Maurice Moorer is not the kind of person whom lawmakers had in mind when they gave Florida the broadest self-defense law in the nation in 2005.
State legislators sold stand your ground as a legal protection for law-abiding Floridians who were forced, through no fault of their own, to defend their families and properties.
But the day in 2008 when Moorer killed his ex-wifes boyfriend in Miami capped two years of violent behavior that had landed Moorer in jail multiple times and left his wife living in fear.
Still, Miami-Dade prosecutors set Moorer free, saying Floridas stand your ground law prevented them from pursuing murder charges.
A Tampa Bay Times analysis of stand your ground cases found that it has been people like Moorer those with records of crime and violence who have benefited the most from the controversial legislation. A review of arrest records for those involved in more than 100 fatal stand your ground cases shows:
• Nearly 60 percent of those who claimed self-defense had been arrested at least once before the day they killed someone.
More than 30 of those defendants, about 1 in 3, had been accused of violent crimes, including assault, battery or robbery. Dozens had drug offenses on their records.
• Killers have invoked stand your ground even after repeated run-ins with the law. Forty percent had three arrests or more. Dozens had at least four arrests.
• More than a third of the defendants had previously been in trouble for threatening someone with a gun or illegally carrying a weapon.
• In dozens of cases, both the defendant and the victim had criminal records, sometimes related to long-running feuds or criminal enterprises. Of the victims that could be identified in state records, 64 percent had at least one arrest. Several had 20 or more arrests.
Floridas stand your ground law has been under scrutiny since George Zimmerman claimed self-defense after killing 16-year-old Trayvon Martin at a Sanford apartment complex on Feb. 26. Police and prosecutors said they did not immediately charge Zimmerman because they could not disprove his self-defense claim.
All told, 119 people who are known to have killed someone have invoked stand your ground. Those people have been arrested 327 times in incidents involving violence, property crimes, drugs, weapons or probation violations. That does not include more than 100 traffic violations and other minor arrests not considered in the analysis.
The Times background checks relied on Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, which log arrests within the state. The records do not always show when arrests end in conviction, and it is likely that many did not.
NOT ALWAYS TELLING
And of course, having an arrest record doesnt preclude someone from the right to defend themselves. A person who was guilty of a crime in the past may be innocent in a different case.
In some cases examined by the Times, a defendants prior arrests occurred years before their fatal confrontation and therefore may reveal nothing about their propensity for trouble. For example, Max Wesley Horn Jr. successfully claimed self-defense after he shot a man during a 2010 dispute in New Port Richey. The arrests on Horns record for battery, larceny and for violating probation were more than 15 years old.