Stand Your Ground Public Hearing Gets Underway in Longwood
16 members of the 19 person taskforce on Citizen Safety and Protection are meeting at the Northland Church in Longwood. The panel was convened by governor Rick Scott in the wake of the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll leads the taskforce, which includes members of law enforcement and legal experts. Tuesday's meeting in Longwood, a few miles from Sanford where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, is the first public hearing for the taskforce.
The meeting includes presentations from law enforcement officers, defense and prosecution law experts, and a section for public comment.
Under Florida law, a person can use deadly force if he or she believes it necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Zimmerman, who's facing a second degree murder charge, claims he acted in self defense when he shot Martin.
Carroll said before the meeting that although the taskforce was formed in response to the outcry over Martin's death, its focus is not on the Zimmerman case.
"We want to stay unbiased and unfettered by any case that may be going on," she said.
"We have the Trevor Dooley case in the Tampa area, there's the Anderson case in Jacksonville, and many others that are using the self defense laws. We don't want to get caught up in that."
However, Carroll said the group decided to hold the meeting close to Sanford to help bring about "closure."
"There may be some people who did not have the chance to air their concerns during the situation a few months ago."
Trayvon Martin's parents are expected to be at a rally of civil rights groups and others outside the church today, where they will present a petition to the panel with thousands of signatures asking for the stand your ground law to be changed or repealed.
Carroll said she expects the panel to keep an open mind on the law as it travels across the state in the coming months gathering information. She said nothing is off the table in the panel's considerations including repeal of the Stand Your Ground law. Once the panel has completed its review of the law it will make a recommendation to the Florida legislature.