’s. Then again, Alex Sink and Charlie Crist liked their chances against Scott, too.
Last week, I noted how U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had made a big show of acting tough on Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson … before voting for Tillerson anyway. That came on the heels of Rubio making a big show about immigration reform … before abandoning that fight as well.
Well, people are catching on. As Washington Post columnist Colbert King wrote recently: “Sen. Marco Rubio has a well-deserved reputation for being a windbag who huffs and puffs but never quite blows anything down.”
This week’s Only-in-Florida headlines:
”Jupiter man accused of putting feces on HOA president’s car”
“Florida man in SpongeBob outfit breaks into home, stands over sleeping woman”
“Florida pastor caught with man’s wife, flees naked.”
Some folks find religion in the most unlikely ways.