The Daily Parker

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Florida law encourages violence?

One of Josh Marshall's readers says Florida's self-defense rules are insane:

I’m a criminal defense lawyer in Wisconsin... In Florida, if self-defense is even suggested, it’s the state's obligation to prove its absence beyond a reasonable doubt(!). That’s crazy. But ‘not guilty’ was certainly a reasonable result in this case. As I told in friend in Tampa today though, if you’re ever in a heated argument with anyone, and you’re pretty sure there aren’t any witnesses, it’s always best to kill the other person. They can’t testify, you don’t have to testify, no one else has any idea what happened; how can the state ever prove beyond a doubt is wasn’t self-defense? Holy crap!

By contrast, in the civilized world—I'm including Illinois here, bear with me—"self-defense" is an affirmative defense requiring the defendant to prove it by preponderance of the evidence. (720 ILCS 5/9-2 outlines how Zimmerman would probably be convicted of 2nd degree murder in Illinois given the facts of the case.)

When I learned the result last night, I posted a Facebook status saying: "I wonder if we should have waited until Florida was a mature, civilized democracy before admitting it into the U.S." My friends have added more than 20 comments so far, including a clip of Bugs Bunny cutting Florida loose. (I love my friends.) I wonder if this reading of Florida law changes anyone's opinion?

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