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Fla.'s 'Stand Your Ground' defense fails in 2 cases

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Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which has been used to defend George Zimmerman's murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, failed as a defense strategy in two separate court cases, Slate Magazine reported

On Monday, a Hillsborough County judge ruled that Trevor Dooley, 69, could not use the law — which allows the use of deadly force if someone feels their life is in danger — to defend his murder of 41-year-old David James in September 2010, ABC Action News reported

Dooley and James, who was with his 8-year-old daughter at a park, got into an altercation over a boy's right to skateboard nearby. Dooley, who held a concealed weapons permit, shot James after their argument turned physical, according to the Tampa Bay Times

However, the court ruled that Dooley's use of his weapon was unwarranted.

"There was no reasonable belief that deadly force was required," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody wrote in her order, released Monday, according to the Times. 

Dooley will stand trial for manslaughter, though a trial date has not yet been set, according to ABC News. 

In a separate case, 31-year-old mother of three Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Jacksonville on Friday for firing one shot in the direction of her abusive husband in a 2010 dispute, according to the Orlando Sentinel

Alexander was denied the use of the self-defense law in her arguments because she did not kill her husband and only fired a warning shot, CNN reported. State Attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecutor leading the Trayvon Martin case, also argued that Alexander was sentenced because the gun was fired near a bedroom where her two children were and they could have been injured, according to CNN. 

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"The law was made for people like Ms. Alexander," her attorney Kevin Cobbin countered, according to MSNBC. "They did not make it for people running around on the streets shooting people. They made it for women in their homes trying to defend themselves against abusive mean men."

Corey is expected to fight the use of the law in Zimmerman's case as well, the Sentinel reported. 

Many believe that Alexander's sentencing was a miscarriage of justice, including Representative Corrine Brown, according to the Los Angeles Times

“Jacksonville is my home,” the Democratic congresswoman said. “I have lived here all of my life. And clearly it was no justice in this courtroom.”

The two decisions have drawn sharp comparisons to the Trayvon Martin case, which has brought racial tensions to the forefront. Both Dooley and Alexander are African-American, which some critics have suggested was a factor in the refusal to allow either defendant to use the "Stand Your Ground" law. 

"The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today," Brown said, the Hill reported. "One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the 'stand your ground' law will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently. A mere 50 miles away, in Sanford, a white man who shot a black teenager and claimed self-defense was not even arrested until community leaders and people around the world expressed their outrage." 

Florida Governor Rick Scott has put together a task force to review the "Stand Your Ground" law, which was passed in 2005. The committee will hold its first public hearing on June 12 in Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by Zimmerman, according to the Sentinel.

Twenty-three other states, including Arizona, now allow people to stand their ground. Most of these laws were passed after Florida’s.

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Marissa Alexander, 31, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday for firing one shot in the direction of her abusive husband in a 2010 dispute.

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