A defendant has tried and failed to use a “stand your ground” defense in a 2018 road rage incident but failed. The judge didn’t buy it. Teddy Smith says he was standing his ground when he stabbed another man to death during a road rage incident in Tampa on April 4, 2018. Unfortunately, for his defense team, a judge doesn’t agree.
On Thursday, a stand your ground hearing for Smith, once again put the spotlight on one of Florida’s most controversial and often difficult to interpret legal defenses.
Smith says he was standing his ground when he stabbed Gilbert Serna.
The two men were arguing after Serna spat out the window of his Dodge truck, striking Smith’s black BMW.
A shouting match turned physical. Smith claims he thought Serna was reaching for a machete.
Prosecutors placed several witnesses on the stand Thursday. Most of them testified to seeing Smith making some sort of stabbing motion inside the truck before taking off in his car.
Prosecutors question why, if it was only a matter of self-defense, did Smith take off from the scene right after the stabbing — especially if he thought what he’d done was justified.
Once again we witness the vague nature of the “stand your ground” defense. It’s vague because “stand your ground” isn’t clearly defined. Legal experts disagree as to what constitutes the standard. Until that’s clear, “stand your ground” defenses will be toss-ups. The law states,
(1) A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.
(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.
The problem is even with this definition the standard is subjective and therefore open to interpretation. So, someone contemplating deadly force because of fear of life or serious bodily injury better be pretty sure before using that force.