Should 'Stand Your Ground' Apply?

By Aaron Deslatte | Staff Writer
Posted July 22, 2012

LEESBURG - A prominent defense lawyer hired by the loved ones of an armed man shot to death last week said Florida's Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground defense should apply in his case.

The man was shot by Lake County sheriff's deputies who went to the wrong apartment in search of an attempted murder suspect.

Mark NeJame, of Orlando, a CNN legal analyst who represented Tiger Woods following the golfing legend's wife-cheating scandal and who twice refused requests to represent George Zimmerman, said his firm has successfully used the Castle Doctrine, a Florida law that basically says a man's home is his castle and he has a right to protect it.

NeJame added that his firm is currently involved in a Stand Your Ground case.

NeJame said the fact that the "intruders" of Andrew Lee Scott's home were law enforcement officers shouldn't mean that Scott is exempt from using the Castle Doctrine defense, considering the officers didn't reveal who they were when knocking on his door.

"If you have someone banging on your door at 1:30 in the morning who refuses to identify themselves and you have family inside, you should have the right to come to the door armed, no matter who's knocking," NeJame said during an interview Friday.

NeJame's law partner, Jason Recksiedler, will also work the case.

The 26-year-old Scott responded to knocking on his door at his Blueberry Hills II apartment in Leesburg about 1:30 a.m. July 15, with a gun in his hand.

On the other side of the door were sheriff's deputies who had come unannounced to the apartment in search of a suspect Jonathan Brown, who was accused of beating someone.

And Brown had apparently parked his motorcycle in front of Scott's apartment.

Sheriff's officials said Scott opened the door with a gun pointed at deputies and K-9 deputy Richard Sylvester fired and killed Scott.

Florida's Castle Doctrine is a self defense and home protection law that is set forth in Florida Statute 776.013. While it gives people in fear of their lives the right to use deadly force to defend their homes against intruders, subsection No. 2 of the statute allows an exemption if the intruder is a law enforcement officer who "enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties" ...

But the subsection adds that the officer must "identify himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force should reasonably have known that the intruder was a law enforcement officer."

Prosecutors in the State Attorney's Office in Lake County on Friday refused to comment on whether the Castle Doctrine could apply in the Scott case, citing the ongoing investigation, but they have used the defense a handful of times in their decision not to charge homeowners with murder who had shot burglars on their property.

The Stand Your Ground law recently made headlines in the case of Zimmerman, who was charged with murder in the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

It's not known if such a defense has ever been successfully used in Florida when a law enforcement officer was the intruder. But Recksiedler said that the Second Amendment, which gives citizens the right to bare arms, and the Fourth Amendment, which gives people the right to be secure in their homes against unreasonable searches and seizures, should apply in the case.

"The 2nd and 4th amendments of the constitution apply in this case to protect citizens from the government," Recksiedler said.

Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders said while residents have the right to bare arms and protect themselves, he defended the shooting.

"The deputy was looking at a gun pointed at his face, he had the right to defend himself," said Borders in an earlier interview.

Borders would not speculate on what charges Scott would have been jailed on if he wasn't shot or killed.

Friends and Scott's fiance, who held a protest Thursday and a vigil for the Saturday night, have vehemently argued that Scott had the right to protect himself against unknown people at his door -- and they have hired NeJame.

The lawyer said his firm is conducting a "thorough" investigation of the shooting to determine if they should move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit or some type of legal action.

NeJame said he also would like to see the sheriff's policy of refusing to identify themselves changed. He and Recksiedler already see discrepancies in the shooting,.

"We strongly dispute that a gun was pointed in an officer's face," Recksiedler said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.