A Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday there would be an effort to repeal Alabama’s version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in the next legislative session, but acknowledged it could be a difficult fight.
“We know it will not just be uphill, but up mountain,” said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, at a press conference.
The Stand Your Ground came into focus following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida teen, on February 26, 2012. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted earlier this month of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Martin’s death. Zimmerman did not use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in his defense, although the judge hearing his case cited it in her instructions to the jury.
Like Florida’s, Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law says a person is not compelled to retreat in using deadly physical force in self-defense. The state law withdraws that protection if the person provoked the use of unlawful force on them “with intent to cause physical injury or death to another person,’ if they were the initial aggressor and failed to withdraw from the confrontation or if the force was the result of “a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.” The legislation, sponsored by then-Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, was passed in 2006.
Sanders said he was not certain what the scope of the repeal would be: Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Birmingham, told al.com Tuesday she planned to introduce legislation that would withdraw Stand Your Ground protections when a pursuit occurred of a person engaged in a lawful act.
Coleman-Evans introduced a similar measure in last year’s Regular Session; it did not come out of committee. An attempt to reach Coleman-Evans was not immediately successful Tuesday.
Sanders said he did not know what the scope of any Senate action would be, or who would take lead on it, but said he would sponsor a repeal effort if no one else did. Republicans control large majorities in both chambers, but Sanders said he would work on repeal for “however long” it took.
“I think there’s an old saying: It won’t be this way always,” he said.
The Legislature reconvenes in January.
The press conference was called by Sanders to announce activities in support of the federal Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month struck down Section 4 of the law, which contains the formula for determining which areas should have changes to voting laws subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the calculation relied on data that was over 40 years old and did not account for changes that have taken place in the country. The court suggested Congress could develop a new formula to determine enforcement.
Sanders and other lawmakers have criticized the decision, saying that the Supreme Court decision effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in part as a response to the brutal beatings of civil rights protestors on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. Activities in support of the Act, he said, would take place in Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, Mobile and other areas.
– posted by Brian Lyman