FIU Law comments on Stand Your Ground course

Marisol Medina/Staff Writer

In Florida’s most recent high profile court case, the Stand Your Ground law became key in determining George Zimmerman’s acquittal of second-degree murder. Upon the verdict, Trayvon Martin became one more victim of justifiable murder cases in Florida, which have tripled since the law was passed in 2005, according to the Washington Post.

The law’s unprecedented notoriety has led Florida Atlantic University to start a new elective course focusing on the Stand Your Ground law and its implications, as well as the school being the only university offering such a course according to the Sun Sentinel.

Phyllis Kotey, an FIU Law clinical associate professor that specializes in criminal law, believes the class would be best offered to general students, given that most non-legal people don’t understand the complications involved with Stand Your Ground, and the FIU Law graduate students are already taught Stand Your Ground in their Criminal Law classes.

“I think the course would work best as an introductory course to our new students who are just entering adulthood as they come to college and are not familiar with their rights as citizens,” said Kotey.

Kotey believes an entire course about Stand Your Ground for law students would be too narrow in scope, where the concept alone could be taught in a week. She instead suggests the possibility of a Stand Your Ground seminar at FIU.

“A seminar where students express their different perspectives in terms of the law’s implications throughout the state, whether the law should be changed and what changes, if any, should be made, would be a good course to teach students,” said Kotey.

Joelle Moreno, the associate dean for Research and Faculty Development and a law professor at FIU, said in an e-mail that she is interested in FAU’s Stand Your Ground course.

“It will be interesting to see how the course at FAU, taught by Broward County Assistant Public Defender Frank de la Torre, is constructed and received,” said Moreno.

Moreno, who was part of a panel led by State Sen. Chris Smith, tasked with reviewing the law, said, “I believe that thoughtful and well-informed discussion of this new law is important in the context of a robust understanding of criminal law trends.”

Kendra New, a first-year law student at FIU, also believes that general society, not only lawyers, should be more educated about Stand Your Ground and other self-defense laws.

“I think people need to know what it would take to have the law be applicable to them. I don’t want it to become an overused defense, where it can justify any murder. If people understand what the true elements are, our society would be much better off,” said New.

New studied criminology as an undergraduate at the University of Tampa, has an interest for criminal law and would like to learn more about Stand Your Ground at FIU. She feels that lawyers, especially those that would like to pursue criminal law, should have a thorough knowledge of the law as it is becoming more prevalent.

Grettel Zubiaur, a first-year law student at FIU, would be interested in taking the course as an elective in addition to the criminal law classes already offered at FIU.

“I think everyone has a right to protect themselves and their property, and the law is just a protection to a natural human reaction of defense under a stressful situation, but since the law can be used to justify murder, addressing the public’s lack of knowledge about the law would be great,” said Zubiaur.

For now, students interested in furthering a discussion about Stand Your Ground can attend an upcoming Roundtable Discussion session discussing the Trayvon Martin Verdict. The session is organized by the African & African Diaspora Studies Program and will be held on Sept. 13 in GC 150 at the Modesto Maidique Campus.


3 Comments on "FIU Law comments on Stand Your Ground course"

  1. I usually don’t comment on things, but the level of misinformation on the Zimmerman case displayed here is astounding. Loaded language such as ‘victim of justifiable murder’ shows the author’s bias on something unrelated. Stand Your Ground was never brought up by the defense and not used in this case. It did not apply, only laws that applied were standard defense laws. Why bring up the Zimmerman case on a law that did not affect the outcome of it?

  2. The problem has been the focus on irrelevant arguments – some of which are actually unsupported by the evidence.

    1. ‘George Zimmerman (GZ ) racially profiled Trayvon Martin (TM)’ There is no evidence of this.

    2. ‘GZ disobeyed an order by the police’ * The civilian dispatcher, Sean Noffke, testified that he did not give GZ an order and, in fact, he, like his fellow dispatchers, are trained not make comments that sound like commands. * Noffke also testified under cross that, as a result of his asking GZ which way TM was going, GZ could have reasonably interpreted this as being asked to follow Martin. * It is also not a crime in Florida to disregard a comment made by a civilian dispatcher.

    3. ‘GZ got out of his car’ Not a crime on public property and not negligent either.

    4. ‘GZ followed TM’ Again, anyone can follow anyone on a public street unless the followee has obtained a restraining order against the follower and even there, the RS only places time, place, and manner restrictions on the person enjoined.

    5. ‘GZ wasn’t really injured’ * Under Florida’s self-defense laws, one doesn’t have to be injured AT ALL to use deadly force * No one is required to refrain from defending himself while another is engaged in or attempting to commit a felony.

    6. ‘TM is dead through no fault of his own’ * If you believe that TM assaulted GZ, then he IS dead as a result of his own actions.

    7. ‘GZ could have left’ * Under Florida law, there is not a duty to withdraw rather than use deadly force * TM was straddling GZ so how the latter was supposed to leave the scene is unanswered.

    8. ‘GZ was armed and TM wasn’t’ * One’s fists can be considered weapons and can result in severe bodily harm or death. * GZ was legally carrying a weapon * There is no requirement under the law that the same weapon be used by the assailant * A homeowner can kill an intruder whether or not he has been threatened * Those that attack cannot feign surprise if they are met with superior firepower.

    9. ‘Stand Your Ground!’ * SYG is NOT at issue in this trial. * The defense is a classic self-defense case.

    10. ‘Black men NEVER get to use SYG!’ * Wrong

    11. ‘GZ is a man and TM was a boy!’ * As if ‘boys’ don’t commit murder, rape, and assault everyday in this country.

  3. Steven M. Harris | September 15, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Reply

    And those mentioned who would lecture on the subject are qualified to do so objectively and competently, because of what?

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