In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: SYG law is legalizing armed gang welfare in Florida

“I was scared.”

Judge Thomas Rebull was dubious. But whether a circuit judge or jury might buy the 6-2, 285-pound Gabriel Mobley’s explanation for gunning down two unarmed men outside a Miami-Dade restaurant in 2008 no longer matters.

On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court declined to consider prosecutors’ objections to Stand Your Ground immunity that the Third District Court of Appeals conferred on Mobley in January. He won’t be tried for killing Jason Jesus Gonzalez and Rolando Carrazana.

The state high court let stand an extraordinary 2-1 decision by a Third DCA panel that had rejected findings by the circuit judge who had presided over Mobley’s immunity hearing. And it stretched the elastic concept of self-defense in Florida even further.

Last year, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rebull had rejected Mobley’s bid for immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability under Florida’s 2005 Stand Your Ground law. Mobley had fetched his Glock from his pickup truck and shot Gonzalez and Carrazana five times during a parking lot scuffle. “I was freaked. I was scared. I seen this other guy coming up from the back and then he reached up under his shirt so I was scared,” he testified at the SYG hearing.

After hearing testimony from Mobley and 12 other witnesses and watching a surveillance video, the skeptical Rebull ruled that the defendant’s self-defense argument was not convincing enough to preempt a jury trial.

But the appeals panel two-judge majority, now with the support of the Supreme Court, decided that Rebull underestimated the bloody parameters of Stand Your Ground. Mobley’s home free.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court justices have decided to consider the appeal of Brian Bragdon, whose Stand Your Ground claim had been rejected by both a circuit judge in Palm Beach County and the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Bragdon, 25, was charged with attempted murder after shooting a man outside a West Palm Beach strip club in 2012. Bragdon, whose face is decorated with a teardrop tattoo on his left cheekbone, skull and crossbones on his right, had fired eight shots into a car, hitting the passenger. The circuit and appeals courts both rejected his SYG claim because the gunman, a convicted felon, had “used the very instrumentality that he was not lawfully allowed to possess to injure his alleged assailant.”

Yet the Second District Court of Appeals, considering the case of another ex-con last year, overruled a circuit judge who had similarly rejected SYG immunity for Aaron Little. In 2010, after a confrontation with an armed acquaintance on a Lee County street, Little had fetched his gun, returned for a second confrontation and killed the man.

“His status as a felon in illegal possession of a firearm did not preclude that claim of immunity,” the Second DCA ruled, deciding that Little shouldn’t face trial for second-degree murder.

If the Florida Supreme Court agrees, then this ill-conceived statute will have essentially legalized armed gang warfare and murderous retribution on our city streets — adding to the mounting evidence that Stand Your Ground is a bloody mess.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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