9 Investigates: Mixed results in state's new ‘Stand your ground' law

by: Christopher Heath Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - In October 2016, Roger Trindade, 15, was beaten to death in Winter Park. Three months later, two 15-year-old boys were charged with manslaughter and a 14-year old boy was charged with witness tampering and battery in connection with Trindade’s death.

Two months after police made the arrests, the Florida Legislature started working on one of the state’s most high-profile laws -- the "stand your ground" law.

Eventually, the Legislature would change the immunity clause, shifting the burden at the pretrial hearing from the defendant, to prove their case, to the state, to disprove the assertion.  

In September, two of the teens, Simeon Hall and Jesse Sutherland, tested the law.

Read: Judge denies 'stand your ground' motion in fatal beating of Winter Park boy

“One day, you have a lovely son, a nice boy, and the next, he’s dead for nothing,” said Roger Trindade’s mother, Adriana Thomé, in an interview with 9 Investigates reporter Christopher Heath. “I was thinking all the time how the feelings about my son, when he saw Sutherland (one of the suspects) in front of him, how scared he must have been.” 

Roger Trindade, 15, died after he was beaten in Central Park over the weekend, authorities said.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

The judge denied Hall and Sutherland’s claim of "stand your ground."

9 Investigates searched the state for all cases in which "stand your ground" was claimed after the Legislature rewrote the law. Of the 10 cases that have been brought, four are still pending, three have resulted in immunity and three including Hall and Sutherland case -- have been rejected.

Read: Judge calls change in Florida Stand Your Ground law unconstitutional

“The problem is, we’re talking about untested waters, uncharted waters. We don’t know what is going to happen until we start going through several more cases,” said former Chief Judge Belvin Perry, who has remained skeptical of the change to the law and its shift giving more cover to defendants. “The state is going to have a very tough job to counter that presumption in cases where there is little physical evidence or no witnesses.”

9 Investigates in 2013 looked at 31 "stand your ground" cases in Central Florida. At the time, more than 17 had resulted in immunity for the defendant, a percentage that, in this limited sample, seems unchanged.

“In the end, it is going to shake out the way it was going to shake out had the burden not been shifted,” said defense attorney and WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Read: Florida law shifts burden of proof in 'stand your ground'

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