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Lawyers: 'Stand your ground' law becoming more common defense(FL barf alert)
tampabay.com ^ | 1 May, 2012 | John Woodrow Cox

Posted on 05/01/2012 5:49:20 AM PDT by marktwain

BROOKSVILLE — On a sticky summer night in 2010, William Siskos tucked a .22-caliber Ruger in his waistband and walked to a home on Ligonier Road in Spring Hill.

There, in the front yard, he met Joe Kasbach for the first time. In the nine months before that night, Siskos had been dating Kasbach's wife. An argument broke out almost immediately. Within minutes, authorities say, Siskos pulled his gun and fired a round into Kasbach's abdomen. The 46-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital.

A witness, standing just feet away, told detectives Kasbach never threw a punch or pulled a weapon. Kasbach had spread his arms wide and taken just a half step toward Siskos before, the witness said, he was shot down in cold blood.

But on Monday, two years after the incident, Siskos' public defender told a judge her client had killed Kasbach in self defense. In fact, the attorney argued, Siskos shouldn't even face trial because he had done nothing more that night than stand his ground.

Judges can take days to rule on "stand your ground" motions. In Monday's hearing, which lasted eight hours and included 10 witnesses, Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. decided in just 45 minutes to deny the defense's motion that Siskos, 42, should be immune from prosecution.

The hearing in Siskos' case is a by-product of Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law signed in 2005. Though no statistics are kept on how many such hearings have been held in self-defense cases, prosecutors and defense lawyers say they're becoming more common, even when victims suffer minor injuries or defendants have weak self defense cases. They've been filed on behalf of gang members, drug dealers and in spouse abuse cases, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

"They're almost part of due diligence," said Tampa defense attorney Joe Caimano, who argued a successful "stand your ground" motion before a Hillsborough County judge late last year. His client, a bouncer at a strip club, shot and injured a patron who had thrown a beer bottle in his direction.

In 2010, Florida's Supreme Court ruled that trial judges must hold a hearing any time a defendant asks for it, then make a decision based on the "preponderance of the evidence." That's easier to prove, experts said, than the "reasonable doubt" standard used by juries.

Critics of the law say the mandatory immunity hearing adds costs and complexity to an already overburdened court system.

Monday's hearing may have bolstered that criticism. Costs included the all-day use of a courtroom, a judge, a public defender, two prosecutors, clerks and bailiffs and, for a few hours, one very expensive witness.

Dr. Otsenre E. Matos, a Pasco County psychiatrist who charges $750 an hour for court appearances, had analyzed Siskos and determined that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of an injury the defendant suffered as a corrections officer in the late 1990s.

His public defender, Barbara-Jo Bell, argued to the court that the condition had skewed her client's psyche so significantly that, two years ago, Siskos "reasonably believed" he would be killed or suffer great bodily harm — legally justifying deadly force — even though he may not have been in real danger.

In his testimony, Siskos said he carried the gun for protection that night because he was trying to retrieve his girlfriend from a friend's home — a place he described as a "drug house."

As Kasbach left the home, Siskos confronted him in the front yard. During the dispute, the defendant testified, Kasbach punched him once in the mouth and then again in the temple. Dazed from the blows, Siskos said, he fired only after he saw Kasbach reach for a weapon.

Photographs taken of his face the night of the incident show no marks or bruises. Investigators didn't find any weapon at the scene other than Siskos' pistol.

Much of what he said Monday differed from what he told authorities the night of the shooting. The stress disorder, Bell asserted, had distorted his memory back then.

Prosecutors said he's just lying.

"His PTSD didn't play any part in this," said Assistant State Attorney Sonny McCathran. "He went down there and confronted these people … the defendant was the aggressor, therefore he's not entitled to immunity."

Though Merritt ruled against her, Bell said the case she offered to the judge will mimic what she presents to jurors at trial.

The intense national scrutiny on "stand your ground," however, might make finding a jury that will accept her argument more difficult.

"I'm not sure if people are really educated on what the law is," she said. "I think I would be remiss not to bring that up in jury selection."

Times staff writer Kris Hundley contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@tampabay.com.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: banglist; defense; fl; georgezimmerman; standyourground; trayvon; trayvonmartin; zimmerman
The MSM is pulling out the stops to the demonize the Stand Your Ground law. Kind of weird that they use a case where the judge ruled against the defendant as their best example.

The argument seems to be: We cannot afford judicial scrutiny. It is too expensive. Trials are far more expensive.

If George Zimmerman does not go to trial, then under the Stand Your Ground law, he is immune from civil suit. The Martin's lawyers only chance at a big payout is from a civil suit. They do not have to win at trial, they onloy need to get Zimmerman arrested (first base) and then have the immunity hearing ruled against him (second base). It does not matter if he is found not guilty, because once he goes to trial, he loses immunity from civil suit.

1 posted on 05/01/2012 5:49:26 AM PDT by marktwain
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To: marktwain
I read this article as part of my daily "make my blood boil by reading the Tampa Bay Slimes" chore. This was one of a few SYG articles posted today that was eyeroll-inducing.
But on Monday, two years after the incident, Siskos' public defender told a judge her client had killed Kasbach in self defense. In fact, the attorney argued, Siskos shouldn't even face trial because he had done nothing more that night than stand his ground.

Judges can take days to rule on "stand your ground" motions. In Monday's hearing, which lasted eight hours and included 10 witnesses, Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. decided in just 45 minutes to deny the defense's motion that Siskos, 42, should be immune from prosecution.

Then the law worked as intended. The article goes on to complain about "court costs," but isn't it worth the price of not sending an innocent man to jail?

To the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times), no.

2 posted on 05/01/2012 5:53:38 AM PDT by Dan Nunn (Support the NRA!)
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To: marktwain
Critics of the law say the mandatory immunity hearing adds costs and complexity to an already overburdened court system.

So going to trial rather than avoiding one SAVES money??? Bull#hit. And what about the money that really counts, ours? This law helps prevent the system from intimidating someone into pleading to something he shouldn't have to because he's not up to mounting a defense. Avoiding a trial adds to expense, please. You know these idiots are scraping the bottom of the barrel now when they have to trot out stupidity like that.

3 posted on 05/01/2012 5:56:00 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: marktwain

There are a multitude of laws out there that attorneys use for their clients’ self defense. Stand your ground is only one of them, and right now happens to be the one in the spotlight. The anti-gun people have decided this is their next argument against people being allowed to carry guns.


4 posted on 05/01/2012 6:08:07 AM PDT by SmileRight
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To: Dan Nunn
Then the law worked as intended. The article goes on to complain about "court costs," but isn't it worth the price of not sending an innocent man to jail?

I had a liberal aquaintence argue this kind of case to me. Saying how people can just up and kill people without any cause and then claim self defense. I asked for any instances of this. He had none (of course). Pointed out a few cases (which then turned out that the SYG defense was denied). Liberals love making up circumstances and fats. It's their MO.

5 posted on 05/01/2012 6:11:32 AM PDT by justice14 ("stand up defend or lay down and die")
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To: marktwain
If George Zimmerman does not go to trial, then under the Stand Your Ground law, he is immune from civil suit

Unfortunately even if he goes to trial and is found to be not guilty, he will not be immune to further prosecution (persecution) from federal criminal charges and if Holder is still in office, you can bet your bottom dollar that he will stand trial on federal criminal charges. Not murder of course, that would be double jeopardy but "hate crimes" or "denial of civil rights".

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 for example.

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 - Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.

Zimmerman is likely to be tried at the federal level too, even if found guilty at the state level.....with the racist Holder still in charge. Gotta throw the book at this "white hispanic", make an example of him, so other uppity whites will know their place in the pecking order.

6 posted on 05/01/2012 6:12:05 AM PDT by Graybeard58 (Romney vs. Obama? One of them has to lose, rejoice in that fact, whichever it is.)
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To: Graybeard58

Good points... let’s hope his attorneys can drag this out until January 20th, 2013.


7 posted on 05/01/2012 6:17:20 AM PDT by Dan Nunn (Support the NRA!)
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To: Dan Nunn

The expense argument is a particularly odd one.

Apparently the paper believes the state saves money by having a full-blown trial rather than a single-day hearing.

It is also very odd to claim that a law should be repealed because defense attorneys attempt to use it where it doesn’t apply, unsuccessfully in this case. That’s what defense attorneys do. In fact, it’s what they’re supposed to do.

Did you notice the attempt to claim self-defense because the shooter’s perception was damaged by past trauma? I suspect that’s another misapplication. Surely when the law says “reasonably believes” it refers to a rational person, not a delusional one, whose beliefs are by definition not reasonable.


8 posted on 05/01/2012 6:17:25 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: marktwain
In 2010, Florida's Supreme Court ruled that trial judges must hold a hearing any time a defendant asks for it, then make a decision based on the "preponderance of the evidence." That's easier to prove, experts said, than the "reasonable doubt" standard used by juries.

What an idiotic argument against the law. If the "reasonable doubt" standard were used, a lot more defendants would be ruled to have acted in self-defense.

9 posted on 05/01/2012 6:19:48 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: marktwain

Check out Tactical Gear Mag.com Massad Ayoob did a video that explains Stand your ground perfectly.


10 posted on 05/01/2012 6:19:48 AM PDT by Rappini (Pro Deo et Patria)
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To: Sherman Logan
Great points. It seems every argument against the law ends up being a pointless exercise in why the law exists in the first place.

Here's another argument, from the Democrat legislator who started his own task force, from Bay News 9:

Monday, state Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, came out with the findings of his own task force, which found that people who fire their guns at others and claim self-defense should still have to face a grand jury.

Grand Jury? Zimmerman could have only been so lucky.

11 posted on 05/01/2012 6:27:36 AM PDT by Dan Nunn (Support the NRA!)
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To: Rappini

How about a link? I searched the site and couldn’t find it.


12 posted on 05/01/2012 6:47:40 AM PDT by Dedbone
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To: marktwain

I think this is why the lawyers are all excited.

Since stand your ground they have been cut off from the jackpot trial fawcet.


13 posted on 05/01/2012 6:56:41 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Still Thinking

Consider what happens with lazy do nothing prosecutors. These are easy cases for them to make. One person shot and they can intimidate via the 10-20-life laws.

Prosecutors have a terrifying scare and intimidation weapon.

Perhaps we need term limits for all prosecutors. No more than 6 or 8 years at any level of prosecution. No more than 4 as an elected prosecutor.


14 posted on 05/01/2012 7:00:12 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Dan Nunn

Personally, I find inappropriate the notion that a prosecutor can make an administrative decision not to file charges in a case involving the death of a human being.

I believe in all such cases there should be some sort of a formal hearing, if only to establish the facts of the case.

Had this been done in the Zimmerman case, it is unlikely it would ever have attained national prominence. The biggest driver was the perception that the cops just patted him on the back and walked away leaving a dead black kid on the ground.

That is almost certainly not what happened in reality, but the law as presently implemented contributed to that perception.


15 posted on 05/01/2012 7:06:26 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan

I see your point. I’m also offended that they can skip the grand jury when they want to. What’s the point of having a grand jury system if our employees can bypass us when they don’t think we’ll vote the way they want?


16 posted on 05/01/2012 7:36:07 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: Still Thinking

Unless I’m mistaken, such an administrative decision by a DA can be changed by him or a later holder of the office. Charges can be filed at any time up to the point where the statute of limitations kicks in.

IOW, the shooter has that possibility hanging over him for years. I would much prefer to have a court hearing to determine that it was indeed self-defense and future prosecutions are prohibited.


17 posted on 05/01/2012 7:43:11 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan

Agreed.


18 posted on 05/01/2012 7:46:59 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: Sherman Logan

perponderance of the evidence is a much lower threshold to meet. This is intentional. It is 51% vs all reasonble doubt. This is also to kill any civil suit claims and prevent civil trial lawyer jackpot payoffs.

This is part of tort reform.


19 posted on 05/01/2012 8:04:54 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Sherman Logan

There should not even be an arrest at the start.

We just have a mob trying to create institutional Nifongs.


20 posted on 05/01/2012 8:06:45 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: longtermmemmory
There should not even be an arrest at the start.

Disagree. Do you seriously want cops on the site to make a snap judgment whether it was justified or not?

I don't. In such a serious case, a hearing is entirely appropriate, possibly at minimum in the form of an inquest.

YMMV.

21 posted on 05/01/2012 8:11:04 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Still Thinking

Exactly.

The only “critics of the law” are the ambulance chasers that no longer get a big payday every time someone uses deadly force to defend themselves.

Of course SYG gets used for every case. This is like lawyers bitching every mugging being called an “assault.”

Keeping the parasites from making money off crime victims is what the law was written for.


22 posted on 05/01/2012 8:18:00 AM PDT by papertyger ("And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if..."))
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To: Sherman Logan

The cops did not make a judgment, the copes are PROHIBITED from making any self defense use arrest. The Prosecutor has to look the case over and see if it was a self defense case.

Prosecutors are held (alegedly) a high ethical standard in filing cases. It is not just let the judge sort it out. (”We who labor here seek only the truth”)

If there is no prohibition then you end up with a blanket arrest policy which leads to the fiascos of the domestic abuse courts where SOMEBODY has to be arrested as a matter of police policy.

There is no judgment for the police to make. The simple answer under the law is “no arrest”. The end.


23 posted on 05/01/2012 8:19:17 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Sherman Logan
Do you seriously want cops on the site to make a snap judgment whether it was justified or not?

Yes. Do you seriously believe a lawyer with a vested interest, far removed from the scene, is going to make a better determination?

24 posted on 05/01/2012 8:25:31 AM PDT by papertyger ("And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if..."))
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To: Sherman Logan

The cops did not make a judgment, the copes are PROHIBITED from making any self defense use arrest. The Prosecutor has to look the case over and see if it was a self defense case.

Prosecutors are held (alegedly) a high ethical standard in filing cases. It is not just let the judge sort it out. (”We who labor here seek only the truth”)

If there is no prohibition then you end up with a blanket arrest policy which leads to the fiascos of the domestic abuse courts where SOMEBODY has to be arrested as a matter of police policy.

There is no judgment for the police to make. The simple answer under the law is “no arrest”. The end.


25 posted on 05/01/2012 8:26:03 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: longtermmemmory
the copes are PROHIBITED from making any self defense use arrest.

My understanding is this is not so if they have reason to believe the "self defense" is fishy.

26 posted on 05/01/2012 8:28:00 AM PDT by papertyger ("And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if..."))
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To: marktwain

Debunking the stand your ground myth

The assertion that Florida law allows shooting whenever someone believes it to be necessary is a flat-out lie. The actual law of Florida is that “a person is justified in the use of deadly force” if “(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony” (Florida Statutes, Section 776.012).

The second part of the law provides special provisions for self-defense against violent home invaders or carjackers. Neither of those is relevant to the Zimmerman case.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2867480/posts


27 posted on 05/01/2012 8:35:19 AM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: longtermmemmory
Consider what happens with lazy do nothing prosecutors. These are easy cases for them to make. One person shot and they can intimidate via the 10-20-life laws.

Prosecutors hate "Stand your ground" laws. Before, in a legitimate self-defense shooting, they could tell the shooter "plead to involuntary manslaughter, you will get probation, everybody is happy", and the prosecutor gets an easy conviction for his statistics. Now, there is much more incentive for an innocent defender to see about getting the case tossed immediately in a "stand your ground" hearing.

There's a lot of prosecutorial abuse -- they let career criminals plead and get off, and ruin the lives of middle-class people who have to defend themselves.

28 posted on 05/01/2012 9:07:57 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 (In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. - George Orwell)
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To: PapaBear3625

the more you know about the inside workings of prosecutors, the less respect for the general group.

The majority gives a bad name to the few good prosecutors.


29 posted on 05/01/2012 10:06:54 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Dedbone

Dedbone, try You Tube, Massad Ayoob on stand your groung gun laws. I’d link it if I knew how if I can’t cut and paste I’m SOL.


30 posted on 05/02/2012 10:32:31 AM PDT by Rappini (Pro Deo et Patria)
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