After a Tampa Bay Times' review of 200 cases that involved the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law found an "uneven application" and "shocking outcomes," one Florida lawmaker is seeking to impede the media's ability to scrutinize the law.Earlier this month, state Rep. Matt Gaetz(R-Fort Walton Beach) filed an amendment that would "severely limit access to court records in the self-defense cases," the Times' Michael van Sickler reports.
The amendment would allow those found innocent in a Stand Your Ground case to"apply for a certificate of eligibility to expunge the associated criminal history record."
Gaetz said his amendment was unrelated to the Times' Stand Your Ground investigation, the Associated Press reports. "The point is to ensure that someone who appropriately uses a Stand Your Ground defense doesn't have their life ruined by the use of that defense," he said.
Gaetz's amendment has sparked concern among journalists, Media Matters reports, who say the loss of access to public records could have damaging effects. Alongside statements from editors at the Miami Herald and Florida Times-Union are the opinions of staff who worked on the groundbreaking review by the Times:
"Closing records and putting controversial cases that involve violence into the dark is a bad idea, it is against democracy," said Neil Brown, Times editor and vice president. "This would have inhibited our work further. Our work was done based on court records as well as the stories of the incidents when they occurred."
The Times coverage was named a finalist for the Online News Association's Knight Award for Public Service and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism's Taylor Award for Fairness in Journalism. The investigation has played a key role in informing other outlets' coverage of cases relating to Stand Your Ground statutes.
It utilized hundreds of court and arrest records to reveal that the law was being interpreted in many different ways and being applied without a uniform approach, according to Kris Hundley, one of the three Times reporters who worked on the project.
"If those were expunged, I don't know how you would ever do any kind of meaningful look back at the law," Hundley said. "I think it was important because it gave people a sense of how it was applied across the state, how judges made different decisions faced with similar cases and the wide variety of cases in which it was employed. It showed the law was being expanded to far beyond what the legislators anticipated and (was) applied unevenly."
Read more @: Florida Moves To Restrict Media Access To Stand Your Ground Case Records
Is this for real!? There is no point to this law, except to try to suppress the media from taking notice of a controversial issue.