Ken Padowitz knows that Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law makes his life easier. As a criminal defense attorney, he has invoked it repeatedly over the years to defend his clients.
“I think it’s malpractice for a criminal defense lawyer not to use the stand your ground law in every single case where there’s a charge of a violent crime, such as aggravated assault or an aggravated battery,” he said.
The law not only gives defense attorneys the opportunity to clear their client with an immunity hearing, but it gives them the legal bonus of having two opportunities to cross examine witnesses.
“Defense attorney get two bites at the apple,” says Padowitz. But recognizing the legal benefits for someone in his line of work doesn’t stop him from recognizing how damaging it is to the rest of the community.
“I think it’s a very bad thing for citizens of the state of Florida and every state that has this law,” he explained to Rev. Sharpton in an unaired portion of MSNBC’s special program “50 Years of Guns.”
“If you are using the stand your ground law, it actually encourages that person not only to shoot, but to shoot to kill,” he said. “Because if you eliminate the only potential other witness, you’re much more likely to be able to prevail in a stand your ground hearing.”
At this point, not many lawmakers in Florida agree with Padowitz.
An effort spurred on by protests from youth action group the Dream Defenders brought a repeal bill to the Florida House this month, but it failed quickly at the committee level.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, stand your ground type legislation is working its way through the legislature, having passed the House just this week.
The bill’s sponsor insists it could save lives, but top Democrats have been stalwart in their opposition.
“Somebody is going to die because of this,” Democratic Representative Fred Strahorn said. “Nothing in that provision needs to be there.”
Rev. Sharpton is concerned as well.
“People perceive slights that are not there, insults that are not there, threats that are not there, and the sad part is you’re going to empower those misjudgments with saying you have the legal right to use deadly force,” he said. “In a civilized society that should be unthinkable.”
On Friday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. ET, MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton examines the epidemic of gun violence in American cities with “50 Years of Guns.”