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Report on SB-448 — Threat of Force to Stop Attackers

DATE:   January 10, 2014
TO:        USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM:  Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President

Senate Bill 448 by Senator Greg Evers was on the agenda for the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Meeting on Wednesday, January 8 at 9:00 am.

SB-448 PASSED the Committee by a vote of 5 to 0.

SB-448 by Senator Greg Evers is a bill to stop abusive prosecutors from using 10-20-LIFE to prosecute people who, in self-defense, threaten to use deadly force against an attacker as a means to stop an attack.

Some anti-gun, anti-self-defense prosecutors have been abusing the 10-20-LIFE law to prosecute average citizens who displayed a weapon or gun in self-defense to make an attacker back off.

Bill Cervone, the State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit represented the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, attempted to defend prosecutors who have been violating the intent of 10-20-Life and abusing their discretion.

As reported by the News Service of Florida, the following misleading statement was made to the Committee in testimony by State Attorney Bill Cervone:

“If somebody is in prison for one of these situations, it’s because a judge and a jury rejected his version claiming self-defense.”

We know that statement is not accurate.  Unfortunately, there are also people in prison because prosecutors threatened them with 10 or 20 years if they did not plead to a lesser number of years.  That is coercion and abuse in these cases.

The threat of extreme mandatory sentences coerces innocent people into pleading — even if not to prison, to a felony crime with probation.  This is especially true for citizens who have too much to lose (job, house, family) to risk going to trial.

Further, in some cases people have been convicted and imprisoned as a result of improper jury instructions.  And Greg Newburn of FAMM reports that approximately 1/3 of these self-defense cases where people are being wrongly charged with aggravated assault under 10-20-Life for exercising lawful self-defense, result in judges throwing the cases out of court or juries acquitting these people who were wrongfully prosecuted.

Click here to view a news article in The Florida Times-Union by Matt Dixon titled, Hearing on “warning shot” bill sparks spat between Greg Evers, prosecutor, that describes the dispute “spat” between Committee Chairman Greg Evers and Cervone over Cervone’s statements.