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New changes to ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law passed

Miami Times staff report | 5/8/2014, 9 a.m.

Florida lawmakers on Friday approved new changes to the states’s Stand Your Ground law, allowing victims to fire warning shots in life-threatening situations.

The new changes strengthen the self-defense law that has come under heavy fire in recent years following the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Kijuan Byrd, all Black males who were killed by white gun-owners who claimed their lives were threatened.

Another change to the Stand Your Ground Law allows accused killers in self-defense cases to expunge court records once charges have been dropped against them.

The changes come as lawyers for Marissa Alexander prepare to appeal her case at a new trial later this year. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a jury convicted her of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot during an argument with her husband. The conviction sparked outraged among civil rights leaders who accused the justice system of using a racial double-standard in light of the shooting death of Martin.

The bill was one of several measures that passed during a busy day that ended the legislative session in Tallahassee. Lawmakers passed a A $77.1 billion budget that would provide pay increases to law enforcement ($11 million) an assistant state attorneys and public defenders ($10.9 million). The budget will also provide $20 billion in education funding, including $6,937.23 per K-12 student. Under the budget, $10.1 billion will go towards the Department of Transportation. The bill proposing tuition increases for public university students did not pass.

The controversial Common Core Standards bill that would have set benchmarks for academic performance among students, failed, but a bill that simplifies the state’s grading formula for school passed.

Lawmakers also approved a new law that bans abortions if a doctor has determined a fetus is viable, replacing the state's existing ban on third-trimester elective abortions. Another new law would make it a separate crime to kill or injure a fetus at any stage of development.