Florida police officers who use deadly force can assert the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law to gain immunity from prosecution, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In a 7-0 decision, the judges ruled that the statute states that “any persons” who act in self-defense could get immunity and that a cop is considered a “person,” according to Fox 13.
“If the Legislature intended to exclude police officers from the Stand Your Ground statute, why didn’t they say so? They certainly had ample opportunity,” said Justice Jorge LaBarga.
“Law enforcement officers are eligible to assert ‘stand your ground’ immunity, even when the use of force occurred in the course of making a lawful arrest,” the court ruled, according to CNN.
The ruling stems from a 2013 shooting involving a Broward County sheriff, Peter Peraza, who killed Jermaine McBean, a Black man who he said pointed a weapon at him, which turned out to be an unloaded air rifle.
Peraza was indicted on manslaughter for McBean’s death, but a judge granted him pretrial immunity under the state’s stand your ground law.
“Deputy Peraza was doing his job and was facing 30 years. Why should he not be able to use all the statutes available, in particular when the Florida Legislature said any person?” Peraza’s attorney, Anthony Rickman, argued, Fox 13 reported.
An attorney in the case who opposed the ruling told CNN that the decision gives judges too much power to dismiss cases even when a grand jury decides cops should be charged. Another officer representing a cop called the decision groundbreaking and said police won’t have to worry much about wrongful prosecutions.
The ruling further protects law enforcement, which already is protected under a self-defense law for cops.