MIAMI — The Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection created by Gov. Rick Scott to review the state’s “stand your ground” law in the wake of the killing of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin has had its inaugural meeting.
But legislators and other leaders in Miami-Dade are questioning the panel’s composition, even as they are demanding the law be abolished or at least substantially modified.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed the unarmed Martin in Sanford on Feb. 26, has been charged with second-degree murder and is claiming the law justified the killing.
Zimmerman’s next court hearing will be on Aug.8. His attorney has waived his right to a speedy trial.
The legislation says that a person using force in self-defense “… is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in
accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term ‘criminal prosecution’ includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.”
State Rep. Dwight Bullard is among those calling on Scott to amend the law and also reconsider his selection of members on the task force.
Bullard, a Democrat, sent a letter to Scott, a Republican, expressing dissatisfaction that the panel consists of an overwhelming number of the law’s initial supporters, including Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, and David Simmons of Maitland, both Republicans, who co-sponsored the “stand your ground” law.
In his letter, Bullard said the governor “sent a very inconsistent message to Floridians” with the membership of the review panel.
“Though on face you have selected a mixed group, in reality, the lawmakers chosen for this task force all represent a singular viewpoint having all voted and/or co-sponsored the bill,” he said.
Bullard noted that Scott did not name “a single South Florida lawmaker or mayor of a large city on the task force, in essence, giving no voice to the regions of the state most often plagued by gun violence.”
Bullard called for Baxley and Simmons to be taken off the task force and that state Rep. Barbara Watson and state Sen. Oscar Braynon of Trayvon’s hometown Miami Gardens should be appointed to the panel.
Bullard renewed his call at a recent press conference held at the Church of the Open Door in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, where he was joined by Watson and state Rep. Cynthia Stafford.
Bullard announced he will send a public records request to Scott under the state’s Sunshine Law to find out who was accepted and who was rejected for membership on the task force.
Watson said she filed a request to be named to the panel and had not been fully informed of the selection procedure. “I was not aware of any application process, however, I want it to be known and it is public record. I have asked the lieutenant governor and the governor to be a part of this task force,” Watson said.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll chairs the task force. Press reports said she has denied the panel is not competent to review the controversial legislation.
Stafford said she heard state Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando was appointed to the panel without going through the “necessary” process or submitting an application.
“We all have a role to play. We are asking the governor to remove or replace his appointees and secondly we are going back to Tallahassee to make some changes to this law,” she said.
Both Stafford and Watson called on Floridians to take an active interest in the controversy surrounding the law and borrow from the lessons of the civil rights movement.
Photo: Dwight Bullard