Florida judge rebuffs recent change to ‘stand your ground’ hearings
By Chris Eger
Judge Milton Hirsch of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit found lawmakers violated the separation of powers doctrine in the state constitution and that it was the job of the Florida Supreme Court to set procedural policy on how hearings are conducted. (Photo: Roberto Koltun/Miami Herald)
A Miami-Dade Circuit Court last week said the state legislature went too far to change procedures in some justifiable use of force cases.
Judge Milton Hirsch found that, procedurally, the burden of proof in self-defense cases rests with a defendant in the initial stages of detainment, charging and prosecution, and the burden of proof in a “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing should be shouldered by the accused. As such, he held a law signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month — which holds that the government, not the accused, has the burden of proof in a pretrial hearing — is unconstitutional.
The ruling came in the case of defendant Liletha Rutherford, a South Florida woman charged with aggravated assault and grand theft, and was seeking to use a “stand your ground” defense which would grant her a pretrial hearing that, under the new law, would force prosecutors to disprove she was entitled to. In his 14-page ruling, Hirsch held that