Ga. 'stand your ground law' scrutinized

by: Rachel Stockman Updated:

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ATLANTA - The George Zimmerman trial in Florida is raising scrutiny of Georgia's "stand your ground law."

Georgia's version was enacted in 2006, and like Florida's, it allows the use lethal force in some situations. Some community activists are calling for it to be repealed.

"You have no duty to retreat," said criminal defense attorney Don Samuel. "That's really what it means. If you are in a public place and you feel like you are imminent danger of seriously bodily harm, you have the right to stand your ground and engage in self-defense."

The stand your ground law was spoken about during the course of the investigation of the shooting of Trayvon Martin,  but never actually brought up during the Zimmerman trial.

Channel 2 Action News crunched the numbers. While it is difficult to track how often the "stand your ground" defense is used, justifiable homicides by a private citizens increased slightly, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation data.

Samuel said it is hard to track how the law has affected prosecutions.

"Statistics can be deceptive because police if they really believe it's a self-defense case don't bring charges to begin with," he said.

The law was utilized to acquit the suspect in the murder of Cliff Scott, a Dunwoody father killed in his home by six gun shots.

His estranged wife, Lona Scott, admitted to pulling the trigger and was charged with murder. Her attorney Brian Steel used Georgia's stand your ground law to convince a jury that the shooting was justified even though Cliff Scott was unarmed. Scott was acquitted in 2010.

"She knew she was going to die," he said speaking of his client. "There was no question, she was going to die. The question was, was she going to let that happen?"

Cliff Scott's mother said Steel's successful defense of Scott by using the stand your ground law was an injustice because her son was unarmed when Scott shot him multiple times.

"She should have at least gotten manslaughter but she got nothing – scot-free," Cliff Scott's mother, Josephine Scott told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.

Steel said Georgia's stand your ground is law backed by years of case-law, and that justifies the need to protect victims of potential crimes.



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