Scott Picks Members of Stand Your Ground Task Force
Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named the members of a task force formed to look at the state’s self-defense law in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death on Feb. 26.
Last month, as national outrage grew over the lack of an arrest in the case, Scott announced the task force and tapped Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to chair it. But he said at the time he would not name the panel members or schedule their first meeting until the criminal investigation was complete.
Now, with special prosecutor Angela Corey’s announcement last week that the acknowledged shooter, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, would face second-degree murder charges, Scott said the task force will meet starting May 1.
Among its members is Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala and House sponsor of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law that may end up being central to Zimmerman’s contention that he killed Martin in self-defense.
Other members include prosecutors, defense attorneys, neighborhood watch volunteers, other legislators, a sheriff, an African-American minister and the president of a Hispanic group in Miami, one judge and a former state Supreme Court justice.
“I’m committing to letting our legal system work to ensure the people in our state are safe and protected,” Scott said. “I’m a firm supporter of the Second Amendment. I also want to make sure that we do not rush to conclusions about the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or any other laws in our state.”
Scott said he wasn’t aware if the task force includes any members of the National Rifle Association, which opposes efforts to repeal or amend the law.
“We’re not walking into this with any preconceived notions,” Scott said. “We live in a state where the crime rate is at a 40-year low, and I want to keep it that way.”
Carroll called the task force “racially, regionally and professionally diverse.” She said it will hold public hearings, collect data with the help of the University of Florida and make its recommendations to Scott and the Legislature before next year’s session. She also said the task force, which will define its mission at its first meeting, may look into the issue of racial profiling as well.
“That is why we’re going to collect the data, and that is where the University of Florida is going to come in,” she said. “Since the application of the law, we’ve heard that. But if [racial profiling] is the content that comes out during the public hearings, then we will have to factor that into consideration. But we cannot just go on subjectivity. We have to go on the facts.”
Reporters asked Carroll, who voted for the “Stand Your Ground” law, whether she regretted it.
“We’ll find out,” she replied.
Several Democratic lawmakers who had pushed for an earlier convening of the task force were excluded. One was Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, the incoming Senate Democratic Leader who started his own task force to look at the law when Scott didn’t move quickly enough for him.
Carroll said Smith didn’t apply for the governor’s task force. Smith said he’d made his interest clear “immediately” to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, since members were to be recommended by legislative leaders.
“All [Scott] had to do is turn on any TV station to know of my interest,” said Smith.
His task force, which is mostly local to Broward County, will issue its report next week, Smith said.
The governor’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection:
-Chair: Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll
-Vice Chair: Rev. R.B. Holmes, Jr, pastor of Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
-Sheriff Larry Ashley, of Shalimar, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
-State Representative Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, Florida House of Representatives, District 24.
-Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell, of Pensacola, shareholder with Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond and Stackhouse.
-State Representative Jason Brodeur, of Sanford, Florida House of Representatives, District 33.
-Derek E. Bruce, of Orlando, attorney with Edge Public Affairs.
-Joseph A. Caimano Jr., of Tampa, criminal defense attorney with Caimano Law Group.
-Edna Canino, of Miami, president of the Florida Embassy of League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 7220.
-Gretchen Lorenzo, of Fort Myers, neighborhood watch coordinator for the Fort Myers Police Department.
-Judge Krista Marx, of West Palm Beach, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida.
-Maria Newman, of Melbourne, neighborhood watch volunteer with the City of Melbourne.
-Katherine Fernandez Rundle, of Miami, state attorney for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit.
-Stacy A. Scott, of Gainesville, assistant public defender with the Eighth Judicial Circuit.
-Mark Seiden, of Miami, self-employed attorney.
-State Senator David Simmons, of Altamonte Springs, Florida Senate, District 22.
-State Senator Gary Siplin, of Orlando, Florida Senate, District 19.
By Margie Menzel