This week, the Third District Court of Appeal– the appellate court for the trial courts of Miami-Dade County– overturned a trial court’s denial of a “Stand Your Ground” motion. Ultimately this opinion could set the Florida law up for review before the Florida Supreme Court.
News reports say that the 2-1 decision held that the trial court erred in denying immunity from murder prosecution to Gabriel Mobley, who was charged in the 2008 deaths of Jason Gonzalez and Rolando Carranza in Opa-locka. This marks the first time the local appeals court has granted immunity to a defendant under the Stand Your Ground law.
Mobley had long maintained he acted in self-defense in the fatal shooting of the two unarmed men–one of whom he insisted appeared to be reaching for a weapon under his shirt during scuffle outside a North Miami-Dade restaurant.
Later, the two men were found to be unarmed, though two knives were found near one of their bodies.
The Miami-Dade appellate court agreed, finding that under Florida’s controversial stand your ground self-defense law, Mobley acted reasonably because the slain men, though apparently unarmed, were the aggressors. The majority found that:
“the shooting at issue did not occur in a vacuum… Mobley did not shoot two innocent bystanders who just happened upon him on a sidewalk.”
Stand your ground is a self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves, without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. Under this law, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the stand your ground law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit.
Procedurally, Mobley’s lawyers raised the issue pretrial, arguing that the “stand your ground” law protected their client, and for this reason, the trial court should grant Mobley immunity from prosecution. Despite media confusion of this issue during the George Zimmerman trial, the stand your ground law is NOT an issue for a jury. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, including an affirmative defense, is a fact or set of facts that may avoid or mitigate the adverse legal consequences of the defendant’s otherwise unlawful conduct.