A Florida man who was granted Stand Your Ground immunity after he claimed he fatally shot his friend in self-defense will get his guns back. Judge John Galluzzo ruled that shooter John Wayne Rogers was entitled to the return of his guns under the law, even though Galluzzo thinks it’s a bad idea.
“I have to return property that was taken under the circumstance,” he said, according to a WESH Orlando report. “I have researched and haven’t found case law to say otherwise.”
Rogers shot 34-year-old James T. DeWitt after a night of drinking at Rogers’ home. DeWitt stayed the night, and the incident occurred the following morning after they returned from an errand to buy more beer. Rogers, who is legally blind, said he felt threatened by DeWitt, so he went into his bedroom and retrieved his assault rifle. Rogers said DeWitt charged at him and he shot; DeWitt’s girlfriend says they were “play fighting” when Rogers went into his bedroom to get the gun and then shot at DeWitt without provocation.
A Florida court granted Rogers immunity from criminal charges under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which authorizes deadly force without any duty to retreat anywhere a person has a legal right to be. Under a narrower “Castle Doctrine” that exists in many states, individuals are also authorized to use deadly force without a duty to retreat in their own home. But even states that have expanded their “Castle Doctrines” typically limit these home protection laws to those who forcibly enter a home or vehicle, not invited guests. Rogers also escaped conviction several years earlier in a deal with prosecutors for firing 15 rounds at his cousin after a night of drinking, and spent time in jail after punching a woman in a domestic violence incident.
In a demonstration of the collateral consequences that flow the Stand Your Ground law, this wholesale criminal immunity also entitles Rogers to get his guns back. Florida law bans concealed carry licenses for those convicted of certain felonies and other violent crimes, and empowers officers to take away the guns of those arrested for certain crimes. But because the Stand Your Ground law immunized Rogers from any criminal charge whatsoever arising from the incident, the law requires police to give the guns back.
This principle has also allowed George Zimmerman to hold onto his guns, even after several run-ins of the law. Because he was neither convicted for the killing of Trayvon Martin, nor after several charges of domestic violence, the law gives him continued access to his weapons.
Florida’s law works the other way, too. A state appeals court ruled last April that, even when an individual was barred by the state from possessing his gun because of his criminal record, he was nonetheless entitled to invoke the Stand Your Ground law when he used that weapon to shoot and kill.