Steve Romine, a Clearwater defense attorney, said a persons arrest record may affect their credibility, but that should not disqualify them from claiming stand your ground.
It would be impractical to try and apply the law differently between those who do and dont have records, he said. And frankly, it would be unfair.
But others say the prevalence of criminals invoking stand your ground is evidence of a flawed law.
The legislators wrote this law envisioning honest assertions of self-defense, not an immunity being seized mostly by criminal defendants trying to lie their way out of a murder, said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney from South Florida.
Coffey said the most troubling part about habitual offenders using the law is that their experience may have taught them how to manipulate the system.
People whove been through the legal system are going to be more seasoned to using the law to their advantage, Coffey said. And it doesnt take a master of fiction to write in a few lines of the script to turn a homicide into a stand your ground case.
When detectives investigate a homicide, they check the arrest record of their suspect as a matter of course.
Having a record can impact how defendants are treated, including how hefty a sentence they might face and how credible they are to police and prosecutors.
Stand your ground cases are no different.
The Times analysis found that 67 percent of all defendants who invoked the law went free. For defendants who had at least one arrest, the success rate dropped to 59 percent. Serial law-breakers those with three or more arrests walked free only 45 percent of the time.
Even so, killers with repeated run-ins with the law and with violent accusations in their past have successfully claimed stand your ground across the state.
• Jackson Fleurimon had been arrested for battery, aggravated assault and drug possession. Witnesses said he was in a beef over drug turf when he shot and killed a man in Orange County in 2009. A judge granted him immunity.
• Tavarious China Smith was a drug dealer with multiple arrests who killed a man during an 2008 argument over drug territory in Manatee County. He claimed self-defense and went free. Less than three years later, he was back in front of prosecutors for a different homicide, this one the result of a shoot-out outside a nightclub. Smith once again went free by claiming stand your ground.
• In Tallahassee, Dervaunta Vaughn had been accused of battery at least six times before police arrested him in a gangland shoot-out that left one person dead in March 2009. After Vaughn invoked stand your ground, prosecutors struck a plea deal that dropped murder charges and sent Vaughn to prison for eight years for illegally carrying a gun.
• Alexander Lopez-Limas run-ins with the law began two days after his 15th birthday. His half-dozen arrests include battery, selling and possessing marijuana and strong arm robbery, court records show. In 2011 a judge decided the then-18-year-old Lopez-Lima was standing his ground when he wound up in an armed battle and killed another teen who had come to his house to smoke marijuana.
• Norman Borden, a now-deceased West Palm Beach man, racked up arrests for criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and aggravated assault in the 1980s and 90s before he was acquitted of murder in the deaths of two men who threatened him with bats while he walked his dog.