The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that the Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has run afoul a problem that even the short-sighted NRA sockpuppets who wrote it didn’t see coming: a convicted criminal is invoking the law to justify shooting at someone.
The felon who raised the issue was Brain Bragdon, a convicted cocaine dealer who, two years ago, shot at two men outside a West Palm Beach-area strip club. The 25-year-old felon claims that he was defending himself, but state Prosecutors say that he’s not entitled to the “Stand Your Ground” defense against attempted murder charges because he’s a convicted felon and shouldn’t have been carrying a gun.
Former State Senator Durell Peaden Jr., who sponsored the Stand Your Ground legislation in 2005, asked “if you’ve lost your right to bear arms, then why should you have the protections that law-abiding citizens should have?”
The Florida Supreme Court recently agreed to examine the conflict, and the justices are set to decide whether or not felons are eligible for immunity from prosecution under the self-defense law. According to the law, “Stand Your Ground” simply says that an individual does not have to retreat and can legally use deadly force if the individual in question reasonably believes that using their firearm is necessary “to prevent imminent death.”
The Supreme Court was petitioned to settle the dispute by Bragdon’s attorney, by Jack Fleischman. According to Fleischman, the situation that Bragdon found himself in met all of the criteria as outlined by the law:
The pending charges resulted from an Aug. 4, 2012 confrontation at an adult club, then called Dream Girls, at 1000 N. Congress Ave., near West Palm Beach.
Fleischman said his client was inside the club with a group of friends when two men, Alejandro Garcia, 26, and Julio Garcia, 24, made threats about attacking Bragdon with guns. Bragdon said after he and his girlfriend left and got into their Chevrolet Impala, one of the men banged on the car’s trunk and appeared to reach for a gun.
At that point, close to 4:40 a.m., Bragdon says he fired a .40 caliber handgun at them in self-defense. One bullet hit Alejandro Garcia in the lower back, according to Bragdon’s arrest report. Julio Garcia’s Ford pickup truck was struck by two shots.
Detectives concluded Bragdon acted as if he intended to kill both men; the report doesn’t indicate if they had weapons. Bragdon was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle, one count of felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of discharging a firearm from a vehicle. His girlfriend, Briana Threatt, 22, was charged with attempted murder in the same case.
Some law professors, like Bob Jarvis, believe that the high court will rule in favor of Bragdon’s case, allowing convicted felons to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense.
You’re depriving them of a right that every other Florida citizen has,” said Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Jarvis expects the state’s high court to rule in favor of giving gun-toting felons the chance to seek Stand Your Ground immunity, rather than “punish them” for their prior bad acts.
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Tom Blomberg, dean and professor at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, also expects the state Supreme Court will decide felons can’t be precluded from pursuing a Stand Your Ground defense.
“It raises all sorts of concerns when you talk about equal protection under the law,” Blomberg said. “What does [a defendant’s] felony background have to do with the particulars of the case” for which he’s charged?
The dean says it makes sense for the Supreme Court to enter the dispute now, because two appellate courts have issued conflicting opinions in recent years. One court said felons can use Stand Your Ground, while another said they can’t.
Even if the high court sides with Bragdon, he’s still not getting away scot-free. Bragdon, if convicted of the charges, faces up to life in prison.
source: Florida Sun Times