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Another Self-Defense Case In Florida

This one didn’t involve a gun, but a knife. This is another case where I think the application of the 2005 law, in this case by a judge granting the defendant immunity,  is questionable. There’s a few things here worth covering:

The law also bestowed immunity from prosecution and civil suits on people who are deemed to have acted in self-defense. The Florida Supreme Court has said that the question of whether the immunity applies in each case should be decided by a judge, not a jury.

By my reading of the immunity clause in the Florida Law, it would be generally applied by a judge, but only in limited circumstances. If it were always applied by a jury, the clause would be meaningless, since it is an immunity to prosecution. However, this is only supposed to be done in a case where the facts are not in dispute. If there is probable cause, the immunity should not apply. In this case you have prosecutors arguing one set of facts and a defendant arguing another. Juries are finders of fact. The immunity should only apply when prosecutors are bringing a frivolous case, where there are no disputed facts to disprove the self-defense claim. Otherwise the immunity should not apply, and the case should go to trial so the facts can be decided on by a jury. It sounds to me like this is a problem with the judge in this case, and not the law.

4 Responses to “Another Self-Defense Case In Florida”

  1. Jim W says:

    I’m a FL criminal defense attorney and the way it works is that any plea of immunity is handled at the beginning of the case by the judge after the filing of 3.190(b) motion. This includes any self defense immunity claim. The judge decides whether there was self defense by a preponderance of the evidence and if the defendant loses, the issue gets decided by the jury at a later date. If the defendant wins, the case is dismissed and the defendant is thereafter immune to prosecution. The state can appeal the judge’s decision if the defendant wins because it is a final order. The defendant can appeal it after the trial if he is convicted.

    If the defendant loses their motion, the defense conducts discovery, goes to trial and presents the self defense evidence to the jury. The burden of proof for the jury is beyond a reasonable doubt. That is, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn’t self defense.

  2. Miguel says:

    (disclaimer: If what appears in the Miami Herald is somewhat accuarte) Dumb judge and dumb prosecutor.

    “Once Roteta ran off, prosecutor Jennie Conklin wrote in a motion, Garcia “no longer needed to use deadly force to protect his home or unoccupied vehicle.”

    You cannot use deadly force in the State of Florida to defend property.

    No wonder this guy went free. Elmo and the Cookie Monster tried the case.

    • Sage Thrasher says:

      The article didn’t make it clear if the thief had actually stolen the stereo or got interrupted in the attempt. It sounds like it could have played out like this–Roteta was stealing the stereo, Garcia ran out to stop him, grabbing a knife on the way for self-defense in confronting the thief. What happened after that isn’t clear, but I don’t think this makes for a clear cut (no pun intended) case of murder.

      Does Florida law say you can’t confront a thief who may have just run off with your stuff? If it doesn’t, then the law should recognize that such confrontations can (and likely will) quickly escalate to violence and possibly death, especially when you have one robbery victim confronting multiple thieves. In my book, Roteta is the one responsible for his own death, until it’s proven Garcia stabbed him without provocation. If anyone should be charged, it’s Roteta’s accomplice.

  3. Jim W says:

    Seems like a clear cut case of non-self-defense to me.

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