New Stand Your Ground law already faces challenge in Tampa

Ruben Rodriguez, who shot and killed a suspected burglar, was the last Tampa defendant to use Florida's Stand Your Ground Law before it was recently tweaked by lawmakers.

His attorney, Anthony Rickman came up short on his Stand Your Ground motion.

"But we won at trial," Rickman said. "Had the burden been different, had the state had the burden at that Stand Your Ground motion, I believe we wouldn't have had a trial," said Rickman.

The original law put the burden on the defense to prove the shooter was acting in self-defense. But two months ago lawmakers switched it, placing the burden on prosecutors.

Critics say the law makes it easier for defendants to get away with murder. It also forces the state to prove their case twice.

Prosecutors have opposed the changes and, this week, a Miami judge bolstered their case when he ruled the new law is unconstitutional. He said lawmakers overstepped their authority. He says under Florida's Constitution, that type of change can only be made by the State Supreme Court.

"This judge may have opened up a can of worms inadvertently by ruling in a matter which he did," explained Rickman.

He believes this judge's ruling will be appealed all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, putting Stand Your Ground cases in South Florida and here in Tampa in limbo. 

The new law is already being challenged. Defendant Randolph Graham, accused of killing a former USF football player, now wants the new law applied in his case.

Hillsborough Public Defender Michael Peacock argued it before a judge.

"Does that make a significant change to Florida law? It does. Does that change what's going to happen in many many homicide cases? It does," said Peacock.

But the prosecutor says the new law should not be retroactive. They believe it should only apply to new cases that occurred after the new law was passed. 

After hearing arguments on both sides, the judge ruled the new law can be used in Graham's case. His Stand You Ground hearing is set for late August.